The Modernity of Europe

Organiser: Bo Strath and Peter Wagner (SPS)
  Date: Thursday, 11.00-13.00, 2004-2005 (autumn and spring term)
  Place: Villa Schifanoia, Sala Europa
  Registration: heike.karge@iue.it


Europe (and, more broadly, the West) has long been regarded as the birthplace of both modernity and of modern social theory and political philosophy. The parallel advent of successful 'modernization' of non-Western countries such as Japan, and a kind of post colonialism that sees itself as a radical alternative to, rather than merely a liberation from, Western dominance, on the one side, and of postmodernism as a cultural-intellectual challenge within the West on the other has, however, cast doubts on at least any simple versions of the story of the rise of Western modernity. The new start of European integration, at the same time, has brought the differences between Western versions of modernity, such as between Europe and the US, which were much debated during the inter-war period, back to the centre of attention, not least in the form of the question about 'European identity'. It is in this context that the concept of 'European modernity', not as a principally superior mode of social organization, but as one among a variety of institutional interpretations of a broader programme of modernity emerged. A number of attempts have recently been made in the historical and social sciences to develop perspectives in theory and research that live up to the new situation.

Schedule (pdf)


Against this background, the aim of the seminar is twofold: First, it aims at deepening the understanding of the specificity of the European variety of modernity both in terms of its historical development and in terms of its institutional form and interpretative self-understanding. Second, to explore the broader background to the first question, it aims at bringing together some of the attempts, which are often still being separately developed, for a long-term and comparative historical and theoretical reassessment of modernity in its variety, in which European modernity is seen in its global context.

The basis of the seminar is a research programme on the modernity of Europe directed by Bo Stråth and Peter Wagner since 2001 and now coming to a close. The seminar structure is related to a book manuscript authored by Stråth and Wagner in conclusion of the research programme. In addition to other readings, drafts of various chapters will be presented by the authors with the expectation that the seminar discussion of these texts will improve the quality of the book. The convenors therefore hope not only for regular but also for very active participation with critical comments and suggestions. A conference and a workshop as well as possibly occasional invited guests will further enrich the seminar discussion.

Conference "Varieties of World Making: Europe and beyond" (pdf)
              14-16 Oct

Workshop "Cultural dialogue" (pdf)
              28 Oct