• Um neue Beiträge per E-Mail zu erhalten, hier die E-Mail-Adresse eingeben.

    Schließe dich 10 anderen Followern an

The Idea of Europe

Grade mal meine Prüfungsvorbereitungen, nun aus Maastricht, Niederlande, wo ich European Studies studiere und viel lese und noch so ein wenig auf das vergangene Kapitel Freiwilligendienst klarkommen muss. Der bericht der da noch so ganz gross fehlt, der kommt in der nächsten Woche und ist dann doch einmal zumindest zur Hälfte fertig- obwohl ich ihn auch eigentlich nicht schreiben will. Wirkt wie ein Schlussstrich und nach zwei Jahren ASF habe ich ja verstanden, dass die ganzen Schlussstrichdebatten murks und dumm sind 😉 Aber nun erst einmal zu meinem Text einmal durch die komplette Geschichte in und um Europa drum herum. Wünscht mir Glück, morgen ist die Prüdfung dafür.


In this article I want to point out the most important and interesting points in European History, regarding its identity building process and unity. Then again, this is already a false start: The word “Europe” might have been used by the Greeks, it might have been used in a Court of Charlemagne but it definitely did neither have the same nor a similar connotation in those contexts as we understand it today. As Barraclough points out “Europe” is an idea that had different meanings to different people in different times depending on the political and economic circumstances- not unusually contradicting each other. What we are thinking of being a typical “European Identity” then might just be a newer or older development in politics and economics- trying to get us on board for “our sake” and the “European Idea and Unity”.


The Antiquity


When talking about “Europe” sooner or later people are going to come up with the Antiquity as being the first “European Empires”. We are the descendants of the Greeks and Romans, those great Civilisations. True enough, we did copy some of their ideas. Hellenistic Democracy, Philosophy, the Polis or Roman Statecraft, Military Organization and Law. We should remember though that these Civilisations never considered themselves “European” in any aspect. As G. Delanty points out- for the Hellenistic Civilisation everything that was not Greek was Uncivilised world- that’s it. “Europa” existed as a geographical notion somewhere north of the Alps as these barbarian regions. Or as a cultural myth. That would be the daughter of the King of Lybia being raped by Zeus and the region being called after her- the Crux is she was a Phoenician- a Princess not of some “European Blood” but of a Semitic Canaanite Civilization centered around todays Lebanon. Despite this story we would never consider Lebanon or the area around there to be European in any sense. If you ask that question, a lot of people are going to answer with yet another identity factor of “Europe”:


Europe is Christianity for that reason something not Christian is not European- very logical. And Christianity did play a big part in the so called “European History”. For that reason, I want to shortly take you to the beginnings and Spread of Christianity in the time of the Roman Empire(s). As Barraclough points out the Roman Empire was a Mediteranean Empire (not a European One) based on Trade and Statescraft. That gave the possibility for the word of the new “Jewish Sect” to spread- a good infrastructure, the same language, bureaucracy everywhere the same under Roman Power and a secure area. But as we know the Roman Civilisation was a Polytheistic one with a lot of Cults and religion living side by side. As long as their religion didn’t rival the Empire it was tolerated. Now J. Alcock points out that there were several features of Christianty that made it unique between all those Cults. First of all it is Jesus message of Beautitutdes and the Universalistic approach of that new Sect- everybody could join in, slaves as well as women, the elderly and “normal” man. Secondly Christianity as a monotheistic religion gave the followers a believe of having uncovered the truth and being the true believers. That led on the one hand to a very evangelistic attitude of the first Christians, motivated to spread the word of the uncovered truth- Peter and Paulus are the most known ones here. Of Course that would also later on collide with the Roman Empire and lead to the persecution of the first Christians, as Christians out of their religion couldn’t see the Emperor as divine and for that becoming state enemies. That would last until in 313 in the Edict of Milan Emperor Constantine declares the abolishment of persecution of monotheism. What Christianity had and other Cults not was also a common moral standard and rules for living together, just to phrase here the Ten amendments and Jesus Message of Beatitudes. Not to forget one of the most impressive and important features of Christianity: The Idea of Salvation, of going to heaven or hell after this life, gave people, especially those who suffered in this world, hope and a sense of life back. In a way the idea of “Memento mori” was created and would last until the 14th Century Renaissance. Now as we all know the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300’s AD moved the capital to Byzantium- calling it Constantinoples- out of various economical (better resources) and political (the approaching Turks as an enemy) reasons. The final split between East and West would take place in 395 AD, having enormous consequences for the continent. In 476 AD The West Roman Empire collapsed, leading to the Dark Age in Europe- a time where no one in Europe had the strength to unify- a time of chaos and anarchy that would last until the Rise of the Islam in the 7th Century. In the sense of a common enemy the Carolingians took over and at the battle of Tours in 732 AD Charles Martel defeated the Muslim Invaders stopping their invasion of “Europe”.


