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AMU Rectorate, Wieniawskiego 1, 61-712 Poznań -
Keynote Lecture 1 (The Seductions of Europe and the Solidarities of Eurasia)
Almost 40 years ago, when I was doing fieldwork in Poland, the word Solidarity was on everyone’s lips. One of the popular rallying cries, here and elsewhere in the region, was that of “rejoining Europe”. Similar ebullience was found in many Western countries at the time, justified by the increasingly progressive politics of the European Economic Community (as it was known at the time) and by the intellectual vogue for “civil society” as a key component of the continent’s liberal Enlightenment heritage. Today, in Poland and elsewhere in Europe, scepticism toward the idea of solidarity at the level of the EU runs deep. Populist politicians thrive and liberal civil society struggles. Why is this happening? Where else in the contemporary world can solidary solutions to the problems of the planet be forged? The answer given in this lecture will be radically Eurosceptic. Without denying the remarkable accomplishments of Europe since classical antiquity, it is necessary to place them in wider contexts. The landmass should be conceived as Eurasia, of which Europe is an important macro-region; it is an equivalent of China, not of Asia. The lecture will touch briefly on Axial Age theory, when social solidarities emerged on an unprecedented scale across the landmass, accompanied by ideas of moral universalism. It will also expound Jack Goody’s thesis concerning “alternating leadership” between East and West since the urban revolution of the Bronze Age. If we follow Goody by abandoning the rhetoric of a “European miracle” and look instead to Eurasian commonalities over the last three millennia, we shall be in a better position to create the geopolitical and moral solidarities urgently needed by humanity.