Fatherland Europe? On European and National Identity and Democratic Sovereignty

  • Peter Koslowski
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


The philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder presented a treatise in Riga in the year 1765 under the title “Do we have now still the public and fatherland of the ancients?”.1 Looking at the European Union we have to change the subject into “Do we have now still the national fatherland or do we have the Fatherland Europe?”. Before the French Revolution and the era of nationalism following it, which should shape Europe up to 1945, Herder had answered: “We have not the political religion of the ancients any more, which would retain its value only up to the walls of a city, and which would change with the air of an other area.... Do we have a fatherland whose sweet name is freedom? Yes! But we think differently about the word freedom as the ancients did. For them freedom was an untamed cheekiness, a daring to direct the wheels of the state by themselves. ... The character of our public is not the bold wildness of the ancients any more; it is a finer and more restrained freedom. ...”2


European Nation French Revolution World History Grand Narrative Popular Sovereignty 
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  1. 1.
    J. G. V. Herder: “Haben wir noch jetzt das Publikum und Vaterland der Alten?”, in: J. G. v. Herder: Sämtliche Werke, ed. by B. Suphan, Vol. I, Berlin 1877. (All translations from Herder’s German text are by P.K.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid, p. 22 ff. Cf. P. Koslowski: Gesellschaft und Staat. Ein unvermeidlicher Dualismus (Society and State. An Inevitable Dualism), Stuttgart (Klett-Cotta) 1982, pp. 12.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The father-house of my father stood in a country, which does not even exist anymore today; but in spite of the loss of his native landscape of “Ostpreußen”(East Prussia) my father never felt like a person without a fatherland, because his fatherly, social birth was carried out in a larger country, which had not been extincted.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cf. J. Rovan: “Europa der Vaterländer oder Nation Europa?” (Europe of Fatherlands or Nation Europe), in: P. Koslowski (Ed.): Europa imaginieren. Der europäische Binnenmarkt als kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Aufgabe (Imagining Europe. The European Single Market as a Cultural and Economic Task), Berlin/Heidelberg/New York (Springer) 1992, pp. 55–69. French translation: “Europe des patries ou Nation Europe?”, in: P. Koslowski (Ed.): Imaginer l’Europe. Le marché européen comme tâche culturelle et économique, Paris (Les Éditions du Cerf) 1992, pp. 61–75.Google Scholar
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    Th. Mann: “Die Bäume im Garten. Rede für Pan-Europa”(1930) (The Trees in the Garden. A Speech for Pan-Europe), in: Th. Mann: Werke. Das essayistische Werk. Politische Schriften und Reden; Vol. 2, Frankfurt/M. (Fischer) 1968, pp. 173–179, here 178 f.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The terms “commonwealth” and “empire”are used here as synonymous. This is particularly the case in the Germanic languages like Dutch, Swedish, and German in which Rijk or Reich has more the connotation of commonwealth than of empire. The European Union must be a commonwealth-empire. It might be noted here that the usual English rendering of the National Socialist term Das Dritte Reichas “the Third Reich”is not correct and does not do justice to the old Empire or Reich. In English, the translation should be either “the Third Empireor the Dritte Reich”. The reduction of the concept of the Reich to its Nazi perversion is very questionable since the Weimar Republic also kept the concept. Article 1 of the Weimar Constitution stated: “Das deutsche Reich ist eine Republik”(The German Reich is a republic).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cf. H. Lübbe: “Geteilte Souveränität. Die Transformation des Staates in der europäischen Einigung”(Shared Sovereignty. The Transformation of the State in the European Unification), Information Philosophie (Lörrach/Basel), 3 (August 1994), pp. 5–13.Google Scholar
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    See also H. Lübbe, ibid., p. 13.* Geteilte Souveränität. Die Transformation des Staates in der europäischen Einigung (Shared Sovereignty. The Transformation of the State in the European Unification), Information Philosophie (Lörrach/Basel), 3 (August 1994), pp. 5–13.Google Scholar
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    This thinking seems to be influential at Brussels where there are forces that contend that the churches should not play any public role at all in the European Union.Google Scholar
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    George Steiner: “Sind unsere Kräfte erschöpft? Europa ist müde, der Stier gefährlich geworden: Am Ende des Jahrtausends sucht der Kontinent einen neuen Mythos”(Are Our Powers Fading? Europe is Tired, the Taurus Turned Dangerous), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Beilage “Bilder und Zeiten”, 27. August 1994, No. 199, p. 1.Google Scholar
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    Cf. B. Nichtweiß: Erik Peterson. Neue Sicht auf Leben und Werk (Erik Peterson. A New Perspective on his Life and Work), Freiburg i. Brsg. (Herder) 1992, pp. 764f. and 774ff.Google Scholar
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    Cf. R. Brague: Europa. Eine exzentrische Identität (Europe. An Excentric Identity), Frankfurt am Main (Campus) 1993. Original: Europe, la voie Romaine, Paris (Criterion) 1992.Google Scholar
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    E. J. Hobsbawm: “Welchen Sinn hat Europa? Ein halbes Jahrtausend haben die Europäer die Welt geprägt. Damit ist jetzt Schluß”(Which Meaning has Europe? For Half a Millennium the Europeans Shaped the World. That has Come to an End), in: Die Zeit, Nr. 41, 4 October 1996, p. 40, writes: “At the end of the first post-European century (after Columbus) we need a newly imagined history of Europe.”(translation by P. K.)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    “Daß es Nationen gibt, ist historisch das Europäische an Europa”.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cf. J. Derrida: “Kurs auf das andere Kap — Europäische Identität”(Steering to the Other Cape. European Identity), Liber (German edition), Nr. 3 (1990), p. 13.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Quoted in R. Schenk: “Redimentes tempus. Der Beitrag der Kirchen zur europäischen Einigung”, in: P. Koslowski, R. Schenk (Eds.): Jahrbuch für Philosophie des Forschungsinstituts für Philosophie Hannover, Band 7, 1996, Wien (Passagen) 1995, pp. 43–62, here p. 43: “Joseph Roth…. zeigt… daß, soweit unsere konkrete Phantasie reicht, Einigungsprozesse nur dann gelingen, wenn sie partiell bleiben.”(Joseph Roth… demonstrates… that, as far as our concrete imagination extends, processes of unification can only succeed if they remain partial.)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cf. P. Koslowski: Die postmoderne Kultur. Gesellschaftlich-kulturelle Konsequenzen der technischen Entwicklung (The Postmodern Culture. Societal and Cultural Consequences of the Technical Development), München (C.H. Beck) 1987, 2nd ed. 1988; andGoogle Scholar
  18. 17a.
    P. Koslowski: Die Prüfungen der Neuzeit. Über Postmodernität, Philosophie der Geschichte, Metaphysik, Gnosis (The Trials of the Modern Times. On Postmodernity, Philosophy of History, Metaphysics, Gnosis), Wien (Edition Passagen) 1989.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    “Haben wir ein Vaterland, dessen süßer Zuname Freiheit ist?”Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

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  • Peter Koslowski

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