Der Spiegel, Germany, on August 23, 2012, published an interview with French philosopher André Glucksmann. He then found the situation in Europe “extremely unsettling.” In November 2015 Glucksmann passed away 78 years old. In the midst of the ongoing refugee crisis his vision from 2015 must be remembered. In the Spiegel interview he discussed the failure of the European intellectual elite.
André Glucksmann was one of the so-called New Philosophers, who turned away from their Marxist beginnings after 1968 and wrote off Soviet-style totalitarianism. He was well known for his two books “The Cook and the Cannibal” and “The Master Thinkers.” His parents were Eastern European Jews and lived in Palestine and Germany before fleeing in 1937 to France, where Glucksmann was born in the same year. Glucksmann persistently criticized Europe for its tendency to close its eyes to the persistent presence of evil in the world.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Glucksmann, in light of the intellectual and existential experiences you had in the 20th century as an anti-totalitarian thinker, are you worried about Europe’s future?
Glucksmann: I’ve never believed that all the dangers were averted after the end of fascism and communism. History doesn’t come to a standstill. Europe didn’t step out of (history) when the Iron Curtain disappeared, even if it has occasionally seemed to want to. Democracies tend to ignore or forget the tragic dimensions of history. In this sense, I would say: Yes, current developments are extremely unsettling.
SPIEGEL: Since its beginnings 60 years ago, the European community has almost always stumbled from one crisis to the next. Setbacks are part of its normal mode of operation.
Glucksmann: A sense of crisis characterizes the modern European era. From it, one can draw the general conclusion that Europe actually isn’t a state or a community in the national sense, which grows together organically. It also can’t be compared with the ancient Greek city-states, which, despite their differences and rivalries, formed a single cultural unit.
Glucksmann: Since the Greeks — from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle — Western philosophy has inherited two fundamental principles: Man is not the measure of all things, and he isn’t immune to failure and evil. Nevertheless, he is responsible for himself, and for everything he does or refrains from doing.
Glucksmann: The Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia and the murderous incendiary actions of the Russians in the Caucasus didn’t happen that long ago. The European Union came together to oppose three evils: the memory of Hitler, the Holocaust, racism and extreme nationalism; Soviet communism in the Cold War; and, finally, colonialism…These three evils gave rise to a common understanding of democracy, a civilizing central theme of Europe.
Germany decided to embark on its transition to renewable energy on its own, ignoring the European dimension. Everyone is negotiating individually with Russia for oil and gas, Germany signed an agreement to build the Baltic Sea pipeline despite the resistance of Poland and Ukraine, and Italy is involved in the South Stream pipeline through the Black Sea.
…it makes things easy for Russia under (President Vladimir) Putin. Despite all the weakness of that giant of natural resources, its capacity to cause damage remains considerable and is something its president likes to use. Recklessness and forgetfulness create the conditions for new catastrophes in both the economy and politics.