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The Cultural Values of Europe

The Cultural Values of Europe

Hans Joas
Klaus Wiegandt
Translated by Alex Skinner
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Cultural Values of Europe
    Book Description:

    What is the cultural identity of Europe? Are there specifically European values? Questions like these are at the centre of a considerable number of political and scholarly debates in contemporary Europe. In this international best-seller, a group of acclaimed thinkers – including Orlando Patterson, S. N. Eisenstadt, Mark Mazower and Wolfgang Schluchter – examine the most important innovations and culturally vital value traditions of Europe to produce an image of contemporary European self-understanding. The volume combines two possible approaches, examining both specific cultural traditions (‘Athens and Jerusalem’) and specific values (‘freedom’; ‘rationality’). Boasting some of the leading thinkers in Europe and edited by Hans Joas and Klaus Wiegandt, The Cultural Values of Europe will be required reading for anyone hoping to understand the common cultural ground in Europe.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-580-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Hans Joas and Klaus Wiegandt

    From 26 to 31 March 2004, the third conference of the foundation ‘Forum for Responsibility – Foundation for Post-Professional Education’ (Seeheim-Malchen) took place at the European Academy in Otzenhausen (Saarland) on the topic ‘The Cultural Values of Europe’ with around 160 participants from all fields of society.

    The present work documents the talks given at the conference, supplemented by the contribution by Gudrun Krämer. This third volume continues the series ‘Forum for Responsibility’, which accompanies the conferences, a series which began with the publicationsEvolution(2003) andHumanity and the Cosmos(2004).¹

    The foundation’s future activities will also focus on...

  6. The Cultural Values of Europe: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)
    Hans Joas

    In Joseph Roth’s novelDie Flucht ohne Ende (Flight without End), the main character Franz Tunda ends up in Berlin in the 1920s, in the aftermath of the unspeakable turmoil of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Here, he gains entry into the high society of the leading lights from the fields of industry and diplomacy. As it has a direct bearing on our topic, let us eavesdrop on a conversation that takes place during one of their get-togethers:

    At solemn moments they all spoke of the commonalities shared by European culture. Once Tunda asked: ‘Do you think...

  7. 1 The Axial Age in World History
    (pp. 22-42)
    Shmuel N. Eisenstadt

    In this article I want to analyse the distinctive characteristics of the ‘axial civilizations’ – those civilizations which are identical with Max Weber’s Great Religions. They constitute one of the most important scenes in world history and in the discourses about values of the modern world.

    I shall first analyse some of the common characteristics of these civilizations and then proceed to analyse some of the major differences between them – indicating how both these common characteristics, as well as the differences, have greatly influenced, to a high degree, indeed, shaped, many of the common characteristics of modernity.

    By ‘axial...

  8. 2 The Judeo-Christian Tradition
    (pp. 43-58)
    Wolfgang Huber

    Europe is not a ‘Christian club’, countered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when Angela Merkel, chair of the German CDU at the time, brought Europe’s Christian character into play as one of the objections to Turkish membership of the European Union. The Turkish politician’s disparaging reference to a ‘Christian club’ was certainly somewhat unfortunate; and the chair of the former Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Nadeem Elyas, was also rather careless when he adopted the same term. But it is true that it is impossible to account for the cultural character of Europe, during any era of its...

  9. 3 The Greco-Roman Tradition
    (pp. 59-76)
    Christian Meier

    I have difficulties with the term ‘values’. If I were to list the ancient ‘values’ that are thought to have defined Europe, it seems to me that I would have to bottle up all kinds of things (sealing them hermetically inside) which have in reality come together to form a broad stream and have had their effect within it.

    Just as an example, let’s take democracy. It would seem inherently obvious that it has come down to us as a ‘value’. However, most of our sources were written by men who held a generally sceptical view of democracy (and of...

  10. 4 How Europe Became Diverse: On the Medieval Roots of the Plurality of Values
    (pp. 77-114)
    Michael Borgolte

    The editors of this volume have commissioned contributions extending from the axial age in the sixth century b c to the present day. This is the first to mention Europe by name in its title.¹ This volume has been conceived in such a way that the question of how Europe became diverse is to be answered by a medieval historian. It is in fact possible to take the view that Europe, as the historical entity familiar to us, first emerged in the Middle Ages; on this view, despite the fundamental achievements of Greco-Roman Antiquity and the ongoing impact of the...

  11. 5 Freedom, Slavery, and the Modern Construction of Rights
    (pp. 115-151)
    Orlando Patterson

    The end of the Cold War entailed not simply the political and ideological victory of the West over its Communist adversary, but the triumph of the West’s most central and cherished value, freedom. Today we are living through one of the periodic explosive diffusions of this ideal as well as the related notion of human rights. According to Freedom House, the majority of the world’s 5.4 billion people have declared themselves in favour of freedom. The world seems to be in anything but a festive mood as a result of the triumph of its master value. The former Soviet Union...

  12. 6 The Value of Introspection
    (pp. 152-165)
    Kurt Flasch

    With this striking exhortation, Augustine summed up introspection as a constitutive element of the old European system of merit. At the same time, in an anxious, nothing less than beseeching, peremptory tone, it reminds us that human beings have a tendency to throw themselves outwards, to live amid diversions, to fail to appreciate themselves. It is not only with the emergence of industrial-technological civilization that introspection comes under threat; it faces inherent threats. Before Augustine, Neoplatonic and Stoic philosophers reminded us of the same thing: it is we who forget our inner world, plunge into the external world, and lose...

