The Europe to come

This Mediterranean to come is not some fu­ture utopia; it is hap­pening here and now.

Tizian – Rape of Europa 1562

Jürgen Habermas and Ulrich Beck en­thused about the European model and proph­esied its ex­port­a­tion to the world. Many were the suc­cesses of the Union, they claimed.1 Old na­tion­al­isms and xeno­pho­bias had been left be­hind, former en­emies col­lab­or­ated in peaceful com­pet­i­tion cre­ating the most suc­cessful eco­nomic re­gion in the world. The European Union’s prin­ciples of demo­cracy, human rights and mul­ti­cul­tur­alism were a beacon of hope. Europe was the model for the fu­ture of humanity.

The reality is so dif­ferent today. The European Union is no longer a model but a dys­func­tional or­gan­iz­a­tion that has be­trayed its founding prin­ciples: eco­nomic sta­bility and prosperity based on so­cial solid­arity and re­spect for human rights and justice. Recent at­tacks by eco­nomic and polit­ical elites and the European ad­min­is­trators on the Mediterranean people dis­missively called PIGS (a de­grading ac­ronym for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) show that the found­a­tions of Europe are shaking.

Europe is at a cross­roads, Europe is in crisis. But the idea of Europe at a cross­roads or in crisis is not new or un­pre­ced­ented. Europe is a crossroads.

The name and idea of Europe were in­ven­tions of people in the eastern Mediterranean around the Aegean Sea. The ety­mo­lo­gical root of the word Europe is ereb, the dark­ness after the sun has gone down. The Greek Ionians, who lived in what we now call Asia Minor, were the first to call the lands on the western shores of the Aegean (Greece and fur­ther west), where the sun sets, Europe.

If we turn to myth­o­logy, Europa, the beau­tiful daughter of a Phoenician king, was born in the city of Tyre now in the Lebanon. She was ab­ducted and rav­ished by Zeus, the king of Gods meta­morph­osed into a bull, who took her to Crete. The origin of Europe’s name is non-​European, Phoenician. But not only the name. Europe was united polit­ic­ally for the first time in the Roman em­pire and cul­tur­ally through its Chistianization into a holy Roman Empire. The founder of Rome was Aeneas, a wan­dering exile from Troy. Jesus was a Jewish prophet. Europe is the cre­ation of non-​European trav­elers, wan­derers and mys­tics. They all came from the Mediterranean, the Mesogeios in Greek, lit­er­ally the centre of the earth, the sea sur­rounded by lands, the world’s navel.

The Mediterranean lands, a hos­pit­able haven for im­mig­rants, were also a place of de­par­tures. The European boats of dis­covery, con­quest and col­on­iz­a­tion de­parted from Mediterranean ports, on the Greco-​latino-​iberian shores. As Paul Valéry puts it, the same ships car­ried mer­chandise and goods, ideas and methods. The Mediterranean has been a ma­chine for making and spreading com­merce and civil­iz­a­tion. On the shores of the Mediterranean, spirit, cul­ture and trade came to­gether.2 In 1830, the philo­sopher Hegel called the Mediterranean the centre of world his­tory.3 In 1960, the his­torian Fernand Braudel called it the ‘ra­diant center’ of the en­tire globe ‘whose light grows less as one moves away from it, without one’s being able to define the exact boundary between light and shade.’4 If the Mediterranean is the me­dius terra (the middle of the earth) she is also the heart and be­getter of Europe.

And yet, the European na­tions are sick; Europe it­self in a crit­ical con­di­tion. This is how the German philo­sopher Edmund Husserl opened his famous Vienna lec­ture en­titled ‘Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man’ in 1935.5 Husserl, a German Jew, had already been ex­pelled from Freiburg University. His death in 1939 spared him the ex­per­i­ence of war and the Holocaust. But in his 1935 lec­ture, he dia­gnoses the present sick­ness as a tem­porary de­vi­ation from the idea of Europe.

For Husserl, the idea of Europe rep­res­ents truth and the uni­versal, what tran­scends local and pa­ro­chial at­tach­ments and com­mit­ments. The pur­pose of European his­tory, Husserl ar­gues, is to seek truth be­hind ap­pear­ances and opin­ions. Its spir­itual birth­place was Greece. Greek philo­sophy and sci­ence cre­ated a dis­in­ter­ested view of the world and ex­plored the uni­versal unity of all be­ings. From Greece, a spe­cial type of hu­manity spread out which, while living in a par­tic­ular place, was ori­ented to­wards the in­finity of the fu­ture in a con­stant spir­itual re­newal. Truth is the gift of Greeks to Europe and of Europeans to humanity.