The Carolingians


Sometimes the next Empire is called the “First Europe” and its Emperor Charlemagne the “Father of Europe”- he was crowned in 800 AD Emperor (supposedly by the Pope) and the Carolingian Empire lasted until around 80 years later. While he did unite parts of Europe, his Empire was not a Unification of Europe, not “European”. The East Roman Empire still existed, so Barraclough argues that what was really created was a first Dualism. He also argues that the Carolingian E. was a “flash in the pan” of the West Roman Empire, being fragile and not lasting long. In fact, not the Carolingian Empire but the Fall of the Carlongian Empire paved the way for the development of the diversity always connected to “Europe”. As what was really introduced wasn’t a “European Unity” but a hegemony of the Carolingians. Even though, that might be true Barraclough also points out the few common features the Carolingians introduced in all their territories like Feudalism and inside the intellectual circles with the Carolingian Renaissance the Carolingian handwriting. One other important aspect of that Empire it that it declared itself as a Christian Empire, being the only Empire in the West where State and Religion wasn’t separated.




Now I already mentioned one of the most important features of “Europe” during the Middle Ages- the Christian Church. With the emerging Schism between the East and the West Church on problems like the Iconoclasm and the Jesus-God-father-Son Relationship, these two Chruches eventually separated in 1054. Creating an Orthodox Church in the East and a Roman Catholic Church in the West. In the East the Emperor was also the head of the Church, so having no separation between church and State.

While in the West with the independency of both the Pope in Rome and the various Emperors a separation of state and church was created that would have important effects on the societies: City States could quite freely and undogmatic evolve because of the constant struggle between two powers who actually wanted to unite “Europe” under their own reign- one important example here is the Investiture controversy in the 11th century where Emperor Henry and Pope Gregory fought about who is investituting the clergy in Milan.


In the 11th Century the Catholic Church saw the emerging Identity on the people living in “Europe” as a Spiritual Identity and not a political one. The Empires were to some extent the polity while Christianity gave people a common Culture and Idea. Barraclough here thinks that the Unity that was evolving during the Middle Ages did create some sort of Identity, but not a European One, but a “Christian Unity”. This is highlighted by the fact that it was in the name of the Christian Church in 1096 to 1099 that the First Crusades took place conquering Jerusalem. It was giving people from all kind of Empires and Kingdoms one Common Goal and Cultural Identity in the sight of Islam as a common enemy. A Dualism- in this period a Dualism of Islam vs. Christianity- in Delantys view is one of the most important features in the identity Building Process of Europe. He points out that Europe was always united not in favour of something in common but in the emerging of a common enemy. While the first Crusade was a success all the following one were failures and already saw a phenomenon typical in European History. Barraclough points out that over all the times the “unity of Europe” was always used to mask hegemonic attitudes of different Empires and Nation-States- that was also a very common phenomenon in the upcoming 14/15th century High Middle Ages.


So until now I pointed out, that in Antiquity “Europe” was solely a geographical concept, while with the emergence of Christianity and the Carolingian Empire the peoples identity transcending national Boundaries was a Roman Catholic Christian One- this one also led to what some people call a first united action of Europe – the Crusades. Now what happened that changed this Christian Cultural Identity into a “European One”?


