The blog for the uncommon people

segunda-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2011

Excerpt from José Ortega y Gasset's "Unity and Diversity of Europe"

Unity and Diversity of Europe

A good part of the disorder of the present is due to the disproportion between the perfection of our ideas on physical phenomena and the scandalous backwardness of the "moral sciences." Most of our statesmen, professors, distinguished physicists, and novelists have opinions on these subjects worthy of a small-town barber. Is it not then quite natural that it should be the small-town barber who sets the tone of the time? But to return to our subject: I wanted to suggest that for a long time the peoples of Europe have actually made up a society, a collectivity, taking these words in the same sense as when applied to the nations separately. This society has all the attributes of any: there are European manners, European customs, European public opinion, European law, and European public power. But all these social phenomena appear in a form appropriate to the stage of evolution reached by European society as a whole, which is obviously less advanced than that of its component parts, the nations.

For example, that form of social pressure which is public power functions in all societies, including primitive ones where there exists no special organ to handle it. If one wants to give the name of "state" to that differentiated organ charged with the exercise of public power, one may say that in certain societies there is no state, but not that there is no public power. Where there exists public opinion, how could there not be public power, if the latter is simply collective violence let loose by opinion? Now it would be hard to deny that for centuries, and with ever-greater intensity, there has been a European public opinion and even a technique of influence over it.

I therefore suggest that the reader spare the malice of a smile when I predict - somewhat boldly, in view of present appearances - a possible, a probable unification of the states of Europe. I do not deny that the United States of Europe is one of the poorest fantasies that has ever existed and I take no responsibility for what others have handed out under these verbal signs. But I do maintain that it is highly improbable that a society, a collectivity as ripe as that now formed by the peoples of Europe, should not move towards the creation of a state apparatus for the exercise of the European public power which already exists. It is not, then, a weakness for fantasy nor a leaning towards "idealism," which I despise and have fought all my life, that has brought me to this conclusion. It is historic realism that has made it clear to me that the unity of Europe as society is not an "ideal" but a very ancient daily fact, and having seen this fact one cannot but confront the probability of a general European state. As for the occasion that will suddenly bring the process to a close, it might be almost anything: a Chinaman's pigtail appearing behind the Urals or a shock from the great Islamic magma.

The shape of this supernational state will, of course, be very different from those to which we are accustomed, just as the national state differed from the city-state of ancient times. All that I have attempted in these pages is to free the mind of the reader so that it may keep faith with the subtle conception of society and state proposed by the European tradition.

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