2006 | 9 | 20-40
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Deliberations in a Melancholic Mood on a European Identity

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Two political models of a European identity identifiable in contemporary theoretical discourse and subscribing to this mood are the Greek model, 'being-in-oneself' and the Roman model, 'being-through-others'. The first model is characterised primarily by the capability of absorbing outside influences and the ability to transform them in one's own achievements. This type of assimilation, that is, the recognition of that which is ours in that which is alien, the inhabitants of Hellas made the core of their identity. The capability of assimilation can be seen especially in the particular Hellenic relationship with the earth, described, for example, by Homer in The Odyssey. This demonstrates that the Hellenics developed their identity not through confrontation, but through the reflective recognition of the self in that which is alien, or as Hegel said, 'being-in-oneself'. The second, Roman, model in antithesis to the Greek 'being-in-oneself' is based on abstract community, is lawful and mediated via things. In this sense, citizenship becomes a question of belonging rather than of a sense of community. Political identity becomes something formal. This means that such identity ceases to be possible as a common self-definition, a collective self-knowledge and, to an ever-greater degree, it becomes a matter for the authority alone. It is forged by 'being-through-others', in other words, primarily through political structures. Picking out the two main models of building an identity which are present in European tradition should make us aware that today's endeavours relating to attempts to construct a new kind of identity are risky. This risk does not lie merely in the necessity of selecting a specific discourse and language concerning identity, which always unilaterally narrows the description, but is already hidden in the very narrative itself.
  • B. A. Markiewicz, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Filozofii, ul. Krakowskie Przemiescie 3, 00-047 Warszawa, Poland
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