The Revue générale has written a dossier on the concept of Empire and empires. It includes an article by the philosopher Lilian Truchon on China and the traditional notion of “tianxia” (literally, “all under heaven”). Having been revived in popularity by the Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang some 20 years ago, tianxia is put forward as a Chinese alternative to the capitalist imperialist model.
Sébastien Schick (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne) writes about the Holy Roman Empire, an “irregular body, like a kind of misshapen monster”, as famously described by Samuel von Pufendorf, and which does not correspond to any of the Aristotelian concepts used at the time to categorise various types of regimes and governments. The Holy Roman Empire, indeed, is “not a monarchy, aristocracy or a republic, but a bit of all three” (our translation throughout). The author notes that it is more akin to a poly-centric confederation, not a million miles away from the way the European Union currently functions.
The historian David Engels comments on the title “Le déclin” (“The Decline”) on which his French publisher insisted, even though the original title of his work, which was published in 2012, was “Demain, l’empire?” (“Tomorrow, Empire?”). He considers that his original title “was a much better fit in terms of the principal intention, which was not to provide yet another lamentation over the cultural crisis of the West, but instead put forward the hypothesis that the similarities between the present time and the last decades of the Roman Empire (in the first century BC) are so obvious that we should be able to anticipate a relatively parallel series of events: firstly, a phase of civil disorder lasting around 20 years, then the coming into being of an ‘Imperial compromise’, echoing the Augustan Principate”. “It is the age of ‘civilisations’, where cultural identity, political order and the defence of strategic interests are part of one and the same impulse. Russia, China, India and, from a certain point of view, the United States have long understood this: other cultural spaces, such as the Sunnite world, the Iranian world and the Turkish world are coming into being (…). The only ones determined to avoid learning lessons from these vital evolutions are the Europeans, complacent in their staggering political and cultural naivete, running the risk of soon becoming the chessboard on which the other major powers will start playing a new ‘Great Game’, at our expense”, Engels writes, adding: “if Europe really wants a future, it must unite around a cultural patriotism for its material and spiritual heritage, vote itself the resources to achieve its joint strategic ambitions (whilst leaving all competences not strictly necessary for the vital interests of the entirety of our civilisation to the United Nations) and dare once again to project its force outside. Unfortunately, however, we are a long way from that…”.
The revue also includes a fascinating interview with the novelist Vincent Engel on the “desire of remembrance” (as opposed to the duty of remembrance), which is also the title of an essay against the instrumentalisation of the memory of the Shoah, which was published by Karthala in 2020. (Olivier Jehin)
Frédéric Saenen (edited by). Empire, empires (available in French only). La Revue générale, winter 2020. Presses universitaires de Louvain. ISBN: 978-2-390-61084-7. 255 pages. €22,00
Culture et barbarie européennes
This short essay, taken from a series of conferences given in 2005, has not aged at all. The sociologist Edgar Morin reminds us that “barbarian tendencies are the other side of the coin of civilising tendencies” (our translation throughout) and that “Western Europe, the centre of the greatest domination that ever existed in the world, is also the centre of the emancipatory ideas that will erode this domination”. On the way, it produced a dominant anthropocentrism and a fraternal humanism, before succumbing to totalitarianism and rationalised forms of extreme barbarism.
“To be able to get past European barbarism, you have to be capable of thinking it, because the worst is always possible”, writes Morin, who goes on to explain that “what we must avoid at all costs is having a conscience, as it is always a false conscience. The work of memory must allow the spectre of barbarism to ebb towards us: enslavement, trading in Black people, colonisation, racism, Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. By making itself part of the idea of Europe, this spectre makes barbarism part of the European conscience. This is a prerequisite if we hope to overcome the new dangers of barbarism. But as a guilty conscience is also a false conscience, we need a double conscience. As well as being conscious of barbarism, we must also be conscious that through humanism, through universality, by the progressive rise in a planetary conscience, Europe is producing the antidotes to its own barbarism”.
“Current techno-economic developments are causing a degradation of the biosphere, which itself brings about the degradation of human civilisation”, the author goes on to argue, issuing a wake-up call: “could Europe not produce new antidotes, arising from its culture, on the basis of a politics of dialogue and symbiosis, a politics of civilisation promoting quality of life rather than just the quantity of it, halting the race to hegemony? Could it not recharge itself with the planetary humanism it has created in the past? Could it not reinvent humanism?”. (O.J)
Edgar Morin. Culture et barbarie européennes (available in French only). Éditions de l’Aube. ISBN: 978-28-159-3946-1. 98 pages. €12,00
Les nouvelles menaces mondiales
“Although Europe remains one of the last oases of almost total freedom in the world, it is growing old and, more importantly, it is on the decline compared to the new, younger continents and the many threats coming from these new political and geopolitical spaces. By refusing to see the imminence of the global danger of the terrorist threat for what it was a few years ago and the Covid-19 virus today, some countries have played into the hands of the invisible enemy”, argues Sébastien Boussois in a work that is mainly given over to the pandemic caused by the SARS-Cov2 virus (our translation throughout). The associate researcher at the ULB goes on to list a number of threats (terrorism, bacteriological agents, chemical weapons, nuclear safety, etc.) which may not be entirely new, but should be taken more into account, both in strategic planning and in concrete measures aiming to reinforce the resilience of human infrastructure and communities, including local level.
