"Charlemagne Visiting a Boys' School" (detail), engraving by Karl von Blaas © Unknown | iamachild.wordpress.com
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Sleepwalking into the Future?

Memory and civic participation in Europe: East, West, North and South

This is the prepared text of a contribution to a conference of the Europe for Citizens Forum in Brussels on January 28th, 2014. Irit Dekel, Anna Lisa Tota and Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, also contributed to the Forum. Their texts are forthcoming.

It is an honour to reflect on European remembrance at today’s forum. As one who teaches political philosophy at Tallinn University in Estonia, the tradition of European philosophy is my bread and butter. Where would philosophy or politics be without Europe? Our very language of politics stems from the Athenian polis. Likewise, civil law is rooted in Roman Justinian code. From Machiavelli’s grammar of the modern state to Kant’s dream of perpetual peace, the tradition of European political philosophy is extraordinarily rich.

Before discussing some fissures in 20th century European memory, we might reflect on the symbolism of today’s “Europe for Citizens Forum.” If the 27th of January commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day, today, the 28th of January marks the 1,200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne in 814. …

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