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The Idea of Europe

MA Social and Political Thought 

'The Idea of Europe' 

Charles Turner (2.26, x.23114) 

The obvious topicality of 'Europe' as an object of intellectual scrutiny and political debate frequently obscures the fact that the attempt to conceptualise 'Europe' dates back to the civilisations of the Mediterranean basin.   The purpose of this module is to introduce some of the more important ways in which Europe has been imagined and conceptualised by 'modern' thinkers.  Its object, then, is less to investigate the social and political 'implications' of current discussions of European identity and European integration, than to provide a perspective, or set of perspectives, from which those discussions might be more profitably and interestingly framed.  

Useful General Texts

N. Davies, Europe, O.U.P. 1996

C. Dawson, The Making of Europe, 1932

G. Delanty Inventing Europe, London: MacMillan, 1995

H.-M. Enzesberger, Europe, Europe!

D. Hay, Europe: The Emergence of an Idea, Edinburgh, 1957

D. Heater, The Idea of European Unity, Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992

D. de Rougemont, The Idea of Europe, New York, MacMillan, 1966

B. Nelson et al (eds) The Idea of Europe, New York, Berg, 1992

H. Seton-Watson, 'What is Europe?  Where is Europe?  From Mystique to Politique', Encounter, 65/2 (Jul/Aug 1985)   

Week 2 - Europe as a Christian Civilisation 

The shock of both World Wars led a number of thinkers of a mainly Catholic disposition to seek an intellectual means of repairing a fractured continent by appealing to Christianity as a source of unity.  Many of these efforts display a tension between Christianity as a forgotten but recoverable source and Christianity as a principle of continuity which remains historically effective though not acknowledged.   

T.S. Eliot (1948), 'The Unity of European Culture', in Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, London, Faber

J. Hall, 'The Rise of Christian Europe', in Powers and Liberties, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985

Novalis, 'Christianity or Europe', in F. Beiser (ed), The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics, Cambridge: C.U.P., 1996 [in German,  'Die Christenheit oder Europa',in Gesammelte Schriften]

History Workshop Journal, No.33, 1992, Special Issue: 'Europe's Medieval Origins?'

E. Troeltsch, The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches, Ch.II, secs. 1-4

O. Spengler, The Decline of the West, New York: Knopf, 1926, Introduction

M. Scheler, On the Eternal in Man, S.C.M. Press, 1960 

Week 3 - Europe, Enlightenment, and Nihilism 

One of the implicit objects of the Christian interpretation of 'Europe'

was the threat of 'nihilism'.  But such a threat was perceived not only by Christian thinkers but also by those committed to rational inquiry.  The debate between those who see Europe's destiny in the development of reason, and those for whom reason's 'wrong turning' took place at the inception of modernity, continues to affect intellectual debate today.     

J. Habermas, 'Modernity: An Incomplete Project', in H. Foster, Postmodern Culture

G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of History

E. Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, Appendix A

Lowith, K., Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism, Part II

Niethammer, L.,  Posthistoire, London, Verso, 1992

M. Weber, 'Author's Introduction', The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism 

Week 4 - Europe as a States System 

The question of Europe's intellectual and spiritual identity can be divorced analytically from that of its institutional history.   Yet the latter remains as controversial the former.  The idea that Europe is a 'system of states' is another way in which Europe has been imagined.    

G. Therborn, European Modernity and Beyond, London, Sage, 1995

P. Anderson, Lineages of the Absolutist State, London: NLB, 1974, I, 1; II, 1; III

J. Hall, M. Mann et al, Europe and the Rise of Capitalism, 1988, chs. 1, 2, 10

J. Hall, 'The European System', in International Orders, Cambridge: Polity, 1996

R. Koselleck Critique and Crisis, Oxford: berg, [1958] 1988

A. Millward, The European Rescue of the Nation State, London: Routledge, 1992

A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. II, part 4, ch.V

I. Bibo, 'The Distress of East European Small States', in Democracy, Revolution, Self-Determination 

Week 5 - Europe as a Legal Civilisation

Contemporary discussions of the relationship between European law and individual national legal cultures are couched broadly in terms of the relationship between sovereignty, democracy and state autonomy.  This week we stand back from these debates to examine some of the work of the legal theorist Carl Schmitt, central to whose work was the idea of Europe as a distinct legal civilisation.

C. Schmitt, ([1935] 1992) 'The Plight of European Jurisprudence', Telos,  83, 85-122

----, Political Romanticism, MIT Press, 1986

G. Ulmen and P. Piccone, (1992) 'Schmitt's Legacy and the Future of Europe', Telos 83, 1-35

J. McCormick, Carl Schmitt, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997

J. Bendersky, Carl Schmitt, Theorist for the Reich, Princeton, 1983

Week 6 - Europe as a Political Community 

The project of a united states of Europe dates back at least to Saint-Simon at the beginning of the 19th century, yet until the second world war such projects remained the dreams of intellectuals.  Even with the formation of the European Coal and Steel community, the project of a united Europe had much to do with political and economic expediency.  More recently however, more sustained discussion has surrounded the project of a European polity and citizenship.  

