This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Edoardo Campanella, an author and Future of the World Fellow at the Center for the Governance of Change of IE University in Madrid.
Project Syndicate: You argue that the logic of Brexit was shaped by nostalgia for a past that never existed and the loss of a distinct English identity. Now that the United Kingdom is out of the European Union, will the false promise of Brexit be exposed? Or will UK leaders manage to sustain a sufficient base of emotion-driven support, as US President Donald Trump has, despite pursuing policies that run counter to many of his voters’ interests?
Edoardo Campanella: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the hardcore Brexiteers within his inner circle, continue to leverage history to exaggerate the UK’s true power, deluding citizens into believing that restoring a modern version of the British Empire is within reach. Johnson will probably manage to sustain this fantasy for quite some time, especially if Trump is reelected and provides a trade lifeline to the UK.
But, like all emotions, nostalgia tends to dissipate over time. Before long, the British will no longer be able to ignore reality: a glorious past cannot exist in an ordinary present. That lesson will be taught partly by how difficult it will be for the UK fully to substitute the deep social, political, and economic ties with the European continent that it is losing – a process that will take at least several years. In fact, the UK may never reach any semblance of equivalence on this front.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Campanella's picks:
by Ben Macintyre
Officially a senior KGB officer, Oleg Gordievsky was actually the most senior Soviet spy for MI6 – and by far one of the most intriguing and influential figures of the Cold War. For more than a decade, he passed to the British valuable intelligence from the KGB’s London bureau, which he led. A death sentence for treason awaits him in Russia. Based on interviews with Gordievsky himself, Macintyre’s book reads like a John le Carré spy story. It is a masterpiece.
by Mark Honigsbaum
I had this book on my bedside table for a while before the coronavirus outbreak piqued my curiosity, and I finally started it. I’m glad I did. Honigsbaum reviews the pandemics that have plagued humanity over the last century, from the Spanish flu that killed 50 million people in 1918-1920 to more recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks. He reminds us that predatory pathogens are always lurking around us, waiting for the right moment to attack. And, as we are witnessing with the coronavirus, despite massive scientific advances, each epidemic poses new challenges
by Krishan Kumar
Empire is usually synonymous with greed, brute force, and oppression. Kumar tells a different story. Focusing on five of the most successful imperial endeavors in history, he depicts empires as sweeping experiments in multinationalism and multiculturalism. At a time of receding globalization and rising nationalism, the book offers refreshing insights into how to manage and value diversity within a common political space.
From the PS Archive
Campanella explains why Joseph Stiglitz, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Harold James, and other leading thinkers are so worried about youth marginalization. Read the long view.
Campanella calls attention to Europe's slow-brewing poverty crisis, particularly among the young, for which no quick fix exists. Read the commentary.
Around the web
In an article for Foreign Policy, Campanella described the UK as a "diminished nation in search of an empire." Read the commentary.
In a piece for VOXEU, Campanella and co-author Daniel Vernazza explained why a banking crisis in China may be unavoidable. Read the article.