The idea and pro­ject of Europe is to abandon local, pa­ro­chial, ethnic or re­li­gious dif­fer­ences and con­struct a genu­inely uni­versal hu­manity. Philosophy erupted in Greece against doxa (the com­mon­sense) as the call to ex­plore and live ac­cording to uni­versal ideas. When truth be­comes a prac­tical task, it leads to demo­cracy and the de­mand to give reasons (logon didonai) for our be­liefs and ac­tions, to be re­spons­ible to others and pub­licly accountable.

The spir­itual task of European ‘man’ is to create him­self and his his­tory freely under the guid­ance of reason. Europe means the in­finite task of self-​creation and con­tinuous im­prove­ment of na­tions and in­di­viduals. Europe prom­ises to help hu­manity be­come it­self. Europe is there­fore not just the name of a land­mass but an ideal, a ‘spir­itual geo­graphy’. Humanity will be reached when the idea of Europe be­comes global. Europe is the telos of hu­manity. We, Europeans, the func­tion­aries of the human spirit.

What is the role of non-​Europeans, out­siders and aliens in Europe’s task of in­finite self-​creativity? The uni­versal vo­ca­tion of truth, philo­sophy and sci­ence does not be­long to any par­tic­ular na­tion. They are open to all. And yet, the Greek birth and European her­itage are quite unique in their uni­ver­sality. No sim­ilar idea or vo­ca­tion worthy of the name philo­sophy has emerged in India or China, Husserl claims. ‘Therein lies some­thing unique, which all other human groups, too, feel with re­gard to us, some­thing that apart from all con­sid­er­a­tions of ex­pedi­ency, be­comes a mo­tiv­a­tion for them – des­pite their de­term­in­a­tion to re­tain their spir­itual autonomy – con­stantly to Europeanize them­selves, whereas we, if we un­der­stand ourselves prop­erly, will never, for ex­ample, Indianize ourselves.’ If Europe des­ig­nates the unity of spir­itual life and cre­ative activity, the Eskimos or Indians of the country fairs or the con­stantly wan­dering Gypsies do not be­long to it.6

Move from Husserl 1935 to 2010. On September 13, a European com­mis­sioner called the French de­port­a­tion of 1000 Roma a dis­grace and likened it to Vichy France’s treat­ment of Jews. Pierre Lellouche, a French min­ister, re­sponded in kind. France is ‘the mother of human rights… not the naughty pupil of the class whom the teacher tells off and we are not the crim­inal be­fore the pro­sec­utor.’7 If France is the mother of human rights, if human rights are today the noblest norm­ative uni­versal, if the uni­versal is the fu­ture task of hu­manity, France is hu­manity. This is a po­s­i­tion France has claimed at least since Napoleon for whom what is good for France is good for the whole of hu­manity. Hegel agreed. Hearing the sound and fury of the Jena battle, he wrote that Napoleon was spirit on horse­back, freedom and mod­ernity spreading through the barrel of a gun. Spanish pris­oners of war met in­specting French of­ficers with ban­ners de­claring ‘Down with Freedom’. Our con­tem­porary hu­man­it­arian emis­saries, sol­diers and NGO op­er­at­ives are sim­il­arly met in parts of the world with the cry ‘down with your human rights’.

The French de­port­a­tions of the Roma are ex­em­pli­fic­a­tions of Europe’s and humanity’s his­tory. Racism, xeno­phobia and de­port­a­tion are as much part of Europe as hu­manity and human rights. Husserl and Mr Lelouche point to a secret at the heart of Europe and per­haps of hu­manity. Fear and hatred of the for­eigner is both an in­tegral part and the greatest enemy of uni­versal Europe. Greece and Europe came from else­where them­selves, from Asia and the East. We are heirs of this his­tory, chil­dren of Europa our prim­or­dial mother. Her journey from Tyre to Crete in­tro­duced her to other people, civil­iz­a­tions and cul­tures. So did the voy­ages of Mediterranean sea­farers. Greece, the Mediterranean, Europe rep­resent sep­ar­a­tion and move­ment, being cut off from your proper home and leaving your prop­erty be­hind. Departure from hearth, home and the homely can be vol­un­tary or vi­olent, emig­ra­tion or deportation.

