Bo Stråth


Bo Stråth (Curriculum Vitae) was 2007-2014 Finnish Academy Distinguished Professor in Nordic, European and World History and Director of Research at the Department of World Cultures / Centre of Nordic Studies (CENS), University of Helsinki. 1997-2007 he was Professor of Contemporary History at the European University Institute in Florence, and 1991-1996 Professor in History at the University of Gothenburg. He is a member of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

European Modernity

by | Sep 25, 2006 | Conferences, Curriculum vitae

Under this heading are the outlines and programmes of six conferences/workshops at the EUI between 2000 and 2006. They deal with Europe’s unity and internal divisions and the role of the nation-states and their citizenships in European integration. Other teams are the connection between religion and modernity and the meaning of Europe.

European Unity and Division: Regions, Religions, Civilisations

Conference of the Centre for European Studies, Monash University, in collaboration with the European University Institute (the project Reconsidering the “Cultural Heritage” of Europe directed by Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner)

Date: 25-27/09/2006
Place: Monash University Prato Centre, Prato, Italy

Programme (pdf)

The twin themes of European unity and Europe’s internal divisions are as topical as ever. Recent events have highlighted the ambitions and difficulties of an integrative project that aspires to transcend long-standing cultural or geopolitical boundaries. The division debate has moved beyond an initial focus on states and nations; historical regions and religious traditions have been analysed from various angles. Civilisational approaches are less developed, although it is now widely recognized that the making of Europe can only be understood as an inter-civilisational process. The conference aims to explore the complex and changing relationships between the abovementioned sources of diversity, with particular emphasis on long-term historical dynamics, but with some reference to present constellations.
  This broadly defined agenda will be structured around more specific questions. It seems appropriate to link the general problems at issue to the particular case of East Central Europe. The historical experience of this region (defined in different ways, broad or narrow, by different authors whose views merit further discussion) has been central to some of the most seminal work on European unity and divisions. Among other important contributions, the works of Oskar Halecki and Jenö Szücs are perhaps the most representative. Distinctive traits of East Central European history have to do with intra-Christian developments and divergences (patterns of contact and conflict between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, as well as a particularly dramatic confrontation between Reformation and Counter-Reformation); with the long rule of the Habsburg Empire that redefined the religious and political profile of the region; and with exposure to Inner Eurasian currents as well as their indirect impact through the Russian and Ottoman Empires.
The concern with East Central Europe is reflected in several titles already on the program, and the organizers are particularly interested in further contributions along such lines. But this focus is not meant to be exclusive. Some of the proposed papers approach the general themes from other regional vantage points; more such input will be welcomed, and is expected to generate a discussion of comparative perspectives. The combination of a primary regional reference with aspects of a broader picture will be maintained in the publication that should result from the conference.
Speakers include Johann Arnason, Miroslav Hroch, Hartmut Kaelble, Bo Stråth, Stefan Troebst and Peter Wagner.

See the web-site of Monash University for more information on the speakers and titles of their papers.
It is anticipated that a selection of the conference papers will form the basis of an edited volume.

Rationalization and the Modernity of Europe

von Bo Stråth | Feb 14, 2005 | ConferencesCurriculum vitae

Organiser: Carl Marklund and Bo Strath
Date: 14/2/2005
Place: Villa Schifanoia, Sala Europa

This workshop focuses on the continuity and changes of discourses on effectivization, rationalization, and social planning from circa 1900 to the present. The ideas and practices of rationalization have been an integral part of modernisation and a fundamental component of the modern experience. The workshop aspires to interrogate the relationship between perceptions of modernity and the formation of rationalization discourses in Europe and elsewhere by asking what is to be rationalised and why.

Schedule (pdf)
A more detailed workshop outline (pdf)

Varieties of World-Making: Europe and Beyond

Organiser: Bo Strath
Date: 10/2004
Place: Villa Schifanoia

European integration in the era of globalization is more than a regional project. To the common understanding of the global context of Europe, which involves marketization and de-regulation as key features of globalization, we need to add at least two other major phenomena of the present and the recent past.

These are, on the one hand, the connected processes of decolonization and the emergence of plural forms of modernity and, on the other hand, the equally connected processes of denationalization of European societies and of their Europeanization.

In this broader sense, European integration projects a particular view of the world and of human societies in it onto the global constellation.

