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Europe and its Problem with Identity

Stanislaw Konopacki

One of the main challenges of the XXI century Europe is encounter with the Other. It has its historical context,because during the second half of the XX century two thirds of the world population liberated itself from thecolonial dependence and became citizens of their independent states. Gradually, they have been discovering theirown past, myths, roots and identity. They are becoming to feel themselves and to be the subjects of their own lifeand fate.On the other hand the last year developments like a ban of minarets in Switzerland, Thilo Sarrazin's provocativenew book about Muslim immigrants in Germany, France's controversial deportations of Roma, transition periodsfor free movement of workers in Germany and Austria etc. mean that Europe has a serious problem in dealingwith the Other. In other words, the old continent is not so open to Otherness and this 'Western enclosure' is avery fundamental feature of European modern identity. It starts with the tradition of Western rationalization, whichwas initiated by thought of Rene Descartes, and which has led to disenchantment of the world, i.e., to theelimination, exclusion of everything that is contingent, unclear, other, veiled. Western rationality as well asWestern social practice have been developing in the act of self-confirmation via exclusion, limitation, drawing aborderline between themselves and the Other. European integration was - paradoxically - a culmination of thistrend.In order meet the challenge of encounter with the Other Europe must overcome its limitations and develop thenew identity based on recognition of the Other. For example, the premises for a new approach might be found inthe thought of Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Europe must think about its identity in terms of 'pluralism','difference', 'otherness'.

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