Images of Europe

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Interdisziplinäres Kolloquium “Images of Europe”
Globalization, Individualism and the Process of Social Integration
The Role of Values
Claudia Hudtwalcker

It is a wide spread belief that we are now living in what has been called the Globalization Era. This new Globalization Era is characterized among other things by an only way of dealing with certain structures such as the economic structures. In that sense not even Europe which had been dealing in a very harmonic way with differences, escapes now to what at certain limits this Globalization pushes to. This is moreover evidenced since the European Union decided to establish an only free market which includes the free movement of services, workers and in a couple of years probably also the free movement of citizens. According to Gareth Davies, the nirvana point to which the European Union is slowly going is the point in which the European Union’s citizens will be able to move within the territory of the Member States with absolutely no restriction and enjoy the same treatment in social terms as well as in law irrespective of their nationality. It is certainly not difficult to imagine then, that the different European societies which have been during many years so proud of their cultural peculiarities and differences within each other, will inevitable suffer of some transformations. Even more it is almost evident that certain transformations of the societies of the different Member States have already been taking place.

These transformations of the societies in the Globalization Era bring among other new ways of life what has been called the “society of mass media communications”. According to Gianni Vattimo, these new kinds of postmodern societies with its newspapers, magazines, radios, television etc. have made possible for almost everyone to from little towns in the middle of somewhere, be able to learn and experience realities which although so different from what they are used to, still real also. Of course such an improvement in terms of communications brings many positive things to societies such as tolerance for differences for example, but it is nonetheless true that too much information could contribute to create in people and societies some kind of anguish as sometimes the more you know, the more options you have, the more difficult it becomes to make decisions. Vattimo thinks that radio, television and newspapers have turn into components of an explosion and multiplication generalized of the weltanshauungen: of visions of the world, what faced to the fact that the economic power is still in the hands of the big capital brings some problems. The other possibilities of existence are shown in many other different cultural universes which the anthropology and the ethnology show us. Even in relation to the public opinion which plays an important role in the future of the Civil Society as a differentiate scenery of the State as Vattimo mentions Habermas says, the public opinion which then plays a fundamental role is without question to the first one, related to the different mechanisms of social information and communications. In terms of arts for example the mass culture according to the same author, has leveled the aesthetic experience and almost equated the beauty concept to the values of the European bourgeoisie. It is nowadays true that beauty is no more only the European one but this same society has extended this qualification to other different cultures even within the same occidental subcultures. Today in the world, many different systems of values are accepted as valid. On the other hand, according to Gianni Vattimo, these new postmodern societies are also more complex and chaotic because among other things they are characterized by the generalized communications and living in such a world would mean according to him, to live freedom as a continuous movement between the feeling of belonging and the one of feeling foreigner among the others. Globalization in this sense could push people to some kind of individualism.

