F: You place your constitutional project in the context of “a democratic legal domestication and civilization of state power.” This has of course been key to the European project from the beginning.
H: That’s perhaps too easily said. Here we are dealing with the very first instance of an accommodation of sovereign nation states – moreover, the first generation of particularly self-confident nation states with their own imperial pasts – to the postnational constellation of an emerging world society.
F: But isn’t the weakness of current European identity due to the fact that it has been described in such largely negative terms, i.e., to be a European means to be against war, against national selfishness, etc., instead of in positive terms, e.g., “I am proud to be member of a European civilization that represents X or Y” as positive values? And if so, how do we define those values and what kind of education project is necessary to give them meaning?
H: Jan Werner Müller, a younger professor of political science at Princeton university, recently rebutted the frequently heard accusation of the “failure of European intellectuals” with an argument that I find convincing. The expectation that the intellectuals should construct a “grand European narrative,” a European “identity,” with the aid of a new founding myth remains captive to a “nineteenth-century logic,” he argued. After all, the now well-studied history of the “invention” of national consciousness by historiography, the press, and school curricula during the nineteenth century, in view of its horrible consequences, does not provide an inviting example. We in Europe are still coming to terms with forms of ethnonational aggression – as is shown, even within the EU, by the example of Hungary. This is why I think it is sufficient to cite a couple of concrete demographic and economic statistics to remind ourselves of the diminishing weight of Europe in the world and to ask ourselves whether we must not pull ourselves together if we want to remain in a position to defend our cultural and social forms of life against the leveling force of the global economy – and, most importantly, to maintain a certain amount of influence on the international political agenda in accordance with our universalistic conceptions.