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Imagining Europe

Europe and European Civilisation as Seen from its Margins and by the Rest of the World, in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries


Edited By Michael Wintle

What do people think ‘Europe’ means? What are its values, what are its borders, and what does it stand for? An important topic, without doubt. But the authors of this research collection are not so much interested in what Europe thinks of itself, but rather in what others think of it. They take a number of scenarios from recent history, and examine how Europe has appeared to people in other parts of the globe: America, China, the Arab world, for example. But they go further, and pose the question for some parts of the world which are ‘inside’ Europe, but which for one reason or another hover on the margins, like the Balkans, and Turkey. Furthermore they include the views about Europe held in parts of the continent which have without any doubt whatsoever belonged to Europe’s core, but which much of the rest of Europe, later, would like to forget about, or marginalise: Stalin’s Russia, and Hitler’s Germany. Most of the elements investigated here are central to the imagining of Europe, and despite many Europeans’ wish to distance themselves, such views should be recognised and taken up as an important and indispensable contribution to the debate about ‘What is Europe?’


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PART II FROM TOTALITARIAN EUROPE 51 CHAPTER 2 Heroes and Merchants Joseph Stalin and the Nations of Europe1 Erik VAN REE Introduction In his Händler und Helden (1915), the German economist and soci- ologist Werner Sombart interpreted the Great War as an existential battle not just between nations, but between cultures and world views. According to Sombart, West European civilisation was based on the ideas of 1789 and on commercial values, which he identified with the Jewish spirit. The typical West European was a merchant, exclusively interested in what life could offer him in terms of goods and comfort. In contrast, Germany was a nation of heroes, who were prepared to sacri- fice themselves for higher ideals.2 Sombart’s book contributed to the radical right-wing tendency of the so-called “Conservative Revolution”. The Conservative Revolutionaries started out as a Romantic, fin de siècle phenomenon. Leading lights such as Oswald Spengler, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Ernst Jünger deplored the decline of traditional society based on hierarchy and au- thoritarianism, and were fundamentally opposed to capitalist commer- cialism and the liberal and egalitarian principles of the French Revolu- 1 This is a revised version of an article published in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 8/1 (2007). I am grateful to the editors for permission to pub- lish the revised version here. 2 W. Sombart, Händler und Helden. Patriotische Besinnungen, Munich/Leipzig, Duncker & Humblot, 1915; J. Herf, Reactionary Modernism. Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third...

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