Schedule (pdf)

Religion and Modernity

A workshop organised in the framework of the research programme Modernity of Europe

Organiser: Bo Strath and Peter Wagner
Place: Chiesetta, Villa Schifanoia

This workshop on Religion and Modernity intends to shed new light on a connection that the classical thinkers Durkheim, Marx and Weber shared. Despite wide ranging mutual differences, they both believed that religion would vanish with the rise of modernity. Secularisation was a concept used to describe this process. Max Weber was foremost in stamping the connection between religion and modernity with his term ‚Protestant ethic.‘ This he saw as a culture paving the way for the development of capitalism. The protestant ethic emphasised the individualisation of religious experience and the de-hierarchisation of the churches with declining power for the priesthood. In this framework, capitalist spirit and entrepreneurship flourished. The main objective of this workshop is to critically problematise and develop Weber’s model and to connect it to the questions of a Catholic modernity and of a Jewish modernity.We understand the foundation of modernity not only as a belief in the human capacity to control, manage and govern, a belief in human autonomy and progress, but also as scepticism and critique, based on self-reflection, and constantly at odds with a belief in autonomy. A Catholic view on modernity was also expressed, for instance, in Rerum Novarum in 1891. We want to investigate varieties of religious transformation under the label of modernity, varieties which are not necessarily best described with concepts like secularisation. This will be a small one-day workshop comprising some 10 contributors. The purpose is primarily to explore further steps in the analysis of the connections between religion and

Religion and Modernity – Schedule

A workshop organised in the framework of the research programme Modernity of Europe

Monday, 17 June
                09.00-11.00 Lucian Hölscher (Bochum), The Inherent Time. Remarks on the Directions of Religious Change in Modern Societies
                Rolf Schieder (Landau), Religion and Modernity from the Perspective of Theology

                  11.15-11.30 Coffee on the Mensa terrace
                  11.30-13.00 Hans Bödeker (Göttingen), Religion and a Protestant Modernity
                  Hans Joas (Berlin), A Catholic Modernity?
                  13.00-14.30 Lunch in Mensa Villa Schifanoia
                  14.30-18.00 Lucien Jaume (Paris), Catholicisme et autorité. Ou : de la portée politique de la notion d’imago Dei
                  David Sorkin (Madison), Judaism and Modernity

                  20.00 Dinner in Pizzeria San Domenico

                Tuesday, 18 June
                9.00-11.00 Arpad Szakolczai (Cork), Modernity, Religion, and Two Ages of Globalisation
                Danèle Hervieu-Leger (Paris), Les renouveaux de l’émotion: de quelques paradoxes de l’ultra-modernité religieuse

                  11.00-11.15 Coffee Sala Bandiere
                  11.15-13.00 Annette Becker (Paris), Halbwachs, modernity, religion and memory, modernity in memory
                  Liz Fordham (EUI), Religion, Reason, Modernity

Final Discussion
                13.15 Lunch in Osteria Carpe Diem via Mantellini, 2/b

2002 Religion and Modernity

European States and Citizens: A Millennium of Debate

Florence, 23-24 October 2000, villa Schifanoia sala Europa
Conference organised by Quentin Skinner and Bo Stråth

 At the outset of a new millennium, questions concerning the power of states and citizens‘ rights are being addressed from numerous viewpoints. The war in Kosovo, for example, highlighted the tension between state sovereignty and human rights. One contemporary argument claims that the nation-state’s power diminishes in an environment of „globalisation“. The rights of citizens are coupled with a transfer of social responsibility from the welfare state to the individual.

Concepts like „state“ and „citizen“ are ideologically loaded, as is demonstrated by the debate on the role that „civil society“ should play in the ongoing tension between them. Concepts like state, citizen and civil society have developed their contested meanings in historical processes over long periods. In these processes, both continuities and discontinuities were employed when the concepts received their historical significance, historical meanings which have varied over time just as the interconnections between these and similar concepts. This conference aims to shed more light on these historical processes of longue durée.


Monday, 23 October 2000, 9.00-18.00

9.00 State and Citizens: Setting the Scene
              David Runciman, The Concept of the State: The Sovereignty of a Fiction
Quentin Skinner, Changing Concepts of Freedom and Citizenship
11.00 Coffee

11.15 The Medieval Background

Magnus Ryan, Freedom, law and the medieval state
Marco Geuna, The Re-emergence of the Citizen

Discussant: Almut Höfert
13.00 Lunch

15.00 Early-modern Developments

Martin van Gelderen, The Emergence of the Modern State
Annabel Brett, The Development of Citizens‘ Rights