First of all, in the whole Middle Ages, the Muslims (in the East and in the Iberian Peninsula) were always the external common enemy uniting people. Delanty points out that with them always being in the East, the East Roman Empire was a buffer zone between “Europe” and the Muslim World. But that one fall in 1453 against the Ottomans and Constantinoples became Istanbul. Now the trend of “Westernization” set in with the East always being a defensive line- in 1492 with Grenada the last Muslim territories in “Al-Andalusia” was reconquered and Christopher Columbus found the Americas. So the mindset of the people shifted from the identifying factor Islam towards the “New World”. Again a Dualism and again an identity factor based on “who we are not”.




With the upcoming Renaissance Humanism Rietbergen points out that something set in that was crucial for the further development of “Europe”. Scholars went back orientating themselves on the Antiquity. It is in this point that the Idea of the “European” being the descendants of the old Greeks and Romans set in. It is also here that scholars went back studying “ad fontes”- the primary sources of Ancient Writers/Scientists etc. Max Weber calls the Ancient Greece “Cradle light of European Rationalism”- it does make sense if you see that in the time of going back to antiquity, the basis was laid for the Rationalization of Europe. Observation instead of believe set in. Scholars all over Europe had reformations in the way they were thinking- now your thinking was more becoming based on what you could observe. To some extent that created a gulf between the real physically observable and the Invisible. Reason vs. Believe. People like N. Copernicus changed the world, with his idea that the universe is sun-centred. This time lay the basis for the Scientific Revolution (around 1550-1650)- with Newtons gravity, Curies Radioactivity and Galileo Galileis Sun Centred Universe and other developments in maths, biology, astronomy, physics and chemistry marking the Transition to the “Early Modern Era”. All of this happened in a time when people were becoming aware of themselves. The Christian idea of “memento mori” was replaced with “carpe diem” and life was more based on the human than on the after life. Also in the 16th century the first book on “A European History” was written in the 15 the century with the Discovering of the New World the concept of “continents” set in and of course with going “ad fontes” in science and the printing machine something else also set in- the Reformation.






When Martin Luther put his 95 thesis against the corrupcy and especially indulgences of the Catholic Church on the Cathedral in Wittenberg in 1517 that marked one very important point in “European History”. His ideas could just spread in an athmosphere where people were starting to doubt authority and power and started to think for themselves. And he needed protection from the Catholic Church and the Pope who he refused, as with the reformation people were supposed to find their way to God for themselves and so don’t need a Pope as a spokesperson between them and God. That protection he found in various states who refused the Power of the Pope out of their own ambitions- the separation of church and state made the reformation possible while humanism changed the minds of the people in favour of how Max Weber calls it “becoming a monk in the world”.

In the 17th century this reformation led to a lot of religious wars in Europe where Roman Catholics and Reformists were slaughtering each other in the name of God. In this time no one could speak of a “Christian identity”, so they rephrased it and it more or less became a “European identity” with the common “enemy” being the New Discovered World.


During this time of Reformation and the Spread of especially Calvinist Ideas, Max Weber Argues, that the basis for the emerging Capitalism was created.

The Idea of Predestination emerged and for that gave insecurity to a lot of people- they all wanted salvation and going to heaven but based on Calvin they could not change their own fate because God predestined everything. What they did was searching for signs, that they are one of the chosen ones to go to heaven. A good life on Earth was then closely linked to being the chosen ones for heaven. Also what Calvinists believed in was that they should have regular, methodical work and being honest while luxury was a No-Go. So combining all those features of the “Puritans” you have a hard working, honest man regularly selling his stuff for the cheapest price possible (because you don’t cheat but be honest)- that creates trust and gives you a broader basis of customers. Then you will surely gain a surplus but since luxury is a No-Go you reinvest that money back into your company for that sake making it bigger and bigger and creating the psychological backbone of a Mercantile Capitalist Class.


The Enlightenment


The period from about 1650 to 1820 we call “Enlightenment”.