De–port­a­tion, de­parting or ex­pelled from the port (Pireas, Porto, Paris or Paros) is the fate of the Mediterranean and by ex­ten­sion the European. Sophocles de­scribed Greek man as pan­to­poros aporos, sailing every­where but nowhere at home.8 The voyage can be cyc­lical Ulysses-​like or no­madic Abraham-​like. But in both cases, up­rooted­ness, the Mediterranean fate makes the exile or mi­grant al­ways glance into the dis­tance, into the dark­ness of the West, the gaze al­ways ahead of it­self, in touch with the other at or beyond the ho­rizon. This ori­ginal up­rooted­ness, this sep­ar­a­tion from the homely, this pas­sage to what is not and is al­ways to come cap­tures the idea of Mediterranean and Europe. And yet today our sea has be­come a wall, a con­trolled and po­liced bor­der­line, where mi­grants, fol­lowing the winds that sailed Europa or Aeneas or the num­ber­less gen­er­a­tions of Mediterranean sailors, are left to drown by our border guards and governments.

It was ex­posure to dif­ferent laws, cus­toms and gods that triggered the Greek vo­ca­tion to tran­scend the local and pa­ro­chial to­wards what is uni­versal and common to all. It also taught the voy­agers that there are dif­ferent vo­ca­tions and truths, dif­ferent ways to the uni­versal. From the very be­gin­ning the Greeks ques­tioned their iden­tity, dis­rupted by the Egyptian other and the wholly other. Greek philo­sophy in­tro­duced oth­er­ness into the reason of logos. Sailing into for­eign lands leads to self-​estrangement. Philosophy, the way of the sea.

European iden­tity is al­ways es­tab­lished in re­la­tion to its other, the non-​European. Europe means ex­posure to the other, the for­eigner and stranger and to what is other within self. We are re­spons­ible for our iden­tity, for the uni­versal and in­finite task of ima­gining hu­manity. We are also re­spons­ible how­ever for our re­peated at­ro­cities, in the New World, in the Asian and African colonies, in our gen­o­cides and holo­causts, in our ex­pul­sion of the Roma. Kidnapped Europa’s journey from the Phoenicians to the Greeks sym­bol­izes Europe’s mo­bility. But per­haps it also sig­ni­fies some­thing darker. We have been in mourning for the ab­duc­tion and rape of Europa, our prim­or­dial mother. We have in­ter­i­or­ized this ori­ginal crime, like Freud’s par­ri­cidal band of brothers. They killed the father and cre­ated law, we purify and re­venge the mother, by vis­iting her at­ro­cious fate upon others.

This is how the inner paradox in Husserl’s cel­eb­ra­tion of uni­ver­sality and truth, which is how­ever ex­clus­ively cred­ited to the Greeks and Europeans, can be ex­plained. If the Europeans are the func­tion­aries of hu­manity, if their ra­tion­ality gives them su­perior power, they have the ob­lig­a­tion to raise to hu­manity those lesser souls who have not de­veloped ways of thinking the uni­versal. Europe rep­res­ents the uni­versal vo­ca­tion, the in­finite task to lead hu­manity home, to hu­manize hu­manity. Historically how­ever hu­manity has been con­sist­ently used as a strategy of on­to­lo­gical sep­ar­a­tion and or­dering into a full hu­manity, a lesser hu­manity and those ex­cluded from hu­manity. The in­finite task of hu­manity to re­shape it­self, what used to be called in part ‘the civil­izing mis­sion’, has al­ways been ac­com­panied by a his­tory of con­quest, dom­in­a­tion, ex­term­in­a­tion and colonialism.

But let us re­turn to Husserl’s dia­gnosis of the European crisis in 1935 and link it to our present woes. For Husserl, the crisis with its count­less symp­toms of cor­rup­tion is not the in­es­cap­able result of fate but of a mis­taken turn in Enlightenment ra­tion­alism. The sci­entific and tech­no­lo­gical tri­umphs, the per­fec­tion of math­em­atics and geo­metry have made us ap­proach nature and spirit, ob­ject and sub­ject, as if they are the same thing. We use the same type of in­stru­mental ra­tion­ality and method to ex­amine both the nat­ural and the human world. The sci­ences have been form­al­ized and math­em­at­ized but they have lost their re­la­tion­ship to uni­versal truth and are un­able to un­der­stand humanity.

