Men went looking for Europe, and couldn’t find it anywhere ?
In the American film Easy Rider (United States, 1969), Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Denis Hop-per) decide to drive across America after having made a small fortune in drug trafficking. Their journey by motorcycle brings them from California to an undefined place somewhere in the East. They meet people of all kinds, cross magnificent and varied landscapes and find themselves challenged by attitudes and values very different from their own. Their love affair with freedom puts them up against the rigidity of American systems (at one point, they find themselves behind bars after spontaneously participating in a Mardi Gras parade - the police call this “parading with-out a permit”) and finally ends in a western-style shoot-down of Wyatt (...Earp) and Billy (...the Kid) by a member of the conservative rural populace. This trip is clearly a quest to capture the essence of America: Wyatt is nicknamed “Captain America”, his motorcycle is decorated with American flags and his stars and stripes leather jacket continually reappears in the film. The memorable conclusion to this classic American film, however, is deceiving; it was summed up in the slogan on the movie’s promotional posters: “A man went looking for America, and couldn’t find it anywhere.”
We can also interpret this film as a fable representing the recently intensified European quest for identity. As the “Europe project” becomes more and more economically, legally and politically tangible, people increasingly feel the need to understand what the essence of this project really is. From this need stems the recently intensified discussion(s) on European identity, Europeanness and “the idea of Europe.” But can we find just one idea of Europe?
The current issue of EUROSTUDIA seeks to present a panorama of the debate(s) on “the idea of Europe,” both from a historical and a normative point of view (the political issues of these discussions and the cultural values they put forth).
Those who have had the opportunity to become familiar with the multi-faceted critiques - Marxist, psychoanalytic, structuralist and so forth - will find this new history of ideas rather one dimensional, as they are wary of any attempts that reduce the world’s evolution to a single cerebral dimension, to the faculties of the mind or to a unique consciousness, in short, that attempt to explain the dynamic of events through an idea which has directed the course of history.
And yet, this second issue of EUROSTUDIA, entitled “The Idea of Europe: Historical sources, political issues, and cultural values”, seeks to bring out the usefulness, and even the necessity, of a recourse to the various ideas of Europe, in the framework of a journal dedicated to analyzing the political and cultural issues of European integration (see the Editorial in the first issue of EUROSTUDIA). Again, we are not attempting to “reduce” the dynamic of historic evolution, boiling it down to a conceptual level that arises from any given idea. But it is a whole different matter to make a complex and multifaceted phenomenon - such as European integration - more understandable by taking into account its discursive dimension in order to provide a comprehensive résumé and, at the right time, an advanced explanation of this phenomenon.
It seems unlikely to me that Michel Foucault would pass for a strict “historian of ideas.” However, in one of his analyses, addressing the shift from the paradigm of the “riches of the state” to the regime of “less state,” viz. from a mercantile economy to the classic economic liberalism of the eighteenth century, the following statement is found: “A new idea of Europe is taking shape. It is an idea of a Europe that is not at all the Imperial and Carolingian Europe that has followed in the footsteps of the Roman Empire and is based in particular political structures. Nor is it still the Classic Europe of balance between established powers so that no one force will dominate and control another. Rather, it is a Europe of collective enrichment and a Europe of collective economic focus, regardless of historic competition between states or even because of the competition between states. It is a Europe that is able to follow the path of unlimited economic progress.” (M. Foucault, Naissance de la biopolitique, Paris 2004, p. 56) Here, then, is another way of taking into account the “productivity” of discourse, through the changing and reorganization of the most sensitive and decisive “bases” for the organizing of social and cultural life of a given political entity. It is by taking inspiration from such perspectives on the Idea of Europe, and others, that we hope this issue will be most beneficial.
(translation: Zoé Blowen-Ledoux)