Enlightenment is the Thinking on the basis of Rationality in order to solve a problem. It is closely combined with a Secularization of the world, since believe is considered to be exactly the opposite and not based on rationality. Two main important features are Francis Bacons Empirical Research and Descartes’ Fundamental Doubt. Voltaire puts it quite good when he said “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the same privilege, too”- this Thinking for yourself also implies a general doubt of power and authority. It is no coincidence that the two of the most important Revolutions happened in that period of time. The Frensh Revolution in 1789 and the Industrial Revolution (End of 18th century) together marking the transitionpoint of no-return into an Industrial Society. While the Frensh Revolution was the more political& social one, with its famous slogan of “liberty, fraternity, equality” for a democratic republic, then Industrial Revolution was the economic one. Together they are marking the turning point in European history from an Agricultural to an Indutrial Society- the Modernization.


Barraclough points out three factors why it was Europe who made this transition and not other great Empires like the Chinese or the Ottomans who were most of our history far more improved than “Europe”. He points out that nothing could have ever happened without Europe turning outwards, exploring the World and Going overseas. He argues that the surplus of materials and money that made investment in the industrial sectors in the British Coal and Iron Industry possible didn’t come from Europe but that those materials came from the Colonies abroad and for that Reason Britain couldn’t have done the Industrial Revolution without the Colonies & Discovery of the New World. He also argues that a Mercantile Class of Capitalists was needed, who would reinvest the money into the industries right away. I explained Webers “Puritan Work Ethic” earlier. Last but not least Europe was going abroad exactly when the other Empires were either crushed (Muslim Empires) or turning inwards again (China- Confucian society), so there was no real enemy that could have stopped these discoveries.


The Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution started around the Coal and Iron places in Britain then spread to todays Belgium and Germany. It effected peoples life in all spheres- since the work was centralized around factories there was a huge process of urbanization going on, that led to a lot of diseases and problems because of insanitary housing, bad working conditions etc. . On the other hand this led to major improvements in the areas of medicine, physics, and sciences generally as well as the establishment of workers associations. On their own farms in a feudalist society people did revolts but they weren’t successful most of the time because they couldn’t reach a lot of people- this changed with the centralization and all people living together in one city. With the abolishment of the Feudalist Society, a major effect of the Frensh revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, these people were free and started to demand better living/working conditions.


Modernization &Colonialization


Now that I have gone into more details with the Industrial Revolution, I want to point out to this Process of Modernization & Colonialization more in general.

Like I have said before Modernization is the change from an agrarian to an Industrial Society, Auden refers to it as a “change of heart” that changes institutions and Lerner came up with 5 factors that are essential for a Modern/Industrialized society:

First and most importantly it is the factor of self-sustainable growth. The capability to grow out of your own resources. It is a difference between the agrarian societies economy by making goods therefore getting money to buy new goods and the Industrial Society: You have a surplus (money) for that you invest in another product and for that you get more money.

The second one, closely linked to the ideals of the Frensh Revolution, is a level of participation in the polity and society. In a way it refers to democratic attitudes. The third one is mobility in society. With the Abolishment of the Feudal System it did not matter anymore where you have been born into but how talented you are- you could climb up the social latter. But not only this social mobility is necessary but also the ability to travel and see other places- the invention of the railways are of mayor importance not only to the economy but also to public transportation. The fourth one is closely linked to Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, it is a society whose thinking is based on secular rationality and not believe. Religion was to become one part in peoples life, like everything else, but not something big. The fifth and last one is a change in peoples personality- empathy and striving were becoming important for people who wanted to make something out of themselves.


While striving essentially is not bad, Lerner also pointed out that the level of frustration is getting higher- out of a bad proportion between the things you strive for and you see others have (the wants) and the things you can achieve with the resources you have (gets). In this sense the role of the media is to be asked- the media, in that period of time the emerging newspapers were full of “wants” while the “gets” for most people weren’t the same. And still are- if we just watch the so called 3rd world.