The crisis lies there­fore not in the col­lapse of reason but in the im­per­i­alism of one type of reason for which man is a nat­ural ob­ject. The es­sence of the human world how­ever is not ma­terial but spir­itual. Man has in­ten­tions and cre­ates mean­ings, he is not the result of phys­ical or chem­ical causes. Universal truth ex­ists be­cause there is one world, one ho­rizon that en­com­passes all local and par­tial human worlds. It is built out of the in­cessant cri­tique of everything par­tic­ular; out of con­tinuous de­parting, sailing away de­ported from our nat­ural be­longing, and be­coming strangers to ourselves. It is an in­finite pro­cess of self-​creation through self-​alienation. Psychologists and other po­licemen of the soul on the other hand have nat­ur­al­ized the human spirit and ex­amine it as if it were an inert ma­terial entity.

The Greek idea of uni­ver­sality must there­fore be re-​discovered. Husserl be­lieves that only his tran­scend­ental can un­der­stand a ra­tion­ality spe­cific to human con­scious­ness. But Husserl’s idio­syn­cratic ap­proach re-​opens the ques­tion of a uni­versal freed from its ar­rogant Eurocentric version.

We find clear par­al­lels in the con­tem­porary crisis of Europe. The idea of Europe, the uni­versal vo­ca­tion of spirit for Husserl, is being un­der­mined, cor­rupted to use his term, by the or­tho­doxies of the European Union. The un­der­lying cause is the same, the in­stru­ment­al­iz­a­tion of reason, in this case of prac­tical reason. Let us go back again to Greece, Husserl’s birth­place of Europe and truth, to ex­amine its other great in­ven­tion, politics and democracy.

If the in­ven­tion of philo­sophy in­tro­duced truth and the uni­versal into the heart of Europe what did the in­ven­tion of demo­cracy achieve? Democracy means, the ‘kratos’ power of the ‘demos’, the power of those who have no qual­i­fic­a­tion, no know­ledge, skill or wealth, to ex­er­cise power. The demos is a group without a fixed place in the so­cial edi­fice. They be­came a group when they de­manded to be in­cluded, to be heard on an equal footing with the rulers and be re­cog­nized as part­ners in decision-​making.

Following Jacques Ranciere, the demos is not the people or a polit­ical body.9 It is the sur­plus com­munity, those who have no busi­ness in ruling and did not rule in the past. It in­cludes every­body and who­ever. When the demos pro­tested its ex­clu­sion from decision-​making and forced a change in the Athenian polity, it presented it­self as the em­bod­i­ment of the whole com­munity in its uni­ver­sality, against the par­tic­ular in­terests of rulers.

Politics proper is a short cir­cuit between uni­versal and par­tic­ular. It takes place when a sin­gular body of ex­cluded (the demos, women, workers, im­mig­rants, the Roma, un­em­ployed youth) puts it­self for­ward as stand-​in for the Universal. We the nobodies, who count for nothing, they de­clare, are All against those who stand only for par­tic­ular in­terests. Proper politics is what destabil­izes the nat­ural order with its groups, parties and in­terests, which routinely follow the hier­archies of wealth, know­ledge and power. Democracy, is the dis­agree­ment and con­flict between the struc­tured so­cial body where each part has its place, and the part of no par­ti­cip­a­tion. The demos un­settles the order by adding a new part to the so­cial edi­fice by pro­claiming the prin­ciple of equality of every­body and who­ever. This is uni­ver­sality in politics.

Of course, the Athenian demos ex­cluded slaves, women and metics. The axiom of equality of everyone and anyone was strictly lim­ited. It was Christianity, this other stranger to Europe, which uni­ver­sal­ized equality and in­tro­duced it to the idea of Europe. St Paul’s state­ment, that there is no Greek or Jew, man or woman, free man or slave (Epistle to the Galatians 3:28) re­moved re­stric­tions and in­tro­duced uni­ver­salism and equality into western civil­iz­a­tion. This was of course a spir­itual equality, ac­com­panied by strict polit­ical hier­archies. All people are equally part of hu­manity; they can be saved in God’s plan of sal­va­tion. But only if they ac­cept the faith, since non-​Christians have no place in the provid­en­tial plan. This rad­ical di­vide and ex­clu­sion founded the ecu­men­ical mis­sion of Church and Empire. Christ’s law of love turned into a battle cry: let us bring the pa­gans to the grace of God, let us im­pose the mes­sage of truth and love upon the whole world. The road from spir­itual to polit­ical equality was also the way of im­per­i­alism, co­lo­ni­alism and gen­o­cide, the norm­ative uni­versal al­ways ac­com­panied by the bru­tally parochial.

