Europe – myth or reality?

EU architects during the 50s, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman
EU architects during the 50s, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman Credit © 2013 European Parliament

In the year 1988, the philosopher Paul Ricoeur noted that "the ideology of progress is what allowed us to introduce the idea of crisis to an optimistic philosophy of politics". What is happening today? The ideology of progress has lost some of its support. This is the result of a development race that was mainly based on the power of capital and the consumption of every kind of resources. Today, some say we are in need of a "paradigm shift". The precipice lies in the finding another paradigm


For over half a century, the European unification has constituted an example of collective action that, in one way or another, in which an entire system of significantly differing/disparate nations had invested. All the components of the myth were present: the major endeavour, the heroes, the objective. Before the outburst of the crisis, who could cast doubt on the perpetual evolution of the European unification as a linear course that marks its achievements  in the course of history?


In the words of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, "a myth is an attempt at a literal explanation for natural phenomena". Via their aesthetics, they organize the collective consciousness and make us forget the discontinuity of reality and the historical ruptures that compose it. The current crisis may be an "overall crisis", as the sociologist Marcel Mauss would say. As such, it effortlessly and shamelessly lays bare the teleological construction of the European unification.

Behind the European vision for peace in a united Europe, Churchill's conservative Europeanism,  Monnet's Atlanticism and economic pragmatism, Hallstein's economic patriotism, Delors's economic and social moralism, all now are revealed like game cards.

The European plan was mostly a matter of the European Christian Democrats and the centrist Catholic Socials. As such, it had two historical orientations: the progressive liberation of the domestic markets and, at the same time, the postwar reconstitution and the further empowerment of the industrial cartels in Europe against international competition. Behind the European vision for peace in a united Europe, Winston Churchill's conservative Europeanism, Jean Monnet's Atlanticism and economic pragmatism, Walter Hallstein's economic patriotism, Jacques Delors's economic and social moralism, all now are revealed like game cards. Behind the European vision for social prosperity, the sensational failure of the European industrial politics and the absence of public investment politics during the 60s the poor and decreasing (in the case of Greece) export activity of the newly introduced countries of the south within Europe during the 80s and the prevalence the the German monetary "dirigisme" during the 90s compose another European reality.


By taking the step towards demystification, the European crisis is becoming unbearable as well as redemptive. This is where the problem arises. We seem unwilling to understand what has happened. We continue to pose the same old questions about the viability of the European plan, as if things only move between two poles: further "unification" or "dissolution". Both of these directions are based on the same reasoning, that of the indisputable European dynamics, of the historical continuity (continuum) and thus, that of its possible and irreversible discontinuance.


 The "dissolution" of the myth does not suffice. As mentioned above, a "paradigm shift" is required. This crisis and the chasms created among nations, societies, social groups and people may force us to now solemnly accept that the European endeavour has been and still is partially non-cohesive, and so, according to the laws of social physics, is subject to prospective ruptures. Let us remember what the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn said: "Progress occurs through a series of ruptures according to which incidents, experiences and knowledge refuse to fall under the existing reality". It remains to be redefined what "progress" means for the paradigm shift to be accomplished.

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