Another mayor aspect in modernization is the process of Civilization itself- Elias points out that an effect of the industrial society is the emergence of shame. He explains that Shame is basically evolving because of internalised pressure from your surrounding (family, school, Society). In a way from the Hunters& Gatherers to Agrarian Society to Industrial Society the external threat (from nature, other human beings) is decreasing, while the internal fear(shame) is increasing with the growing dependency on other people. Freud puts it the Way that because of our inner, most natural feelings (like instincts, aggressiveness, sexuality) living together in a Civilization is unnatural and therfor means giving up a certain possibility of happiness (living on instincts) and trading that against a certain amount of security(being secured from other peoples instincts). To explain the Civilizing process with, again, Freuds Behaviorism- the “Es” is our instinct and natural personality, the super Ego is our society and the pressure it puts on us and the Ego is our action after everything has been filtered out by the societal pressures. So the Process of Civilization is the Process of internalising social pressure and being constantly in self-control. That for Freud leads to neurotics because this Civilization is to human kind the most unnatural thing to do.


In the same time, this process of Modernization took place, the “Idea of a united Europe” was vanishing and the Colonial Powers found their own identity factor in the Colonies- Delanty argues that during the time of the Colonialization the Anti-thesis, the Dualism that was making up “our” identity was that one of the “Civilized West/Europe against the Barbarians”. While in the beginning the Colonial Powers were “making the Colony English or frensh” they soon found out that they had something in common and so the Frensh and Spanish and British abroad soon became “the Civilized Western Men” while the Colonized Societies were based on western knowledge barbarians. The superiority of the West against the inferior Orient was taken as a premise. The White Mans Burden described by W. Said in his book on “Orientalism” is one mayor point in Europeans Colonial History- it is the idea that because we are Rationalized we have to bring that Modernization to the world. Thousands of missionaries were going into the “heart of darkness” to bring the “light of Christianity” that ultimately was lacking those barbarians. But most of these Ideas were just masquerading the true intentions- economic exploitation and to some extent some adventurous journeys. One of the mayor causes of this attitude was the idea that knowledge means power, and how we Europeans with our superior rationality see you barbarians, is true, because the Barbarians are lacking the utmost understanding of rational thinking and for that reason we have to take care of them and do what is (in our opinion) best for them. So as Said puts it, the Orient is the Idea of the West about everything that the West is not. The orient is a construct of the West for the Wests political, expansionist and economic interests.


In that time Europe was very distracted from the Concept of a united Europe- in fact there needed just to be a “Not-War” situation in Europe for the Colonial Powers to concentrate on their World Empires. This stopped when Napoleon started his War on Europe. Ultimately then everybody had to turn their eyes back on the European Continent.


The Napoleonic Wars


The Frensh Revolution (1789-1793) and the Napoleonic Wars from 1803-1815 marked another important point in European History. It was Napoleon through which the Feudalist Systems found and end wherever he conquered land. It was also him who established a more firm separation between state and religion inside the nations. It was him who introduced the idea of a “civil society”. Its was him who tried but failed to unite Europe under Frensh hegemonial Power, a phenomen that quoting Barraclough, we can see as a red thread in “European History” from Charlemagne to Napoleon and the German Idea of Mitteleuropa. G. Delanty also explains why Napoleon failed to lay the basis of a European Unity. The first point here, the hegemonial power of Napoleon I already pointed out- these notions were always neglected by the other nations and that’s the second point: As a reaction towards Napoleons invasion of Europe, a counter-revolution set in by the monarchies around Metternich trying to re-establish the Old Order of Power. They too spoke about saving “Europe”. But for them it was more -and here I am again using Delantys Dualism- about The (Europe of) Old Order against the New Wave of Liberal Democratic nationalism that set in in a lot of countries. The third factor is that Napoleons Europe wasn’t Europe excluding e.g. Russia, for that reason alone in those areas he didn’t establish the same bureaucratic ideals, separation religion and state abolishment of feudalism. In fact Feudalism in the East was just established in the 16th century after the destruction of the Byzantium Empire.