If uni­versal truth is the task of hu­manity, it can be only guar­an­teed by politics, by in­cessant dis­agree­ment and con­flict. Political ant­ag­onism res­ults from the ten­sion between the struc­tured so­cial body, where every group has its role, func­tion and place, and those rad­ic­ally ex­cluded from the so­cial order. Politics proper erupts when an ex­cluded part de­mands to be in­cluded and must change the rules of in­clu­sion to achieve that. When they suc­ceed, a new polit­ical sub­ject is con­sti­tuted in ex­cess of the hier­arch­ized and vis­ible group of groups and a di­vi­sion is thrust into the ‘common sense’. At this point, the local is tran­scended by the universal.

Here we reach the con­tem­porary crisis of Europe. In late cap­it­alism, politics has been trumped by the sup­posed ob­jective know­ledge of eco­nom­ists, man­agers and ac­count­ants, dis­agree­ment by fake con­sensus, ar­gu­ment by the diktat of ex­perts. Politics is made to re­semble the mar­ket­place: Propertied in­di­viduals and groups in em­ploy­ment ac­cept the overall socio-​economic bal­ance, des­pite its huge in­equal­ities and pursue mar­ginal im­prove­ments of their in­come and status. Governance has be­come the ad­min­is­tra­tion of eco­nomics ac­cording to neo­lib­eral recipes.

Neo-​liberalism pro­nounces con­flict fin­ished, passé, im­possible, and, at the same time, tries to dis­avow and fore­close it. Its re­place­ment by a col­lab­or­a­tion of ‘truth-​telling’ ex­perts, mod­ern­ising bur­eau­crats and pat­ri­otic media turns the state into po­liceman for the pri­or­ities of the market. Conflict does not dis­ap­pear – the neo-​liberal re­cipes in­crease in­equality, fuel ant­ag­onism and direct pop­ular anger against im­mig­rants and the un­deserving poor.

Here we find Husserl’s con­tem­porary rel­ev­ance. Neoliberal math­em­at­ized fin­an­cial models, based on ra­tional ex­pect­a­tions and ob­jective cal­cu­la­tions, are presented by na­tional and European elites as an exact sci­ence. They can al­legedly pre­dict and con­trol human be­ha­viour leading with math­em­at­ical pre­ci­sion to growth and prosperity des­pite the huge in­equal­ities they create. The eco­nomy has been nat­ur­al­ized, the ra­tion­ality of physics and math­em­atics ap­plies to so­cial re­la­tions and human be­ha­viour. Managed con­sensus sup­plants con­flict, the for­muli of eco­nom­ists take over from the dis­agree­ments of demo­cracy, and ob­scene in­equal­ities re­place the egal­it­arian idea of Europe. Politics should not in­ter­fere with sci­ence, it should act as the simple ad­min­is­tra­tion of eco­nomic pre­scrip­tions, a kind of ex­tensive PR en­ter­prise to per­suade cit­izens that the de­struc­tion of their life-​chances is ne­ces­sary and inescapable.

The 2008 melt­down was the result of the fin­an­cial bubble cre­ated by greedy and im­moral gam­blers fol­lowing ‘in­fal­lible’ models. The banks bail out re­vealed the fun­da­mental bank­ruptcy and im­mor­ality of neo­lib­er­alism. While or­dinary people are daily sub­jected to the ‘dis­cip­line’ of the market, losing homes, jobs and hope, the banks had their enormous losses so­cial­ized. This is so­cialism for the rich, cap­it­alism for the poor. If an un­em­ployed person fiddles her so­cial se­curity be­ne­fits she goes to prison, if a banker bank­rupts a bank he gets huge bonuses.