According to Garcia Canclini, the reorganization of the societies seems to be an irreversible process and a process which leaves only a few options of success to the people who try to return to previous times or to the ones who try to build alternative societies unplugged from the global system. According to the same author, the Globalization Era started to prepare its system during the processes of internationalization of the economies and the cultures, which started with the transoceanic navigations and the processes of colonization. But he states that Globalization also started to build its roots with the trans nationalization, a process which included the already mentioned stage but included also a process which goes a step more further because it establishes during the first half of the twentieth century, organisms, enterprises and movements whose main offices are not only in one nation. For the Globalization Era in order to appear he continuous, those two first stages were absolutely necessary but it was also necessary the satellites as well as the development and production of the information systems, the process of goods with electronic resources, air transportation, very fast trains and the distribution of services in the hole planet in order to build a world market where the money, the production of goods and the services could be done not within an exclusive territory but without an specific one. The globalization in this sense would be according to Garcia Canclini a new regime of production of the space-time. Some of the characteristics of the Globalization Era says the same author, could be the dispute of everyone versus everyone while enterprises go on bankrupt, employments are lost and the massive migrations and the interethnic and regional clashes take place. It is a surprise then to the same author, that businessmen and politicians interpret globalization as the convergence of the humanity towards a future of solidarity while several critics of this process read the same one, as one in which everyone will end up homogenized. The homogenization during the Globalization Era in an only market according to Garcia Canclini, is taken as the only possible way of thinking and the ones who dare to insinuate that the world could move in another way are regarded as nostalgic of the nationalism. The same author concludes then that the capitalism is the only possible model nowadays accepted for the interpretation among the human beings and that the globalization is the superior inevitable state of it. Garcia Canclini states that globalization acts through institutional structures, organisms of many different scales and markets of both material and symbolic goods which are much more difficult to identify and even more to control than the ones when the economies, the communications and the arts, could only operate within one only national territory. The central characteristic of the globalization would be in that sense according to the same author, the intensification of the interconnection among societies. But still this brings a huge problem. Globalization can not says Garcia Canclini, integrate the big differences among cultural differences nor the social problems of the migration. There is according to the same, a feeling of uncertainty because of the globalization effects which destabilizes the social actors. He also states that the dizziness and the uncertainty which produces having to think in global scales pushes nations to regional alliances and also to delimitate in both markets and societies, territories and circuits which could be digestible, with which they could deal. Garcia Canclini thinks that the Globalization Era reduces the capacity of action of the national States, the parties, the syndicates and in general of the classic political actors. It also produces he says a bigger transnational exchange and leaves in stand by the certainty and security which belonging to a nation used to give. He states that it also reduces the national governments to administrators of the decisions of others but that the majority of the population does not understand the way organisms proceed neither what they discuss even less why certain decisions are adopted. Still, Garcia Canclini recognizes that in the case of the European Union the articulation among globalization, regional integrations and diversity of cultures, is a key matter in the discussions of its political actors and that it is also important in their studies as well as in their negotiations. Therefore, we could conclude that the European Union is very concerned and in that sense giving the required importance to the cultural politics within its Member States. This generates hope for the future as it could show that with correct cultural policies some of the most terrible effects of globalization could be better deal with and that negotiations are not always over public interests nor lobbysm over the regional governments. In the European Union according to Garcia Canclini, it has been tried to reduce the opaqueness of the supranational treaties and to take them a bit closer to people by making them more comprehensive to the civil society. In the European Union he states, there have been established along with the commercial treaties both educational and cultural programs which include the 15 Member States and it is therefore tried in the European Union to integrate the societies. It has also been tried there, the same author states, to create an audiovisual European space which has been encouraged with common normative structures and programs such as Media, Euro Images and Eureka which encourage the co productions of the cultural industries in that region as well as the circulation within the Member States. In the same line Garcia Canclini says, the citizens of the 15 Member States share a same European passport, they created an only European flag as well as an anthem and they state for themselves annual emphasis such as “the European year of the cinema” etc. The creation of the Euro according to the same author, also strengths the economic unification and has strong consequences for the symbolic identity of the community. Still, Garcia Canclini thinks that the formation of elements of shared identification is not enough to make the majority of the population to internalize this new scale of the social. Critics of the globalization in Europe according to the same author, question the capacity of creating social bonds from a globalization theory which does not take under consideration in the economic calculations the social costs such as the costs of sicknesses and suffers, as well as the ones of suicides alcoholism and drugs addiction. Only few times according to the same author, we can imagine a certain place from where others spoke to us. This he says encourages the feeling that it is very difficult to change things and even the feeling that there are no other possible options of existence. Problems and conflicts Garcia Canclini says, leads him to believe in the necessity of thinking of a globalization which should be politically conducted and that the dispute among the huge capitals should be regulated with regional integrations. In that sense we could conclude that there is hope for Europe as the European Union is trying to take measures in order to preserve their autonomy and to certain extent also to protect the population. The Globalization Era in this sense presents itself according to the same author, as a group of processes of homogenization and at the same time of fraction of the world which restructure the differences without suppressing them. Globalization not only homogenizes according to Garcia Canclini but it also multiplies the differences and starts new inequities and therefore the official economic version and the one of the massive media communication systems which promise us to be everywhere without understanding at the same time the seduction and the panic of reaching so easily to certain places and being close to different people, can not be valuated. Garcia Canclini thinks that the Globalization Era is more easily thought of for the markets than for the human beings. Groups are not anymore only within their own territory, limits are not anymore clear and this encourages the feeling of strange. People haven’t got any more clear structures and they don’t know therefore how to manage the new ways of life. There is a feeling of fear and anxiety because people do not know how to act. Is it then that people are nowadays more egoistic and individualists or could it be that they simply don’t know how to act?

