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Europe has been weakened of late. It was once seen as a solid entity, associated with democracy, human rights, peace, and the reunification of the continent. In current debates, the term “Europe” is ambiguous: sometimes it refers to European culture or civilization, and sometimes to an international institution that certain currents call the “wrong Europe”—as opposed to the “Europe we believe in” (Bénéton, Brague, and Delsol 2019)—, accused of being excessively driven solely by the logic of the market, or conversely, too bureaucratic, procedural, and inefficient. At any rate, institutional Europe must rethink the way it functions so that it does not compromise its core project: peace and prosperity.
This precariousness of the very concept of Europe and Europeanness stands in contrast to the atmosphere in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The end of the communist regimes in East-Central Europe, like in Western Europe after the Second World War, saw Europe become associated with an aspiration, a dream, a utopia that took the form of a project (Nowicki and Radut-Gaghi 2016). Proud to “return to Europe” and relieved after half a century of being relegated to outside its borders, the inhabitants of Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw finally felt at home. The writings of philosophers from “the Other Europe”—such as Barbara Skarga, Leszek Kołakowski, Jan Patočka, and many other passionate pro-Europeans—illustrate this well.
Let us recall the core of the discourse of this milieu…


Europe has been weakened of late, in both its international institutions and its very concept. The emergence of populist currents raises some questions. In this time of European turbulence, this article suggests that an alternative modernity (or alternative post-modernity) is possible for Europe. This could be based on three principles that are lacking today: 1) a rootedness in common European culture in place of national togetherness; 2) a renewed spirit of compromise rather than the practice of a limp consensus; and 3) an open cosmopolitanism that respects the “soul of the nation,” instead of an abstract universalism arising from globalization.

  • weakened Europe
  • populism
  • alternative European modernity
Joanna Nowicki
Joanna Nowicki is a professor at CY Cergy Paris Université, where she is deputy vice-president for international relations (East-Central Europe) and director of the publishing studies and communication master’s program. She is a member of the LT2DI laboratory (Lexicons, Texts, Speech, Dictionaries), and editor-in-chief of the journal Hermès. Her work and publications focus on East/West communication, the European collective imagination, the circulation of ideas in Europe, and “l’Autre Francophonie”—a concept she has coined along with Catherine Mayaux to describe Central and Eastern European thinkers and writers who do not belong to the post-colonial French-speaking world but who share French values (see their work L’Autre Francophonie [Paris: Honoré Champion, 2012]). Her most recent publications include Rêves d’Europe (with Luciana Radut-Gaghi; Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017), “Les incommunications européennes” (Hermès 77, coordinated with Gilles Rouet and Luciana Radut-Gaghi), À quoi sert la littérature (with Axel Boursier; Paris: Cerf, 2018), and L’autre Europe: La vie de l’esprit en Europe centrale et orientale depuis 1945, dictionnaire encyclopédique (co-edited with Chantal Delsol; Paris: Robert Laffont, “Bouqins” series, forthcoming).
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