E. Tassin (1992), 'Europe: A Political Community?', in C. Mouffe (ed) Dimensions of Radical Democracy

Judt, T. (1996), A Grand  Illusion? , London, Penguin, 1997

E. Meehan (1993), Citizenship and the European Community, London: Sage

D. Grimm (1997) 'Does Europe Need a Constitution?', in P. Gowan and P. Anderson, The Question of Europe, London: Verso

J. Habermas (2001) 'Why Europe Needs a Constitution', New Left Review, September/October

(1997), 'Reply to Grimm', in Gowan and Anderson

D. Heater (1992), The Idea of European Unity

L. Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, London: Allen Lane, 2000 

Week 7 - The Collapse of Communism and the 'Expansion of Europe'  

The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 led to widespread discussion of the reality and significance of a 'common European home', and the rhetoric of an 'expansion of Europe' made clear the way in which many Western European intellectuals had equated 'Europe' with 'Western Europe', and the way in which democracy's rationale has been based on the existence of a non-democratic 'other'.  The prospect of an expansion of the European union eastwards has further complicated this relationship between Europe and its identifying political institutions, not least because enlargement is welcomed by Eurosceptics hoping that enlargement will lead to a weakening of European level structures.    

P. Anderson, 'The Europe to Come', in Gowan and Anderson

J.G.A. Pocock (1991), 'Deconstructing Europe', in Gowan and Anderson, or in London Review of Books, Dec. 1991

T. Garton Ash, 'Catching the Wrong Bus', in Gowan and Anderson

E. Gellner, 'The Four Time Zones of Europe', in Conditions of Liberty, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1994. 

K. Kumar, 'The 1989 Revolutions and the Idea of Europe', Political Studies XL, 439-461

J. Szucs, 'The Three Historical Regions of Europe', in J. Keane (ed) Civil Society and the State 

Week 8 - Central Europe/Eastern Europe 

One of the most challenging debates of the 19890s concerned the status and significance of central Europe both as a region and, more importantly, a rhetorical figure.  This week we explore some of the more important resonances of this term.    

H.C.Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German Thought and Practice, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1955

G. Delanty, 'The Resonance of Mitteleuropa', Theory, Culture and Society Vol.13 No.4, pp.93-108

C. Magris, Danube, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1989

F. Naumann, Central Europe

T. Garton Ash, 'Does Central Europe Exist?', in G. Schopflin and N. Wood (eds) In Search of Mitteleuropa, Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1989

L. Johnson, Central Europe, O.U.P., 1996

M. Kundera, 'The Tragedy of Central Europe', New York Review of Books, 26 April, 1984

G. Schopflin and N. Wood, In Search of Central Europe

H.G. Betz, 'Mitteleuropa and Post-Modern European Identity', New German Critique 50, 173-192

R. Okey, 'Central Europe/Eastern Europe', Past and Present 137, 102-133

J. Wolff, Imagining Eastern Europe 

Week 9 - German Reunification and European Unity 

The key to European security throughout the 20the century has often been seen to be the role of Germany, with German instability being accorded significant responsibility for the two world wars.  The postwar division of Germany was then seen as a cornerstone of postwar peace, and by association, German reunification in 1990 as a potential cause for alarm.  This week we look at the more important contributions to the debate over German reunification.       

F. Nietzsche, 'Peoples and Fatherlands', in Beyond Good and Evil

K-H. Bohrer, 'Why We are not a Nation and Why we should become one', in New German Critique, 1991, No.52

J. Habermas, 'A Nation of Angry D-Mark Burgers', New German Critique, 1991, No.52

A. Huyssen, 'After the Wall: Intellectuals and German Reunification', in Twilight Memories, 1995

New German Critique 1991, 52, Special Issue on German Reunification

G. Grass, Two States, One Nation 

Week 10 - Europe and its Others 

Finally, discussion of Europe's internal boundaries must be supplemented by a discussion of the relationship between Europe and what is held to lied beyond its intellectual and geographical borders.   

A. Ahmed, Postmodernism and Islam, London: Routledge, 1992

E. Said, Orientalism, Penguin, 1985

M. Bernal, Black Athena

S. Amin, Eurocentrism, London: Zed, 1989

I.B. Neumann, 'Russia as Europe's Constituting Other', East European Politics and Societies, 7

F. Dostoyevsky, F., Diary of a Writer

C. Milosz, 'Russia', in Native Realm, Penguin, 1988

A. Toynbee, 'Europe and Asia', A Study in History, Vol.IV