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Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other


Edited By Bo Strath

This book contributes to the debate on what Europe means by demonstrating the complexities and contradictions inherent in the concept. They are seen most clearly when Europe is viewed from a long historical perspective.
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.


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Chapter 12: The Swedish Image of Europe as the Other 359


359 CHAPTER 12 The Swedish Image of Europe as the Other Bo STRÅTH Demarcations in We and the Others occur through cultural con- struction. Construction, as a term, gives the impression that something is built up from scratch. However, as Gerold Gerber argues in his chapter in this volume, construction always takes place within an historically given framework. The building material does not come from nowhere, but from a cultural heritage, which constitutes a kind of depository, when elites try to mobilise their adherents and gain support for politics towards certain ideas and goals. In this view, Hayden White refers the concept of construction to what is more a process of reconstruction in the proper sense of this term1. Construction is not free invention. Cultural heritages are more or less tenacious, although they are continuously confronted with, and adjusted to, new kinds of problems and challenges. They therefore undergo continuous transformation; this is not necessarily perceived as change, because the old interpreta- tive frameworks are exactly adjusted so as to cope with a new scenario and thus are experienced as being the same. However, in periods of accelerating problem accumulation and growing social stress, experi- enced as “crisis”, the interpretative frameworks might break down, as Martin Marcussen and Klaus Roscher underline in their chapter on the construction of Europe and the nation in France, Germany and Great Britain. The question of continuity and discontinuity at such junctures is crucial in order to understand the processes of cultural construction. The...

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