According to Savater, when I find in the others some like myself I first find confrontation, then rivalry, then the necessity to fight to death in order to win a place in the society but I will then try to overcome that violent need through the rational communication and the labor collaboration. According to the same author, the strategy of evolution consists on rewarding the strongest and eliminating the weak and in never protecting the weakness. In this sense the best reproductive capacity is reached by the ones who better take advantage of the weaknesses of the others. Savater states that Dawkins used to say that we are machines of survival, vehicles programmed with the only aim of preserving the egoistic molecules known as genes. But according to Savater too, maybe the best strategy of evolution for the human beings is not the one which disregards solidarity but instead the one which encourages it. Because humans have such a prolonged and needed of protection childhood, and because for them the care of others and the learning of complex techniques are vital and therefore most important, Savater thinks that we humans have good biological reasons to establish for ourselves norms of respect and mutual help. Isn’t it that, what the European Union does while it takes under its leadership countries which are less developed in economic terms? Doesn’t the European Union to certain point protect these countries even though in short terms this represents a disadvantage for the wealthier and leading countries of the European Union project? Isn’t it true that the wealthier countries of the European Union, meaning countries such as Germany and France, are during this first phase of the integration process carrying with the economic problems of the less developed countries which are now and will probably keep on in the near future integrating to the European Union? Even though it is true that in long terms, these less developed countries in economic matters could represent a benefit to the others because they could contribute to solidify the European offer in the world market while helping to build up an economic block which in long terms could be integrated by countries with a similar economic development and that could represent a counterweight for what the economic power of the United States of America represents today in the world, although this is certainly true, we can not deny that even though in long terms incorporating less developed countries in terms of economics to the European Union could represent a benefit, there is for sure also a certain grade of solidarity in the whole dream of the European Union. Savater says that “also the active solidarity with our relatives first of blood and then also civil are an important part of the moral that we can find every where”. According to the same author our desires are born without doubt from what we are, both biologically and culturally, but they do not work only as instincts instead they require that we humans represent them to ourselves and that we then try to interpret them. According to Savater, Schopenhauer was convinced that the huge majority of the moral codes were nothing but prudent inspirations which were meant to serve the willingness of living. For Savater, the fundamental aim to which all the ethic duties serve and from which all of them depend is the aim of a more dignifying life. But also according to him, it is very important to make clear the difference between religious precepts and moral precepts. Moral precepts are not supposed to help you to achieve something better than life but instead they are expected to lead you to a better life. According to the same author, the vital human interests are never only strategies of physical survival instead what humans have always tried to achieve has been the behavior which could better guarantee a certain way of immortality. This immortality can not only be achieved through religious doctrines but instead it also needs moral norms and in general social institutions. Savater says that many of the ethic rituals such as generosity and even renouncement and sacrifice come from what he calls “amor propio” which is much more than preserving only the biological life. In this sense different ways of behavior which are usually taken as moral, respond to biological mechanisms designed to protect and perpetuate the human beings whose custody is the supreme aim of the life of each human being. Isn’t it until certain extent what the European Union is trying to do, work together with other European countries in order to be able to compete efficiently with the other super powers? To this idea Savater says that our biological egoism is so deep that for it we are even prepared to sacrifice in occasions even our greatest illusion as to say our in individuality.