Discussant: Gianfranco Poggi
20.00 Dinner

Tuesday, 24 October 2000, 9.00-18.00

9.00 Citizens, States and Modernity

Lucian Jaume, Revolution and the Modern State
Judith Vega, Rights (Especially of Women) in the Enlightenment State
Erik Tängerstad, Weimar Democracy: On the Collective Construction of Demos

Discussant: Peter Wagner
11.00 Coffee

11.30 Discussion

13.00 Lunch

14.30 Post-modern Challenges

Sudipta Kaviraj, The Post-colonial State
Michèle Riot Sarcey, Liberté citoyenne et féminisme, idées inconciliables?
Bo Stråth, The State and its Critics: From the Ideas of 1968 to the Concept of Globalisation

Discussant: Luisa Passerini

20.00 Dinner

Please get in touch with James Kaye for papers:

The Meaning of Europe in National Discourses

in Co-operation with The Swedish Research Council for Social and Human Sciences
within the framework of the European Forum Programme 1999/2000

Workshop Professor Bo Stråth
Florence, 28-29 May 2000

Directors: Mikael af Malmborg and Bo Stråth

The European integration process reminds us on a daily basis that ‚Europe‘ is a concept of diversity as well as unity. While members of the European Union and applicant states are increasingly involved in a common political project, there is also a great deal of variation in national interpretation of what ‚Europe‘ is and ought to be. Historically established understandings of ‚ Europe influence how each country conceptualises its relationship to the EU today.

In order to explore the uses of the concept of Europe in the construction of national identities we are organising a conference and book project The Meanings of ‚Europe‘ in National Discourses.

No nation is an island. The construction of national identity is not simply asserting its distinctiveness from a homogenous environment. It is a process by which the nation is positioned in a larger cultural-geographical context. One such wider context is the European one, and this project explores the meaning of ‚ Europe in the construction of modern national identities.

Although there was never a unified European political entity and definitions of Europe are often based on geographical or cultural criteria, as Norman Davies underlines, it would be wrong to suppose that the term has been devoid of political content. „Europe“ has often been discussed as a synonym for the harmony and unity that was lacking, „the unattainable ideal, the goal for which all good Europeans are supposed to strive.“ In other words, Europe is basically a discourse and an ideological programme.

„Europe“ is not only an unattainable ideal of unity but also a carrier of certain values in national public life. In national political debate, „Europe“ often enters as a dimension of national identity rather than a project of unification, and political life in the past two centuries has been centred on national polities. Rather than „How shall Europe be united?“ the questions dwelt upon in public debate have been: „How European is our nation?“ „How shall we relate ourselves to „Europe“?“ „To what extent should we be European, something else or simply „ourselves“?“

The sociologist Rogers Brubaker suggests a new way of structuring the analysis of nations and nationalism, which is equally applicable to Europe and Europeanism. Instead of asking the classical question What is a nation?, he asks the more inductive question of how a nation works as a practical category. Rather than asking What is Europe? we should ask: How is Europeanness as a political and cultural form institutionalised within and among states? How does „Europe“ work as a practical category, as a classificatory scheme, and as a cognitive frame? What makes using that category by or against states more or less resonant or effective? What makes the Europe-evoking efforts of political entrepreneurs more or less likely to succeed?

„Europe“ was a dimension of national identity construction long before the EU emerged. Since the formation of the EU its significance has changed drastically. In some cases, Europe has been perceived as an integral part of national identity, in others, it represents a challenge or even a threat to the nation. Sometimes, „Europe“ is at the core of the nation-building project, sometimes, it competes with alternative Atlantic, Mediterranean, Slavic or Nordic macro-regional identities.

The tension between Europeanness and a „true self“ might be most accentuated on the periphery of Europe. The Slavophile versus the Westernising trends that run as a recurrent theme through Russian history is an extreme example but by no means without its counterpart in other countries.

Furthermore, the preferred definition of Europe also tends to vary with national viewpoints. Whether „Europe“ is defined as big or small, on cultural, geographical or political criteria depends largely on national vantage points.

Such established differences in national and macro-regional self-understanding influence attitudes towards European integration. Patterns of history are in no way deterministic, but Europhile versus Europhobe national discourses can predispose some nations to react positively and others negatively towards the imposition of a European polity on the nation-states. The „Europeanisation“ of nation-states is in part the outcome of deeply entrenched, and deeply contested, notions of the nation and of Europe. A parallel can be made to the argument of Robert Putnam on regional political reform in Italy that successful democratisation is the outcome of deeply entrenched civic traditions of social solidarity and involvement in community matters.

