The Space of Crisis. Shifting spaces and ideas of Europe: 1914 – 1945

University of Salerno, 14-16 April 2010

Also a panel at the XVIII International Conference of Europeanists, BEI – Barcelona, 20-22 June 2011

In the first half of the Twentieth century the two world wars were interpreted by many as the definitive downfall of Europe. Intellectuals like Schmitt, Heidegger, Jünger, Spengler, Thomas Mann and Paul Hazard – just to mention a very few –  all related the collapse of Europe to the crisis of the world-views stemming out of modernity. Yet, because modernity itself was the very basis of Europe’s identity, many simply assumed that what they were witnessing was the accomplishment of Europe’s truest destiny. Many studies on the relationship between the crisis of Europe and the crisis of modernity in the inter-war period have already been made. The aim of this conference, although strongly intertwined with this issue, is yet narrower; many of the authors writing in the first half of the century on the crisis of Europe also perceived the importance of the growing discrepancy between the space of politics – represented by the nation-state – and the new and wider space of economic, cultural and social interdependence which modernity itself had created.

While our immediate purpose is to try to shed light on the way intellectuals, men and women of letters and artists, between the beginning of the First and the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, perceived the crisis and the decadence of modern Europe in relation to the growing discrepancy between the spatiality of the nation-state and the new European space which modernity was creating, this issue raises a much more fundamental question. The crisis of the space of modernity poses the need of a re-thinking of ‘political forms’, a re-thinking to which Europe is central because it has created that way of political organization, because it has created the conditions for its overcoming and, lastly, because it represents the most successful attempt to solve the crisis itself. Going back to the classics of the first half of the century from this standpoint, means, therefore, to try to understand whether or not, today, a politics of space and a space of police are possible in a modern and globalized world.

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