Modern America and Ancient Rome: An Essay in Historical Comparison and Analogy

By Simon Kiessling De Courcy | Go to book overview

5. EUROPEAN MENTALITIES OF THE POST-IMPERIALIST AGE

The age of European expansion and imperial supremacy extended at the latest to 1945, when the French and British empires were poised for liquidation, Nazi Germany’s attempt to establish a “German India” in the east of Europe through a war of colonization had failed, and the nations of Europe had abandoned their former claim to be the major actors of international politics and history. In this “postclassical” Europe, like in Hellenistic Greece, the political and intellectual atmosphere has been marked by a massive decline of heroism and patriotic sentiment and a turn towards explicitly non-heroic values like prosperity, affluence, peace, personal enjoyment and individual self-realization. Like the postclassical Greeks, postwar Europeans have become reluctant to make personal sacrifices for the sake of their nations or bodies politic that might distract them from pursuing their own private ends.

Essentially, Europe’s postwar era is an age no longer of politics and political ambition but of economic and scientific efficiency, as the passion of politics has decreased extensively in comparison to the pre-war period. In ancient history, Athens grew irrelevant in military and geopolitical terms, but it was a pleasant place to live, especially in the third century B.C. Similarly, living standards in Europe have risen to unprecedented levels after the end of Europe’s imperialist age and expansionist career — in an age dominated by technology, applied science, consumerism, mass

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