Is individualism then such a perverse thing? Is it really the worst moral defect of our days and therefore totally incompatible with an ideal social integration with its logic negative consequences for Europe’s Project? Does it really like Savater asks himself make people egoistic, lacking solidarity, possessive, a-social and hedonistic until the nihilism? Does it lack of the altruist initiative and of the capacity of renouncement on behalf of the benefit of others? Are the individualists only a fiction serial impotent and programmed by the economic powers of the mass society in where there is no place for anyone but the solitary crowd as Savater asks? Couldn’t this individualism in any way be a positive characteristic? I think it could. As Savater states, the individualism could also be a way of participation in the social life instead of an isolation from the society. The individualists according to this author, try to internalize and make their own the current values of the society but in a critical way giving in that way to their own moral life an own bias. In this sense every possible manipulation is avoided therefore insuring a kind of mental freedom. He to this point makes it clear that if we take a look to the European and to the World’s History, we can observe that during some periods of time some of the most destructive excesses of the last century as to mention for example racisms, xenophobes, and nationalisms, seem to have respond not exactly to individualist impulses but instead to some gregarious instincts and to an identification with the collective. Savater thinks that individualism places in some way individuals as the protagonists of their own history and therefore as the only responsible of their own life instead of placing them just as extras of the collective drama. That according to him could bring a huge problem that would be that when almost everyone acts like extras and only a few assume the role of protagonists, the social drama ends usually in tragedy. Understanding then according to Savater, individualism as a logic pre requisite of a plural and free society would lead us to a human being that is both a moral protagonist and a social actor. Savater states what he calls “amor propio” as a positive characteristic of individualism. In this sense history would be written by individuals and not by the laws of market or any other abstract fatalities. The individual is at the same time a moral protagonist and a social actor and his narcissism so often criticized would not be the worst moral defect but instead some kind of love for himself and respect for his own ideas and believes as well as feelings. What Savater calls “amor propio” would be some kid of pride for oneself. Vanity in that sense if not a reward, at least could be a pre requisite for the development of an own identity which would be not only a mimetic identity he states.

