A Commentary (Aug 1927)
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156 ] A Commentary The Monthly Criterion: A Literary Review, 6 (Aug 1927) 97-100 The European Idea Nine years after the end of the War we are only beginning to distinguish between the characteristics of our own time and those inherited from the previous epoch. One of the latter was Nationalism. We have been for nine years reminded, by the facts and fancies of the press, of the growth of the spirit of nationalism, of the greater number of nationalities, and of the multiplicity of the reasons which all these nations have for failing to get on with each other. Instead of a few “oppressed minorities,” the oppressed minorities seem to be almost in a majority; instead of a few potential Sarajevos, we seem to have dozens.1 But the Idea of Nationality is no longer the same idea thatitwasforMrs.BrowningorSwinburne;likemostof WoodrowWilson’s ideas it was aged when he discovered it; it will not explain fascism any more than it will explain bolshevism. Not how Europe can be “freed,” but how Europe can be organized, is the question of the day. OneoftheideaswhichcharacterizesouragemaybecalledTheEuropean Idea. It is remarkable first because of the variety of its appearances; it may take the form of a meditation on the decay of European civilization by Paul Valéry,2 or of a philosophy of history such as that of Oswald Spengler, or it mayappearalliedwithanintensenationalismasintheworkofHenriMassis.3 It is remarkable second in that it is primarily an appeal to reason rather than an emotional summons to international brotherhood. It has no obligation to the thought of Romain Rolland, to nineteenth-century socialism, or to the humanitarian sentiments out of which the League of Nations arose; and it has as yet no direct connection with the League and no perceptible influence upon it. It owes its origin probably to a new feeling of insecurity and danger; it goes to prove that the most important event of the War was theRussianRevolution. For theRussianRevolutionhasmademenconscious of the position of Western Europe as (in Valéry’s words) a small and isolated cape on the western side of the Asiatic Continent.4 And this awareness seems to be giving rise to a new European consciousness. It is a hopeful sign that a small number of intelligent persons are aware of the necessity to harmonize the interests, and therefore to harmonize first [ 157 A Commentary (Aug) the ideas, of the civilized countries of Western Europe. We are beginning to hear mention of the reaffirmation of the European tradition. It will be helpful , certainly, if people will begin by believing that there is a European tradition ; for they may then proceed to analyse its constituents in the various nations of Europe; and proceed finally to the further formation of such a tradition.WemaymentiontworecentarticlesbycontributorstoTheCriterion: “Difesa dell’Europa,” by G. B. Angioletti, in the Fiera Letteraria for June 19th, and “Französische Civilisation und Abendland,” by E. R. Curtius, in the Europäische Revue for June.5 Mr. Curtius is chiefly concerned with the relations of France and Germany and the possibility of harmonizing the German idea of Culture with the French idea of Civilization. We regret that his discussion found no place for England, as we believe that there is a British idea of culture and a British idea of civilization, both quite distinct from either French or German. But this would have complicated his problem . He offers a desirable caution against the danger of conceiving the future of Europe in terms of one country only, and proceeds: If peace for Europe and enduring co-operation between Germany and France are desired, then neither treaties of Locarno nor European congresses are enough, nor the exchange of eminent personages of the world of thought or of the stage . . .When we have examined the psychological conditions we must advance beyond the position of enthusiasm and beyond the negation of disillusion to a third stage, that of analysis.6 It is for us to see that in this reorganization of the ideas of Europe, the ideas of Britain and the British Empire have their place. Such an analysis as that of which Mr. Curtius speaks is neither politics nor work for politicians. It is work for all those who are concerned with the general ideas of art, literature and philosophy, as well as the social sciences. We think that Professor Worringer’s essay in this number of The Criterion has some bearing upon these problems.7 Ancient Buildings Again In our January issue we commented on the Report...


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