M. Conway u.a. (Hrsg.): Europeanization in the Twentieth Century

Europeanization in the Twentieth Century. Historical Approaches

Conway, Martin; Patel, Kiran Klaus
Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series
Basingstoke 2010: Palgrave Macmillan
Anzahl Seiten
XIII, 284 S.
£ 55.00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Corinna R. Unger, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Jacobs University Bremen

“Europeanization is an obstinately elusive concept,” Martin Conway, one of the editors of the present volume on “Europeanization in the Twentieth Century” states in the conclusion (p. 271). Elusive it might be, but also inspiring, as the twelve case studies contained in the volume demonstrate. Arranged under three broad headings, they cover an even broader range of actors, phenomena, time periods, and approaches: “Europe Imagined” deals with intellectual constructions of Europe and European civilization and the life sciences’ efforts to construct ‘Homo Europaeus’. “Europe Constructed” presents debates about minority rights in interwar Europe and the role of international organizations, human rights discourse and monetary policies in shaping European identity and/or contributing to or working against processes of Europeanization. “Europe Emergent” contains essays on the impact of war experiences, architecture, popular music, and Holocaust remembrance on trends toward or against Europeanization. The thematic diversity mirrors the “deliberately eclectic approach” the editors, Martin Conway and Kiran Klaus Patel, have chosen in order to test the “applicability” of the concept of Europeanization (p. 271).

The test can be judged a success. Its outcome shows that conceptual elusiveness does not necessarily have to be a disadvantage in historical research. On the contrary, the volume demonstrates how fruitful it can be to work with a broad category like Europeanization. Precious insights into historical processes can come to light that might have remained in the dark had a narrower approach been applied.

In their introduction, Ulrike von Hirschhausen and Kiran Klaus Patel emphasize the volume’s underlying assumption “that Europeanization in the twentieth century is not a fact (and still less a cause), but rather a thesis which needs to be tested against the history of the century” (p. 2). They believe that Europeanization has the potential to bridge the divides produced by traditional periodizations and disciplines. Studying twentieth-century Europe through the lens of Europeanization thus aims to take a fresh look at some of the established perspectives on ‘Europe’ as a political entity, as a civilization, or as an idea. Europeanization is accordingly understood “as a variety of political, social, economic and cultural processes that promote (or modify) a sustainable strengthening of intra-European connections and similarities through acts of emulation, exchange and entanglement and that have been experienced and labelled as ‘European’ in the course of history” (p. 2). Although linkages stand at the center of attention, von Hirschhausen and Patel emphasize that Europeanization can also include delimitation, fragmentation, and conflict (pp. 2-3). The concept’s contours are sharpened by three theses: Von Hirschhausen and Patel argue that Europeanization is not uniform or unidirectional; that it does not have fixed boundaries; and that is not just about Europe (pp. 3-5).

Individual chapters mirror the notion of Europeanization as a complex, non-linear, ambiguous process. Several essays describe phenomena of Europeanization based on or promoted by instances of ‘Othering’: Veronika Lipphardt analyzes European and American anthropologists’ efforts to define/construct a ‘European race’. Guido Thiemeyer identifies the European Commission’s effort to counter American hegemony as one of the motives for the establishment of a European monetary union. Robert Gerwarth and Stephan Malinowski emphasize the relativizing effect the experiences of Europeans in the colonies had on their national identities. William Whyte describes the postcolonial appropriation of internationalist architecture by West Africans, who defined it as ‘European’ and/or ‘Western’. Among many other things, those contributions together demonstrate the importance of contextualizing ‘Europe’ and processes of Europeanization within the wider world.

Similarly, several essays on the intellectual and institutional phenomena related to Europeanization function together productively. Jose Harris’s piece on T.S. Eliot’s ideal type of ‘European civilization’ and the article by Jessica Wardhaugh, Ruth Leiserowitz and Christian Bailey on intellectual dissidents in Europe between 1918 and 1988 complement each other in their focus on individuals and groups and their synchronic and diachronic perspectives. The same is true of Ulrike von Hirschhausen’s analysis of the European Nationality Congress between 1925 and 1938 and Patricia Clavin’s and Klaus Kiran Patel’s comparative study on the role of the League of Nations and the European Economic Community. Finally, Henning Grunwald’s suggestion that transnational discourse on national Holocaust memories might promote Europeanization and Tom Buchanan’s argument that the concept of human rights provided the basis for a common European identity suggest themselves to contrast and comparison.

Having praised the volume’s many benefits a few critical observations need to be added. For one, the sheer variety of topics makes for an exhaustive yet at times exhausting read. If one of the aims of the volume is to show that Europeanization takes place in not just one but many different ways and arenas, it could easily have done with a few topics less. Moreover, the contributions embrace the conceptual and methodological considerations outlined in the introduction to different degrees. As the introduction makes clear, it is very difficult to avoid an essentialist perspective on Europeanization, so “a certain quantum of social constructivism” (p. 8) seems necessary. Some cases would have benefitted from a higher quantum of social constructivism. For example, Martin Conway and Volker Depkat analyze Western European discourses of democracy between 1945 and 1960 by exploring the political rhetoric used by non-Communist European political leaders. They find that “the very concepts of ‘Europe’ and ‘democracy’ began to merge in political and intellectual discourse” (p. 136). The fact that Western politicians, facing the confrontation with the Soviet Union, embraced the rhetoric of ‘democracy’ and ‘Europe’ does not seem surprising; if one searches for Europeanization characterized primarily by increasing integration this is a relatively safe choice. In the meantime, alternative discourses, which might or might not have been linked to processes of Europeanization (including those of fragmentation) remain invisible, just as the southern, southeastern and northern regions of Europe are notably absent from the volume.

Finally, there is the question where Europeanization begins and ends. Transnational transfers and imitations by themselves do not necessarily seem to be indicative of Europeanization, as John Davis’s description of British Beat “conquering” Europe suggests. Moreover, our understanding of Europeanization would profit from a more precise analysis of the difference and the relation between European identity formation and Europeanization.

Yet none of this lessens the volume’s groundbreaking achievements. Its editors’ and contributors’ major accomplishment is their daring to value resourcefulness over coherence and methodological curiosity over stringency, and to offer a testing ground on which future research will be able to draw. A notably well-edited volume, it can also be used as a teaching tool, making it a valuable addition to libraries in Europe and elsewhere.