Strach, zmienność, historia: korzenie Europy i jej przyszłość


  • Wiktor Werner Instytut Historii, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza, Poznań

Słowa kluczowe:

Europe, history, society, fear, social identity, cultural identity


The article describes the problem of fear in the history of Europe. Fear is understood in two ways: as a feeling affecting individuals and groups and as part of the collective consciousness. Fear (considered as a feeling) triggers the need for action to avoid what causes fear. Fear (considered as part of collective consciousness) directs our action to change reality in particular way, to make it more comfortable and less formidable. The history of Europe (presented as the history of fear) shows the process of cultural change as an attempt to overcome of anxiety. The fear of a hostile nature was overcome by building aristocratic society based on the power of strong individuals and serfdom of weak. A model of a society based on the domination of the strong over the weak causes fear of losing position and social degradation. The fear is strong because a person who becomes a slave actually loses also its humanity. The fear of losing humanity was tempered by the cult of the gods loving people. Everyone could find a basis for his identity in God's love. In Christianity however, loving God was also a God formidable. Fighting against sin and apostasy from the true faith ameliorated the fear of God’s wrath and condemnation. In the modern era this meant religious wars and witch-hunts. Enlightenment rejected religion as a “sleep of reason” that produces monsters. Rational “enlightened” society of “selfish individuals” does not cure the fear of failure and poverty. The remedy for this fear is the model of national society. The idea of the nation means a community based on solidarity and historical identity. The appearance of the mysticism of state power caused a horrendous phenomenon of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism replaced unity based on common cultural identity on the community of fear. The overcoming and rejection of totalitarianism restored the idea of society of hedonistic individuals as less terrible than unified totalitarian society. However, a society based solely on a “desire a comfortable life” may fear confrontation with a societies based on a strong cultural identity.