European project: between tradition and (after)modernity

Sviatoslav Vyshynsky
Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

At the beginning of the 21st century we should expect several variants of development of social, political and spiritual situation in Europe and generally in the West. Today it already becomes clear, that the liberal project, reflected, in particular, in contemporary postmodern philosophy and culture, as well as in the attempts to establish a tolerant dialogue between different groups of population, may deprive Europe its European future. Almost unregulated concurrent emancipation of both individuals and ethnic and religious groups only leads towards aggravation of conflicts of interest, as well as demands of subsequent mutual concessions, that, in its turn, will strike a direct blow against identity-as-distinction. In fact, all attempts to reconcile the hostile parties cannot but be crowned with defeat, since the liberal paradigm of thought only strengthens the root of mutual suspicion, raising on its own basis the key ideals, that justify the very existence of liberalism.

In this context the ideas for restoration of some universalist projects, namely “communicative reason” in Western Europe and neo-Eurasian integration in post-Soviet area, are quite utopian, since in existing conditions they act not so much in favour of their initiators, as solid religious communities, using equal rules under wittingly unequal balance of power. All these attempts to strengthen the construction of western and post-Soviet societies and to suspend disintegratory processes by no means cure the illness of civilization, but only prolong decomposition and weaken the influence of destructive factors. At the same time refusal from the resolute actions involves weakening of a “ward” himself, allowing his decease to grow progressively worse and seize new regions: “...An incurable invalid will not be cured whatever prescriptions are written for him on paper. On the contrary, if there is delay, he will grow so corrupt that he will infect us too and contaminate all the fresh forces which one might still reckon upon now...” [4, p. 383].

In practice it becomes apparent via decision to keep open the gates of migration, taking “stock” of it and judging the endless controversies of minorities, pulling up the most aggressive ones, engaging new partners for the sake of preserving of political grandeur and economic interest, and let each have a piece of a “pie” for it. The conservation of a satisfactory status quo appears to be undoubtedly more important than a strategic survival, and in this sense the ideology of multiculturalism in Europe leads to the same consequences, as a Eurasianism in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Short-term political and economic profit, however, entails subsequent loss of sovereignty: we should take into account, that this game was started by the forces, whose sovereignty is no longer measured by state borders and national bureaucracies, thus a certain racial, political, cultural and religiuos heritage is being sacrificed to consolidation of authoritative resources in hands of not numerous supranational elite. One way or another this is realized even by such idealists as Jürgen Habermas [2], gravely alarmed by the folding of democracy in the Western world, although their theoretical responses to the contemporary challenges seem to be too far from reality.

In the issue of possible de-Europeization of the West and civilizational conflict within the European Union the German philosopher, as a majority of liberal thinkers, further insists on the “pills treatment”: “...The European Union, like any separate state forming it, must maintain ideologic neutrality towards growing number of unbelieving and non-Christian citizens” [3]. A similar attitude, but merely in case of traditional religions, is characteristic for neo-Eurasianist discourse [5], which being largely based on Guénonian traditionalism, widely tolerates Islam in post-Soviet republics. Speaking about spirituality, we at once imply all other factors, namely political, economic, demographic: under conditions of overall recession in contemporary Europe any attempt to reinforce the system with help of “new blood” is fraught with the same consequences, as a barbarisation of the Roman Empire on the eve of its fall – sooner or later the younger, but more active partners shall head the on-going processes, and there are almost no grounds to believe, that a preservation of the imperial front after all will agree with someone else’s interest. It is no wonder, that on this background the stand of militant Islam become stronger – and not only due to immigration from the the Middle East and North Africa, but also due to active proselytism, encreasing practically in geometric series [1] – particularly amidst educated middle class, feeling no support in disoriented Christianity.

Is any kind of a new Reformation or a return to the fallen idols possible under these conditions? Nevertheless we should take into consideration such positions as Ernst Jünger’s, concerning the importance of church authority, as well as Jürgen Habermas’s thoughts оn protection of the institutions, retaining a loose moral frame of global capitalism [3] – they do not conceal and reverse nihilistic future, following every thing that should fall. We cannot seriously speak about the chances of Christian reconquista even in Eastern Europe and Russia, where the majority of population usually associate itself with faith solely symbolically, as a homage to abstract identity. It is the case of verbal self-identification that contradicts common life principles and generally accepted temporal views on the problems of social and cultural life. Therefore we may assert that preserving for the moment some institutional shapes, Christianity in Europe exists rather as a ghostly form without substance, or as a part of historic heritage, but not the present. Even if we shall connect European hereafter with some integral religious project, it by no means will be a Christian one – then it will not be European in essence, that sharply raises a question of preservation of Western heritage and authentic character of Western civilization, that, most likely, will fundamentally change in the near future. The reason for the process of dechristianisation lies not only in the degradation of church institutions or their inadequacy in front of the challenges of modern time, extinction of Christian “passionarity”, but also the active implementation of secular principles in public and cultural life of the West, that culminated at the beginning of the 21st century. Contradictions between multicultural liberalism and traditional Europe are still increasing, and we do not see the way for the positive solution of the problem without removal or irrevocable transformation of one of the competitive sides – while the direction of the Catholic Church toward a rather inert dialogue with a secular world, one way or another, indicates it as a force that will evidently lose the game.

In such situation it is quite difficult to speak about the prospects of appropriate theological reply to the postmodern reality, so in this case we should with all due care approach a question of a new secularism as a possible way for preservation of European continuity. It is clear, that the old tradition cannot return, while the course of liberal reforms may finalize the very existence of the Western world, leading it towards the edge of self-extermination and loss of historical subjectness. We suppose, that a potential variant for the overcoming of spiritual crisis in Europe may be based on the reanimation of philosophic modernism in its secular edition, as the theological one is almost impossible without “new”, non-European “blood”. Although in a long-term outlook this does not contradict a potential discovery of a new religiosity in a distant future, here and today the ties for the reconceived modernism should be found in a new philosophic doctrine, based on voluntarism, rationalism and transcendentalism, setting the perspective for the projected supermodern meta-narrative.


1. Ackermann A. Muslim converts in Germany : Angst-ridden Germans look for answers – and find them in the Koran / Lutz Ackermann. —
2. Diez G. Habermas, the last European : A philosopher’s mission to save the EU / Georg Diez. —
3. Habermas J., Krzeminski A. Europa ist heute in einem miserablen Zustand / Jürgen Habermas, Adam Krzeminski. —
4. Достоевский Ф. Бесы / Федор Достоевский. — М. : Художественная литература, 1990. — 672 с.
5. Дугин А. Основы интеграции народов Евразии / Александр Дугин. —


Theses for the International Congress «Rethinking Europe with(out) Religion», University of Vienna, February 20-23, 2013.

© 2012

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