The emergence of a hegemonic great power or a new regional project challenges any nation-state. At elite as well as popular level a perceived genuineness, an established representation of the past, has to be reconciled with a new regional identity. This process might run more or less smoothly, whether it is about incorporating democracy into an established national order, as in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, or a European identity during the last few decades. It might „activate“ dimensions of the nation’s history that support or contradict the established self-understanding.

Identity change is a more complex and drawn-out process than political and economic change. On the one hand, popular world-views and perceptions do not necessarily correspond to the dominant political or intellectual discourse. On the other hand, some indirect responses may nevertheless be assumed. As Eric Hobsbawm has noted, intellectual „invented traditions“ must somehow be related to the felt needs of the communities they address.

To understand how images of an emerging European order interact within existing collective identities in the EU today, we need to understand how the concept of „Europe“ has related to the nation-building project in a longer time perspective as well as how it has been transformed in the postwar European integration process. This workshop will explore how established national discourses are reconciled with an emerging European identification within the European Union.

It is not the idea of European unity that is addressed, but rather the meaning of „Europe“in various nations. How do perceptions of „Europe“ interact with the ideal discourse of the nation, to what extent are the two reinforcing or contradicting each other? The ambition is to add a cultural-historic understanding of Europhile and Europhobe opinions to existing politico-economic theories of European integration. The focus is not on the European integration process in general but on a variety of patterns: why some nation-states are persistently prone to accept while others reject steps towards closer union.

The meaning of „Europe“ can be registered in public statements by politicians, men of letters, publicists, university teachers etc. They are all expressions of political attitudes in a broad sense of the term. The aim cannot be to produce an exhaustive account of all the thinkers who could legitimately claim out attention, nor to grasp all the nuances and inconsistencies in the overall thought of the actors under examination. The ambition is to give an overview of the meaning of „Europe“ in texts of central importance to modern national self-understanding, to present a characteristic gamut of stances on Europe.

Davies, Norman (1997), Europe – A History, London: Pimlico: 10.
Brubaker, Rogers (1996), Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press:16.
Putnam, Robert (1993), Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger (eds) (1983), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press:7-8.


The workshop meets at Hotel Giotto, Bivigliano on Sunday and at Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia on Monday.

Saturday 27 May

20.00 Welcome dinner

Sunday 28 May, Hotel Giotto, Bivigliano

9.30 Introductory Remarks, Bo Stråth and Mikael af Malmborg

10.00 Italy Mikael af Malmborg
10.45 Coffee

11.00 Greece Constantine Tsoukalas

12.00 Poland Barbara Törnquist-Plewa
13.00 Lunch

14.30 England Piers Ludlow

15.30 Austria Gilbert Weiss
16.15 Coffee

16.30 The Baltic Countries Klas-Göran Karlsson

17.30 Hungary Paszkal Kiss
19.00 Cocktail

20.00 Dinner at I Gioghi, V. Bolonese 7

Monday 29 May, sala Europa, villa Schifanoia

9.30 France Robert Frank

10.30 Russia Iver B. Neumann
11.30 Coffee

11.45 The Czech Discourse on Europe Miroslav Hroch
13.00 Lunch

14.00 Spain Pablo Jáuregui

15.00 Portugal Herminio Martins
16.00 Coffee

16.15 Finland Henrik Meinander

17.00 Sweden Mikael af Malmborg and Bo Stråth

18.00-18.30 Concluding Discussion


  • Monographs
  • Anthologies
Creating Community and Ordering the World
A European Memory
A European Memory?
European Solidarities
European Solidarities
Reflections on Europe
Reflections on Europe
The Economy as a Polity
The Economy As a Polity
A European Social Citizenship
A European Social Citizenship?
Representations of Europe and the Nation in Current and Prospective Member States
States and Citizens History Theory Prospects
States and Citizens
The Meaning of Europe
The Meaning of Europe
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
AFTER FULL EMPLOYMENT European Discources on Work and Flexibility
After Full Employment
Enlightenment and Genocide Contradictions of Modernity
Enlightenment and Genocide, Contradictions of Modernity
Department of History and Civilization Nationalism and Modernity EUI Working Papers
Nationalism and Modernity
The Postmodern Challenge Perspectives East and West
The Postmodern Challenge
The Cultural Construction of Norden
The Cultural Construction of Norden
Comparativ Wohnungsbau im Internationalen Vergleich Heft 3-1996
Wohnungsbau im internationalen Vergleich
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Idylle oder Aufbruch
Idylle oder Aufbruch?
Democratisation in Scandinavia in Comparison