Edited By Bo Strath
During the closing decades of the twentieth century Europe emerged as one of the main points of reference in both the cultural and the political constructs of the global community. An obsession with the concept of European identity is readily discernible. This process of identity construction provokes critical questions which the book aims to address. At the same time the book explores the opportunities offered by the concept of Europe to see how it may be used in the construction of the future. The approach is one of both deconstruction and reconstruction.
The issue of Europe is closely related in the book to more general issues concerning the cultural construction of community. The book should therefore be seen as the companion of Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community, which is also published by PIE-Peter Lang in the series Multiple Europes.
The book appears within the framework of a research project on the cultural construction of community in modernisation processes in comparison. This project is a joint enterprise of the European University Institute in Florence and the Humboldt University in Berlin sponsored by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Fund.
Introduction: Europe as a Discourse 13
13 INTRODUCTION Europe as a Discourse Bo STRÅTH The Question of a European Identity The intensified discussion about Europe over the last ten to twenty years has, to a large extent, been organised around the concept of identity. As such it is a debate about a highly charged concept with ideological content. This content is nevertheless – or, rather, exactly therefore – extremely vague. As a discourse on identity, Europe is so diluted that it means anything and nothing. European identity is usually seen in relation to national identity, either in tension-filled opposition to it, that is, as an alternative which might replace the nation, or in a relationship where it overlaps and supplements the nation. The structure of national identity is “projected” onto the European identity, and this projection has an ideological underpinning, for no projection is ever non-interested/non-ideological1. The formal definition of iden- tity is the state of being equal or identical. Identity means sameness. This can only make sense as a belief, a myth, or an identification with 1 The projection is of different kinds. It can be phenomenological, meaning that the nation corresponds to a fundamental cognitive category or, in other words, humans are considered to be inherently “national”. It can be epistemological, that is, Europe is only intelligible as a repetition/inversion/denial of national structures. It can be ontological: the nation is a form of being, but it may equally be de-ontological, that is, the national structure is ethically appropriate in and of the fact that human...
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