Europe in Search of Europeans   /   Spring 2014   /    Europe In Search Of Europeans

The European Experiment

Zygmunt Bauman

The celebration at Amsterdam of the Treaty of Westphalia; Getty Images.

The Westphalian formula decreasingly reflects the reality of a changed, or at least swiftly changing, world.

J. M. Coetzee, one of the greatest living philosophers among the writers of novels, and one of the most accomplished living novelists among philosophers, notes in his Diary of a Bad Year (2008) that “the question of why life must be likened to a race, or of why the national economies must race against one another rather than going for a comradely jog together, for the sake of their health, is not raised.” He adds, “But surely God did not make the market—God or the Spirit of History. And if we human beings made it, can we not unmake it and remake it in a kindlier form? Why does the world have to be a kill-or-be-killed gladiatorial amphitheatre rather than, say, a busily cooperative beehive or anthill?”

Coetzee’s question needs to be borne in mind whenever we try to comprehend the present predicament of the European Union: whenever we try to find out how come we find ourselves in it and what exits, if any, are not yet locked forever. Present-day necessities are but layered and petrified leftovers of yesterday’s choices—to much the same extent that present-day choices beget the self-evident “facts of the matter” in the emergent realities of tomorrow.

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