In 2009, Jean-​Claude Trichet, the pres­ident of the ECB gave a lec­ture on European cul­ture.10 The lec­ture con­sisted of a long series of clichéd and un­re­lated quotes about the great­ness and di­versity of Europe. They ranged from Aquinas, to Valéry, Husserl and Derrida. Their in­co­herent ar­range­ment in­dic­ates that they were per­haps un­earthed and com­piled by un­for­tu­nate as­sist­ants. The con­cluding part is en­titled ‘the as­pir­a­tion of European cul­ture to uni­ver­sality’. Trichet quotes Renan’s well-​known essay on a nation’s iden­tity: ‘in the past [the na­tion] was a her­itage of glory and re­grets to share to­gether; but in the fu­ture it will be the same pro­gramme (un même pro­gramme) to be real­ised’.11 For the banker, Europe can now be com­pared with, if it has not re­placed, the na­tion and its fu­ture lies in its ‘same pro­gramme’. But what is the European ‘same pro­gramme’? Despite ref­er­ences to Husserl and Derrida, it is ‘the single cur­rency… the es­sen­tial part of this pro­gramme to be real­ised’. We shall con­tinue to offer the euro, he con­cludes, as a ‘unique and ir­re­place­able an­chor’. Monetary union is the new European uni­versal, ex­change value has re­placed the idea of Europe. This is a sad rem­nant of Europe’s as­pir­a­tion to universality.

We should not be sur­prised there­fore when, after neo­lib­eral policies and cap­it­alist greed had led to the fin­an­cial and eco­nomic crises, the medi­cine pre­scribed by the IMF and EU and ac­cepted by our elites is worse than the dis­ease. This is what is hap­pening to the Mediterranean people today. In the Greek case, 30% public ex­penditure cuts, re­duc­tion of salaries and pen­sions of civil ser­vants of up to 40%, a huge in­crease in in­direct taxes, and privat­iz­a­tion of the few re­maining public util­ities and as­sets. Extended to the private sector these meas­ures are leading to 18 months of eco­nomic de­cline and a pre­dicted end of year growth of –5%. Unemployment amongst 18 – 25 year olds is around 40%. In Spain and Greece, a whole gen­er­a­tion is being decim­ated. How could such cata­strophic meas­ures be­come ac­cept­able to the people?

The strategy used by gov­ern­ments and media is to present this most con­tro­ver­sial matter as a ques­tion of sci­entific ob­jectivity. The neo-​liberal re­cipe of rad­ic­ally re­du­cing public spending and debt is the only avail­able ‘truth’. The crisis is an act of god, a force of nature that could not be pre­vented or averted. Greece is like the Titanic, the ‘mar­kets’ are an un­for­giving ice­berg and the EU/​IMF de­mands a sudden vol­canic erup­tion. If the eco­nomic crisis is a nat­ural cata­strophe, politics should be kept out of it as in earth­quake re­lief. For Husserl, in 1935, the in­ap­pro­priate nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion of the spirit in­fected uni­ver­salism and brought Europe to its near de­struc­tion. Today the nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion of eco­nomics is the end of politics and of the idea of Europe as the uni­ver­salism of equality.

For Husserl, uni­ver­sality pre­sup­poses a common world of meaning and value, a common ho­rizon that en­com­passes our dif­ferent worlds. The an­swer to the European crisis lies in the tran­scend­ental com­munity, the sub­jectivity of a uni­versal we for which Europe is the name and mis­sion. Jacques Derrida, on the other hand, the Jewish Algerian French philo­sopher, in­tro­duces a dif­ferent axiom: what is proper to a cul­ture is not to be identical with it­self. Europe is double.12 We Europeans must take re­spons­ib­ility both for the her­itage of hu­manity and the at­ro­cious acts of Europe. I cannot say I or we, without at the same time identi­fying with the other. Our cul­ture and iden­tity has al­ways been cre­ated in a self-​relation with the other. We must learn again what it means to be at home with the other.

The Europe of the French de­port­a­tions and cap­it­alist fan­at­icism, much worse than any re­li­gious fun­da­ment­alism, rep­res­ents the lack of common world, the im­per­i­alism and em­pir­i­cism of a cul­ture that claims the mantle of the uni­versal. We must re­main vi­gilant against the Stoic, Roman, and Eurocentric fi­li­ations with their pat­ri­archal and co­lo­nial legacies. But we should not give up the uni­ver­sal­ising im­petus of the ima­ginary, the cosmos that up­roots every polis, dis­turbs every fi­li­ation, con­tests all sov­er­eignty and he­ge­mony. We must in­vent or dis­cover in the European gene­a­logy of uni­ver­salism whatever goes beyond and against it­self, the prin­ciple of its ex­cess. This means going back to the be­gin­ning, the Mediterranean and its ports of departure.