Boussois rightly refers to the state of unpreparedness that was thrown into sharp relief by the current pandemic and the completely disordered improvisation which then ensued in Europe. He considers that this stems largely from a collective refusal to recognise and give names to the threats. “We live in a society of excess and denial, which uses synonyms or euphemisms to refer to things. In either case, whether it is the illness or death, we walk on eggshells and wrap everything up in cotton wool. The same is true in the case of pandemics: we do not want to hear the word, because it is scary, terrifying”, writes the author in a work that lacks rigour, but not approximations or mistakes, some of them quite shocking: mixing up Antiochus III and Antiochus IV (p. 33), total of 1 million AIDS deaths (p. 52), Islamic conquest starting in the sixth century (p. 147) … To sum up, but not wrapping it up in cotton wool: this is a book that is hardly worth its cover. (OJ)
Sébastien Boussois. Les nouvelles menaces mondiales – La grande pandémie du déni (available in French only). Mardaga. ISBN: 978-2-804-70940-2. 171 pages. €19,90
Die türkische Politik im östlichen Mittelmeer: Ringen um hegemoniale Vormachtstellung
The researcher Gülistan Gürbey (Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft der Freien Universität Berlin) examines the neo-Ottoman politics conducted by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. She describes a strategy of escalation based on force projection, going up to and including military confrontation in the pursuit of regional hegemony. This ambition can be explained as much by domestic policy considerations as by their foreign-policy counterparts. Erdoğan and the AKP are keen to reinforce their image and distract attention from the tough economic situation, which has been made even worse by the pandemic, the author explains. Gürbey considers that Turkey is becoming increasingly unpredictable, whilst isolating itself more and more.
This article was published in the latest edition of the review Südosteuropa Mitteilungen, in which Niels Kadritzke examines the demands of exclusive economic areas in the eastern Mediterranean, including from legal and historical points of view. The journalist argues that a worsening of the conflict between Greece and Turkey is to be expected in the coming years, due to a series of events likely to escalate tensions. These include the 200th anniversary of the uprising against Ottoman rule, which will be celebrated in Greece in March 2021, and the 100th anniversary of the victory over the Greek invasion troops, which will be celebrated in Turkey in autumn 2022.
In a third article, Huseyin I. Cicek (Universität Wien) describes the role of the Diyanet, the body that has been responsible for the interpretation of Islam in Turkey since 1923, including in terms of its cooperation with the ruling powers. (OJ)
Gülistan Gürbey. Die türkische Politik im östlichen Mittelmeer: Ringen um hegemoniale Vormachtstellung (available in German only). Südosteuropa Mitteilungen. 60. Jahrgang, 05/2020. ISSN: 0340-174X. €15,00
Qui gouverne l’Union européenne ?
This work puts into perspective, adds to and updates a series of European Chronicles published in the Revue française d’administration publique between 1 November 2014 and 31 January 2020. More than just a retrospective of the Juncker years, it seeks to identify the most significant developments, irrespective of whether they have lasted, within the principal European institutions and the way these interact with each other. Michel Mangenot, the director of the Institute of European Studies of the University Paris VIII, fleshes out all of the many portraits (profiles, nationality and career) of political leaders and European and national civil servants. The author devotes a chapter to the French presence and influence within the European institutions. The European affairs staff in France also get their own specific chapter. The book concludes with a presentation of the new leadership team, featuring Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Josep Borrell and Christine Lagarde, and their respective teams. (OJ)
Michel Mangenot. Qui gouverne l’Union européenne? Chroniques 2014-2020 (available in French only). La documentation française. ISBN: 978-2-111-57067-2. 162 pages. €12,00
Le “séparatisme”: unité et diversité du fédéralisme
The quarterly review Fédéchoses has published a whole dossier on to linguistic and cultural diversity as well as the regional and multiple identities that the French Jacobinism could not conceive. “Faced with a bureaucratic and centralised power, clinging to a dream identity and imagined unity, we wish to point out that diversity, fluidity and dialogue are the pillars of a society and of institutions that respect people and their individuality, creating collective choices rather than impositions”, reads the editorial of this issue, which refers to such things as the distrust of regional languages that is so characteristic of the French “elite”, the creation of Alsace as a “European collectivity” that is no more than a large département (although one might regret Ulrich Bohmer’s conflation of autonomism and separatism), and the “Greater Eastern” administrative region, the creation of which is not without its similarities to colonialism in Africa. (OJ)
Jean-François Billion et al. Fédéchoses (available in French only). Edition 187, December 2020. Presse fédéraliste (http://www.pressefederaliste.eu ). ISNN : 0336-3856. 64 pages. €5,00