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The Meaning of European Civilization - A Historical-Conceptual ApproachMy interest in the concept of civilization was triggered by Samuel Huntingtons now famous article The Clash of Civilizations from 1993 I have been working on different discursive settings of European self-consciousness for some times The idea of Europe as an entitity or even a quality has a rather long history in Europe In the 15th century the concept of Europe which previously mainly had been attached to geographical representations of a tripartite world composed of Europe Asia and AfricaLibya was formed within a religious discourse which equated Europe with western Christianity Christianity became the core value of Europe Christianity contained a trans-national - to use an anachronistic term - reference and even a global pretension while Europe marked a limit to a non-European world Connecting Europe and Christianity served both to strengthen the idea of an intra-European coherence and a borderline to a non-European and therefore also non-Christian world Historically this connection took shape in an anti-Islamic crusader discourse in which the Ottoman Empire was made to represent the negative qualities of non-EuropeThe growing rationalisation of the European states influenced the meaning of Europe The 16th century witnessed a growing use of the concept of Europe in an international political context A state discourse replaced the religious discourse States began to speak to each other on a formalised scene which was referred to as Europe Europe was less a religious value and more a system of criss-crossing relations military economic diplomatic and even legal relations - hat were contained within ideas of international law The Europe-as-a-system concept focused on state rationalism raison dtat But this value was accompanied by an idea of Europe as a cultural value Instead of Christianity the concept of Europe was combined with civilization This concept can be seen as a secularised parallel to Christianity It took form in - what we might broadly call - an imperialist discourse used in
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