Romanticism & Nationalism


These whole Ideas of Enlightenment, the discovery of the new world, the Industries etc led to a lot of insecurities among the population and a lot of people fled into the nature, glorified the Middle Ages past for its Instincts and passionate feelings- the Time of Romanticism had come. And with it and Napoleons War on Europe nationalist feelings were evoked, the idea of democratic nationalism was in everybody’s hearts and so the most passionate poems on nationalism and “back to the nature” and heart against mind were written during that period- just two examples: Goethes Faust and the “Deutschlandlied” (1841) that later became the German National Anthem. The Father of Romantic Nationalism was Rousseau- who proclaimed that the Nation are the working people and that there is no use for Religion. As religion is a mayor factor for identity it rivals nationality- for that Rousseau thinks that a nation is “religion civite” and that it needs good boundaries- this was by the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War one of the most extreme failures of our histories:


The boundaries in the Newly formed Eastern Nation States almost didn’t coincide with the ethnic communities and more even was the formation of nation states of people living together before in a poly-ethnic Frontier region (Yugoslawia, Balkan) very harmful- it led to genocides(Armenian) and ethnic cleansing everywhere and the people suddenly didn’t belong to the newly formed nation.


Moreover as Jahn and Arndt point out this Nationalism is also Rascist and Anti-Semitic. Since a nation is built on an ethnic Lieu de memoire, other ethnicities are excluded from it. Other forms like Populist nationalism that were emerging not only underlined that fact but also saw that the Nation States in themselves saw each other as superior to other nation States. And of course a transnational peoples like the Jews could never be accepted in such a nationalist state.


And yet again, as Delanty points out, another form of Nationalist Expansionism emerged that was masqueraded as Striving for European Unity- the Idea of Mitteleuropa as anti-communist and a Pan-German and Austrian Movement trying to reach a real German Nation state and not only that “Little Germany” after the Unification War with France in 1871. Until 1945 people believed in that idea. In any aspect this Mitteleuropa was designed to be anti-communist, as Communism is a post-national /international idea neglecting the idea of a nation state.



The Holocaust


I have pointed out now that the Idea of nationalism inherited already Anti-Semitism and we know that throughout the History Antisemitism was always a part of European History. Jews were, quoting Delanty, besides Islam and the barbarian/oriental Mind the common enemy to built a united identity against. So, is the Holocaust to be seen as “normal” Anti-Semitism done with other means? Baumann doesn’t think so- in his opinion the Industrial Society is an essential part in the Holocaust- he calls it the Janus face of a Modernized Society. He points out three factors that will make a moral person indifferent towards violence:

The first is Authorized violence- the giving away of responsibility and just doing what your superior tells you to do, the same way you would do the work if it was your idea. This Principal is a main principal in a Civil Society. The second thing is the routinized work that enables you not to think about what you are doing. It is a regular machine- in that sense the crematorium towers in extermination camps are symbols of factories- where the human people are the material and the human bodies are the product of a good industrial Work. The third factor is the dehumanizing of the victims- by taking their individuality away in the camps the threshold to kill them is becoming lower. In fact, without the Industrial Society the Holocaust could have never happened.


So, Europe has many different faces- for every mayor breakthrough, there was a mayor setback afterwards. Before every initiative to speak about a Unity of Europe there was a War between the European Powers. The “Idea of Europe” has been abused again and again over the whole history for hegemonic ambitions. The Prosperity we have here right now is built on countless bodies in endless wars and cleansings in Europe, at Europes boarders (wherever that was) and in the Colonized World. We are who we are not. And we have thousands of years training in (not) being that. – the Muslims, the Jews, the Barbarians, the East, the Communists and now again the Islam. We love ourselves for being these secular rational moral people- while this rationality can not prevent us from committing a Holocaust. Ideology is our religion. We are secular fascist. We are moral murderers. We are striving for money, a career and appreciation and leaving the Family, the Old and Kids behind. We are on demonstrations against child labour and afterwards buying us shorts “made in China”. We are Pacifists and the mayor weapon exporting countries in the world.


We forgot how to be who we are, instead we now are what we own.


Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:


Du kommentierst mit Deinem WordPress.com-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Google Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s

%d Bloggern gefällt das: