The Idea of Europe in the work of Denis de Rougemont and the French non-conformists

Denis de Rougemont was a main thinker of the so-called non-conformistes des années trente, a movement of young intellectuals that appeared in France at the beginning of the turbulentcover 1930s, in opposition to both the individualism of liberalism and the collectivism of the Soviet Russia. [1] The main bulk of their work was published between 1930-34 and was concentrated around three separate currents:

  • The founders and members of L’Ordre nouveau. An intellectual movement established by the Russian migrant Alexandre Marc (born in 1904 in Odessa as Aleksander Markovitch Lipiansky), its goal was to prepare the conditions for a ‘spiritual rebirth’ of the European culture. Its effort was concentrated on going beyond such dualistic divisions as nationalism-internationalism and capitalism-communism. Its inspirations came, among other sources, from the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard, the federalism of Proudhon, the great critique of Modernity Nietzsche, or from the historicism of Péguy. The thinkers who were a part of L’Ordre nouveau also included Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu, Daniel-Rops, Jean Jardin and finally Denis de Rougemont.
  • The Catholic revue L’Esprit of Emmanuel Mounier, founded in 1932. From the beginning it evolved in tight collaboration with L’Ordre nouveau. In reaction to the events of the Second World War it radically shifted to the political left , in order to slowly move back to more moderate positions of the ‘New Left’, under which it still publishes to this date.
  • Young thinkers of Jeune Droite, who were mostly dissidents of the French reactionary and monarchistic right Açtion française. These thinkers included Jean de Fabrègues, Jean-Pierre Maxence and Thierry Maulnier.

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Cosmopolitan Democracy and Its Failure in Providing a Political Identity

x55862The political theory in the 1980s was marked by the ‘struggle’ between communitarians and liberals. This debate was waged in the name of local social embededdness in the first case and in the name of certain universal moral standards applicable to all human beings equally in the case of the latter (1). Cosmopolitanism, as one of the strands of liberal thought, also possibly falls under the communitarian attack. However, this essay does not focus on the evaluation of normative claims made by these two opposing sides, but rather questions cosmopolitan democracy in its capability to create a viable political system. The nationality will be considered here as one of the possible political identities that a political community can take, not as the one which is somehow required for a properly functioning society. The argument which we will try to defend here will be that cosmopolitan democracy is not able to provide a political identity to its citizens because of its aspiration towards the universal political membership. The greatest problem with cosmopolitanism comes precisely from this failure to realize that the practice of politics is necessarily contradictory to political all-inclusiveness. Or in other words, we will argue that the political membership encompassing all ‘humanity’ cannot provide the political identity for a political community of any form, whether the community is democratic or not. This criticism will be based on the definition of politics which we will try to promote here and which claims that one of the fundamental dimensions of the political is having an enemy. Since the cosmopolitan democrats claim to provide the political membership to everyone, they deny the possibility of having a political enemy and hence also rhetorically deny their political nature. We will try to show that what is the result of cosmopolitans’ effort is not the universal political inclusion, but merely the inability to admit that some persons are again in fact excluded.

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