The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union

The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union

The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union

The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union

Synopsis

This book addresses the question of what it means, and has meant, to be "European," covering the period from Antiquity to the end of the twentieth century. The essays discuss questions of politics, law, religion, culture, literature, and even affectivity in a broad account of how a distinctive European identity has grown over the centuries and its place in the future evolution of the European Union. In the massive literature of European integration, no other book takes such a long historical perspective, and none other deals directly with the question of identity.

Excerpt

I shall try to give some answers to the questions “What is Europe?” or rather “What do we mean by Europe?” The second question implies that “Europe” is something we have invented, and there is a habit at present of putting the words “the invention of” before the name of anything we want to discuss. This implies that there is nothing to discuss except the reasons, very likely discreditable, that have led others to invent whatever it is and impose their construction upon us, so that the point of discussion is to liberate ourselves from the construction by subverting the dominant paradigm, as the bumper stickers urge us to do. This is, of course, a very healthy skepticism, and I intend to adopt it in this essay. I do, in fact, perceive that a construction called “Europe” is being invented and imposed upon me in language that suggests that I must accept it without asking too many questions about what exactly it is, and I am very skeptical about the motives with which this is being done. I like to characterize myself as a Euroskeptic, in the proper sense of the term; meaning that I am skeptical, indeed, about the use of “Euroskeptic” to denote that sort of person. Why is it being suggested that we cannot be a skeptic about Europe without being a fanatical opponent? When that sort of thing happens, it is usually because a word is being used so as to block all critical thought about it, and we may want to ask who is using it in that way and from what motives.

Equally, I do not want to suggest that there is nothing to study here except constructions in the mind, framed with discreditable intentions. I have no difficulty in accepting “Europe” as a reality as well as a construction; many things in human history can be both at once. When I set foot in “Europe, ” I know that I am there and not in America or in some other place; that is, I am in a certain place, a configuration of land and water, not just the sum of the maps that have been drawn of it, and I am in a . . .

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