Disorder: Europe's Energy Reckoning

Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET) at the University of Vienna and the Research Platform "Transformations and Eastern Europe" invite to their regular Transformative Salon, Thursday, 30 March 2023 with Prof. Helen Thompson (Unversity of Cambridge) and Prof. Dorothee Bohle (University of Vienna).

New Venue: Café Merkur, Florianigasse 18, 1080 Wien

The depth of Europe’s present energy predicaments both in relation to fossil fuel energy and the energy transition have a long history going back to the beginning of the 20th century. While coal as an energy source caused huge internal geopolitical problems, especially between France and Germany, the arrival of oil as an energy source put Europe at a serious external disadvantage and directly led to the demise of a European-dominated world. European states’ attempts to deal with this problem drove empire abroad and historical catastrophe. After 1945, west European states were constrained in dealing with their energy security problems by American power. Both the turn to Soviet energy from 1956 and to nuclear power constituted bids for autonomy from Washington. While European countries eventually prevailed on Soviet gas despite American pressure around martial law in Poland, the dissolution of the Soviet Union opened a new problem: transit through Ukraine. Ukraine’s position as a transit state seriously complicated issues of European autonomy in energy even before Russia’s invasion. Net Zero 2050 represents Europe’s present attempt to break free of its long-standing foreign energy dependency problem. But there is little reason to suppose that the problem can be eliminated both because the energy transition will be slow and because Europe is neither well-endowed with the resources the transition requires or politically open to their domestic extraction.

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. Her present work centres on the geopolitics, political economy, and domestic politics of energy. Her most recent book Disorder: Hard Times in the 21stCentury was published by Oxford University Press on 24 February 2022 and was shortlisted for the 2022 Financial Times Business Book of the Year. She has written for, among other outlets, the Financial Times, New York Times, Sunday Times, Guardian as well as Foreign Affairs, Project Syndicate, the London Review of Books, New Statesman, Nature, and Prospect.

Dorothee Bohle is a professor of comparative politics with a focus on Eastern and Southeastern Europe at the Institute of Political Sciences, University of Vienna. Previously she was a professor of political science at the European University Institute, Florence, and the Central European University, Budapest. Her research is at the intersection of comparative politics and political economy with a special focus on East Central Europe. She is the author of Capitalist Diversity on Europe's Periphery (Cornell University Press 2012, together with Béla Greskovits), which won the Stein Rokkan Prize in Comparative Research, and of Europe’s New Periphery: Poland’s Transformation and Transnational Integration (in German, Münster 2002). Her current work looks at the turn towards anti-liberal politics and political economy in East-Central Europe after the Great Financial and in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

The lecture will be followed by a public discussion.

FREE ENTRY. No registration is needed to participate live. Event language will be English.

The event will be broadcast live via Zoom, registration is requested only from those guests who would like to be connected via Zoom.