Why is it so difficult to become a historian?

Historian Schmale: "Millions of migrant workers have two homes"

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Is there such a thing as a European culture, and when can you first observe it? How important is it to demand openness from immigrants to a variety of identity schemes, and how difficult is it to get this, given the increasingly restrictive politics in Europe? As part of the current semester question at the University of Vienna, the historian Wolfgang Schmale asked "What unites Europe?" answered for itself and the diversity used as a reason. Numerous postings from the community related to this thesis, and users then discussed it with Wolfgang Schmale in the forum. He makes more detailed reference to a few selected postings in this article.

Wolfgang Schmale: That is why it is necessary to talk about diversity. Most of the time, diversity is understood purely culturally, but that is not enough. Diversity can be found everywhere in Europe, otherwise Europe will not work. In the current EU treaties, the members have again incorporated more national reservations and strengthened the principle of subsidiarity. In my opinion, there is a mistake in this because it in no way guarantees diversity and certainly does not prevent standardization. If the latter becomes counterproductive because it threatens to overwhelm everything bureaucratically, one has to think about whether one should allow more diversity in European law. One of the European and national goals is still to create as much wealth as possible for as many people as possible. Therefore, many decisions for uniform EU rules depend on preventing unfair economic competition. There is good reason for no longer wanting the politics of national egoisms, because they harm everyone, but also the individual state. That is why the member states keep working - quietly - to standardize rules in order not to be left behind by others. When there is protest, it is blamed on Brussels. Is that honest politics?

Wolfgang Schmale: I am not reducing Europe to diversity, that would be a misunderstanding. But diversity is a central feature of Europe, right from the start. One can discuss when we are dealing with something like European culture, but whenever we start - antiquity, medieval Carolingian empire or around 1500 / Renaissance or only in the Enlightenment of the 18th century, when a term and concept was first introduced of "European civilization" arises - it is always the diversity that catches the eye first. The "common ancestry" is a legend in my eyes. Where did the people who populated Europe come from? I'm not going to list that now, it's beyond the scope. "The" European culture is already in antiquity a mixture of an infinite number of cultural ingredients from all possible regions. What defines European culture is the ability to bring this diversity, which comes from all over the world, into a functioning context of meaning.

Wolfgang Schmale: I see it like you do. I find the demand for openness from immigrants to be necessary. That includes making that possible. People have to be able to develop, but in most European countries this is being prevented more and more by a correspondingly restrictive policy. Basic pedagogical knowledge, which is abundant in Europe, is thrown into the dustbin when it is not about Europeans. This increasingly creates problems in advance, which is probably also the intention in order to be able to be even more restrictive afterwards. After all, one can see from the crash of the former absolute majority party called CSU in Bavaria that the majority of the population has much more sense of proportion.

Wolfgang Schmale: I agree to the first part of the posting. I wouldn't use the term "backward cultures". Who determines what is progressive and what is retrograde? Well, in the global age where all cultures are becoming increasingly intertwined, this can no longer be done independently or autonomously, but this is a negotiation process that is full of conflict. If you want to allude to what refugees, or let's say migrants in general, bring with them culturally, I reject any generalization. Everyone has an individual biography, not just a cultural socialization in any community. What creates problems are the hegemonic male power structures in families and larger communities, sometimes somewhat naively referred to as patriarchal. But they certainly cannot be reduced by reactivating exactly the same toxic mechanisms of rule that are currently happening in Europe. This is a contradiction in terms that leads to failure.

Wolfgang Schmale: What does "not tolerate" mean in practice? In principle, I agree with you; but don't you have to look for the "argument" in order to change something? A religion changes with people when their context of life changes. This brings with it considerable conflicts, but in all major religions there are people who fight for any totalitarianism or claims to absoluteness to be dismantled and eliminated, who fight for (their) religion to be reformed and modernized and, to make it clear, democratized.

Wolfgang Schmale: Very apt description! I am a little more optimistic about the election results of the last year or two in Europe, because the picture is - yes, just - diverse. "Chemnitz" opened the eyes of many, not only in Germany, to what was actually going on. I also don't think that a Salvini and the Lega in Italy, for example, will ride on their current wave of approval for a very long time. The moment will come when everyone will notice that the garbage disposal is still not working better and that it has nothing to do with refugees; that the water supply is still not what one might expect from the fourth largest economy in the EU as the standard. That the infrastructure is even more ailing than anywhere else, and that none of this has anything to do with refugees.

Wolfgang Schmale: In the eyes of some, I may be "homeless" because I have lived and worked in different European countries. But that doesn't mean losing touch with your former home, for example your childhood. I experience it positively: In Europe it is not that difficult to find a new home more than once, and nobody forces me to give up a former home. That is an asset. I don't see that this has anything to do with "elite". There has been labor migration in Europe for centuries. It belongs to Europe like the Gothic cathedral. All of these millions of migrant workers, past and present, are not homeless. They have two homes. (Wolfgang Schmale, October 11, 2018)

Wolfgang Schmale is Professor of Modern History at the University of Vienna. His focus is on European and French history, legal and constitutional history of the modern era. The book "What will become of the European Union? History and Future" was published by Reclam-Verlag. He also runs the European blog "My Europe".

Note: The "semester question" is a paid insertion in the form of a cooperation with the University of Vienna. The STANDARD is responsible for the content.