According to Savater the two main values of the modernity are without doubt Liberty and Life (respect for life) and because of the coexistence of these two in the individual, some others emerge too such as justice, equality, solidarity and also many others which could be resumed in dignity for the human being. I consider all of these values common to almost every human being and as Savater says, what the ethics is all about is of trying to translate the specific values of every different cultural group into a common language in order to reach a critical consensus. Even though I consider those values common to every human being, I also think that in Europe because of a high level of education among other important things such as the fact that basic needs are almost always granted as a right to everyone and therefore everyone enjoys at least satisfaction of the most basic needs, those same values are more easily expressed and therefore found. These values are found as a common language among all modern societies in Europe. Of course there are some differences regarding the more or less developed countries in terms of economy within the European Member States, but we could still also recognize that different to the United States, the more developed the countries become in terms of economy again, the more educated the population of the country becomes. And the more educated the populations within the different societies in Europe are, the more similar values these different societies share. Savater states that it is only now a matter of “making more human what is universally different while preserving the universal diversity of the human”. Within Europe then, it is not any more a problem of stating principles but instead of trying to fulfill them and defend these current values. I have to recognize of course that the idea of some common values within Europe can be seriously criticized because isn’t it also a wide spread belief that we are now living in some kind of crisis of values and that it is that precisely the reason for all of our problems. But then again as Savater thinks, values do not disappear because they are not fulfilled (meaning because the best aspirations are not fulfilled), but instead they disappear only when the aspirations are forgotten. In that sense according to him, the simple fact that there is sorrow in relation to the crisis of values or even in relation to the death of them would indicate that values are still alive and therefore also active.Couldn’t those some values common to every modern society in Europe be held as an identity factor and therefore be placed as an Image of Europe that would help and facilitate the process of social integration? I think they could. I think that in the European History there have already been studied examples of periods of time during which certain values were spread all over the different European countries. An example of this idea which I consider important to develop as it could illustrate us about the role of values could be the Romanticism. As Campbell says “the phenomenon embraces developments in nearly all branches of intellectual and cultural life, together with associated shifts in social attitudes and behavior which occurred throughout Europe over a period of almost a century.” This same author explains how Hasted identifies Romanticism as “a general world view” or a “way of answering the main questions men face” “a name for inter related and similar ideas and attitudes -and related and derivative forms of behavior- in the whole range of intellectual concerns, in the arts, of course, but with equal import and novelty, I suggest, in religion, history, and politics”. Campbell says that according to Rene Wellek, Romanticism was recognizable as myth and symbolism in art, organiasm in philosophy and History, and the creative imagination in all things. He also states that it is possible to accept Remark’s conclusion that the evidence pointing to the existence in Western Europe of a widespread distinct and fairly simultaneous pattern of thought, attitudes and beliefs associated with the connotation “Romanticism” is overwhelming. According to Campbell, Romanticism is a general cultural movement. He also states that Isaiah Berlin described Romanticism as representing a “shift in consciousness” which cracked the backbone of European thought. He recognizes that it “grew out of the Enlightenment” but that also as John Stuart Mill says, it grew “against the narrowness of the eighteenth century” which according to Campbell means against the culture of rationalism and the empiricist and materialist outlook which it had generated. According to the same author, the Romanticism spread certain values such as change, diversity, individuality and imagination, values which appeared and where changed for those of uniformitarianism, universalism and rationalism. According to him, one of the typical characteristics of the Romanticism would have been dissatisfaction with the contemporary world and a restless anxiety in the face of life. Doesn’t this look familiar? Couldn’t it be that to certain extent the whole dream of the European Union was born also after a feeling of dissatisfaction with the contemporary world? Dissatisfaction with living in a world where an only super power country as to say the United States of America draws the rules of the world’s game while the others the smaller or less developed countries are unable to do nothing but accept what they are being imposed. There is according to Garcia Canclini nowadays, a feeling of dissatisfaction with the disorder and sometimes with the order too in which the world is drawn and it is therefore important not only to know and plan but also there is a necessity of transformation and innovation. Wasn’t the European Union meant to counteract the only one super power in order to make the game a little more fair (at least for the Member States of the European Union) and therefore insure some more dignity for the less powered ones? According to Campbell, the Romanticism also upheld the emphasis upon individualism of course it was a different individualism from the one we are used to refer nowadays. The Romanticism made as Campbell states, something rather new out of the concept. For them it was a qualitative rather than a quantitative individualism and the doctrine stressed a person’s uniqueness or peculiarity and the conception of the self as an essentially divine, and unique, “creative” genius, meant that this was largely interpreted as the right of “self-expression” or self-discovery. Another important value of the Romanticism was imagination. Campbell says in this regard, that according to Abercrombie’s words “the appearance of things is contrasted with the reality which imagination perceives a reality which, being what is desired is perfection”. This according to the same author would make it impossible for the Romantics to accept the world as it was, compelling them to strive to transform it into the perfect reality which it should be. Thus, perfectionism was also a defining characteristic of Romanticism. Aren’t we somehow today observing how some countries disregarding their differences are trying to get together and work for a common romantic to certain point aim which includes transforming the imperfect reality in which an only super power controls the way history develops? I think that one of the goals of the European Union is to transform the imperfect distribution of power in the world (where the United States of America controls the rules of the game) in order to achieve a more perfect world where the powers could be better distributed among the others. In order to achieve this, I think that the European leading countries realized that it was necessary to unify European countries even though at the beginning it would represent a heavy weight because at least in that way, a future possibility could appear while alone just by themselves, each of the different European countries could have never achieved an important representation. Instead, together as an economic block the European countries have a chance of achieving the position in which to play an important role in the making of decisions about the way in which the human beings History will develop. Campbell says that the Romanticism expressed an urge to perfect the world. Isn’t that exactly what the European Union is searching? Campbell states that according to T. E. Hulme “Romantics had been taught by Rousseau that man was basically good, that it was only bad laws and customs that had suppressed him”. According to Hulme too (as Campbell states), if you can so rearrange society by the destruction of oppressive order then those possibilities will get a chance and you will get progress. It is worth then to mention that the Romantics did not neglect the political option, and that many were active supporters of reform and revolution. Art became a way of promoting certain values Romanticism seek to awake in everybody. To this movement good feelings and values were inside everyone ant it was only a matter of awaking them.In this sense it is possible that certain values could spread or could already been spread over Europe and therefore I think there is no need to invent or “produce” nothing in order to make Europeans identify with. I think some values are already there. Then, why not just take them and place them as an Image of Europe.

Néstor García Canclini is an anthropologist and head of the programme of studies in urban culture at the Universidad Autónoma Metropoitana, Mexico. He has been a Professor at the Universities of Stanford, Austin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. He has published twenty books on cultural studies, globalization and the urban imagination and his book Hybrid Cultures (1995) was chosen by the Latin American Association to recieve the first lbero- American Book Award for the best book about Latin America.


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