The idea of Europe must go back to the fu­ture as the Mediterranean to come. Europe will be Mediterranean or it will die. The Mediterranean to come is the re­turn to an on­to­logy of sin­gular equality and to a cul­ture of hos­pit­ality and open­ness. Our Mediterranean, the navel of the earth, will again be a bridge for bringing people and cul­tures to­gether rather than a place of drowning and death, a floating cemetery for the wretched of the earth.

Dissatisfaction with na­tion, state and European in­sti­tu­tions comes from a bond between sin­gu­lar­ities, which cannot be turned either into com­munity, state or Union and cannot be con­tained in tra­di­tional con­cepts of com­munity or cosmos or of polis or state. The Mediterranean to come is a bond between sin­gu­lar­ities, the world of each unique one, of who­ever and anyone, those in­finite en­coun­ters of sin­gular worlds cre­ating a cosmos.13 But each world is pen­et­rated by the world of the other, the other in me, my­self in the other

What binds me to a Roma, a Palestinian or a Greek or Spanish un­em­ployed youth is not mem­ber­ship of state, Europe or hu­manity but a protest against European cit­izen­ship, res­ist­ance against fake eco­nomic or­tho­doxy, against the false ethnic mono-​culturalism. It was res­ist­ance to com­mon­sense and the diktats of power that al­lowed the Greeks to ima­gine a uni­versal truth beyond custom or law and to en­trust it to everyone and who­ever. This vo­ca­tion of truth and equality calls us to res­ist­ance today against the op­pres­sion of con­tem­porary com­mon­sense and the com­mands of power.

This Mediterranean to come is not some fu­ture utopia; it is hap­pening here and now in cities and vil­lages, in Greece and France and Spain, where we tired old Europeans link back again to our be­gin­ning and birth­place, to a uni­ver­salism that was never one and can never be­come a tool for the powerful. This is our re­spons­ib­ility today, as Europeans, to the name and idea of Europe, Europe as a uni­versal cre­ated al­ways in a self-​relation with the other, the other in self and the self in other.

Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London

Show 13 foot­notes

  1. Jürgen Habermas, The Divided West (Cambridge: Polity, 2006) 43; Ulrich Beck, Cosmopolitan Vision (Cambridge: Polity, 2006).
  2. Paul Valéry, ‘Notes on the Greatness and Decline of Europe’ in History and Politics (NY: Bollinger, 1962), 196.
  3. Georg Hegel, The Philosophy of History, 86
  4. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean quoted in Anthony Pagden, ‘Europe: con­cep­tu­al­izing a con­tinent’ in Pagden ed., The Idea of Europe (Cambridge, 2002), 37.
  5. Edmund Husserl, ‘Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man’
  6. id., at fn 12 and 15.
  7. Lizzy Davies, ‘France Defends Roma ex­pul­sion policy’, The Guardian, 15 September 2010 http://​www​.guardian​.co​.uk/​w​o​r​l​d​/​2​0​1​0​/​s​e​p​/​1​5​/​f​r​a​n​c​e​-​d​e​f​e​n​d​s​-​r​o​m​a​-​c​r​a​c​k​d​own
  8. Sophocles, Antigone, lines 360 – 1.
  9. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement (Minnesota University Press, 1999), 1 – 42.
  10. Jean-​Claude Trichet, ‘Europe – cul­tural iden­tity – cul­tural di­versity’, Presidential Lecture, Center for Financial Studies, Frankfurt am Main, 16 March 2009 http://​www​.bis​.org/​r​e​v​i​e​w​/​r​0​9​0​3​1​7​a​.​pdf
  11. id., 9.
  12. Jacques Derrida, The Other Heading (Indiana University Press, 1992), 9 – 16.
  13. Costas Douzinas, Human Rights and Empire (Routledge, 2007), chapter 12.

  1 comment for “The Europe to come

  1. 15 December 2010 at 1:41 pm

    via Twitter: Interesting, but based on no­tions of tra­di­tional utopic Mediterranean, if it even exists …

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