  13. 7 Rationality – A Specifically European Characteristic?
    (pp. 166-186)
    Wolfgang Schluchter

    The title of my discussion comes with a question mark. I suspect that the conference organizers chose it deliberately. Is not rationality, understood at a first approximation as the ability to think in a reasoned and consistent fashion (theoretical rationality) and to act in accordance with certain rules in a reasoned and consistent fashion (practical rationality) what we ascribe to the human being qua human being? Is not the human being theanimal rationale, the creature that reasons, as, for example, Immanuel Kant thought? Further, have not processes of rationalization occurred in a number of civilizations, above all in those...

  14. 8 The Affirmation of Ordinary Life
    (pp. 187-216)
    Wolfgang Reinhard

    When I consider all the unsolicited emails I receive every day, it seems to me that there are two main values for our contemporaries, money and sex, both quite everyday things. Now the world does not, of course, consist solely of spam, but on a somewhat higher level, in the case of professional and economic success measured in monetary terms, and in the case of love, we are in fact dealing with core values of Western culture and society. But they are so normal and everyday that they are scarcely perceived as values that function as guides to action.


  15. 9 Inner Nature and Social Normativity: The Idea of Self-Realization
    (pp. 217-252)
    Christoph Menke

    Two hundred years ago, at the spring fair of 1804, Friedrich Wilmans of Frankfurt am Main published Hölderlin’s translation of the two tragedies by Sophocles, under whose dual star all modern thinking about the subject, his status as self-responsible and autonomous citizen, his volition and his fate, stands:Oedipus Rex and Antigone. It is Antigone whom the chorus describes as follows: ‘You alone among mortals live according to your own law.’ Her path thus takes her ‘down into the realm of the dead’.¹ The chorus means this partly as a rebuke: to obey her own and only her own laws...

  16. 10 The Status of the Enlightenment in German History
    (pp. 253-264)
    Reinhart Koselleck

    This statement from Voltaire is readily cited to underline the sovereignty of the human being said to have been unleashed in the eighteenth century, when people broke free of religion and metaphysics. The human being, it is suggested, also determines the position of God and, if needed, for reasons of social control for example, may occupy His position argumentatively. Belief in God is no longer a theologically grounded, self-evident commandment; it is universally useful or, to use more modern language, ideologically fungible.

    Allow me to add a second dictum now quoted just as readily to characterize the self-determination of the...

  17. 11 The Dark Continent – Europe and Totalitarianism
    (pp. 265-276)
    Mark Mazower

    I have been asked to talk about the relationship between Europe and totalitarianism, two concepts which are much used and much misunderstood. Both concepts need a little investigation before they can be used. I want to start withEuropeby asking a perhaps odd question – does modern Europe have a history? – before going on to ask what place totalitarianism might have within it.

    Eric Hobsbawm has questioned whether continents can have historiesas continents. After all, from a purely geographical point of view, Europe is merely the western prolongation of Asia with no clear dividing line: where one...

  18. 12 Value Change in Europe from the Perspective of Empirical Social Research
    (pp. 277-319)
    Helmut Thome

    When studying values empirically, social researchers apply a methodological perspective which differs substantially from that characteristic of philosophers, social anthropologists, or historians of ideas. In empirical research, values are treated as something ‘measurable’, measurable, above all, with the instrument of systematic surveys. This is a persistent source of irritation, and not just among non-sociologists; I shall therefore deal briefly with this methodology by way of introduction. The first thing to bear in mind is that we constantly produce rough-and-ready ‘measurements’ of values in everyday conversation. Referring to a colleague, for example, we say that he values his work more than...

  19. 13 The Realities of Cultural Struggles
    (pp. 320-337)
    Dieter Senghaas

    In the present article I attempt to bring clarity to the debate on so-called ‘cultural conflicts’. However, these conflicts are discussed here only inasmuch as they are of political or, to put it more precisely, macropolitical relevance. I calltheseconflicts ‘cultural struggles’ and I approach this topic through a comparative analysis anchored in developmental history, my primary concern being to shed light oncontemporaryrealities.¹

    Let’s begin with a quotation:

    The superiority she [Europe] has long maintained has tempted her to plume herself as the mistress of the world, and to consider the rest of This statement is from...

  20. 14 The Contest of Values: Notes on Contemporary Islamic Discourse
    (pp. 338-356)
    Gudrun Krämer

    People are thinking seriously about values again. They are doing so in Europe, which has been reappraising its Christian heritage since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire; in the United States, which has decided to launch a worldwide crusade for freedom; and in Asia, which insists on its cultural specificity. The Muslim world, too, is debating values, internally as well as with the outside world. The debate is taking place in a highly charged atmosphere, and it is marked by a pronounced asymmetry of power. The west calls on ‘Islam’, that is to...

  21. 15 Does Europe Have a Cultural Identity?
    (pp. 357-368)
    Peter Wagner

    In 1870, once the process of Italian unification had been completed with the creation of a nation-state after several years of conflict (including armed conflict), in much the same way as in Germany, one of the protagonists stated: ‘Now that we’ve created Italy, we have to create the Italians’ (this remark is attributed, perhaps wrongly, to Massimo d’Azeglio). Despite his efforts to fuse the territories of the peninsula together into a single political order, d’Azeglio didnotbelieve that Italy already had a cultural identity. But he did think that the future Italians ought to become more aware of what...

  22. Glossary
    (pp. 369-371)
  23. Afterword
    (pp. 372-374)
    Klaus Wiegandt

    Just as the first two conferences ‘Evolution’ and ‘Humanity and the Cosmos’ bore the unmistakable signature of the scientist Ernst Peter Fischer, scientific adviser at my foundation, the sociologist Hans Joas directed proceedings both in the runup to and during the third seminar ‘The Cultural Values of Europe’ with much skill and aplomb. In the name of all 160 participants, I would once again like to express my heartfelt thanks to him.

    For the participants, drawn from every area of society, each day opened up valuable perspectives, some of them entirely new. Towards the end of the seminar it became...