Europe’s Central European Bedřich Loewenstein Cover Image
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Evropský Středoevropan Bedřich Loewenstein
Europe’s Central European Bedřich Loewenstein

Author(s): Miloš Havelka
Subject(s): History, Ethnohistory, History of ideas, Recent History (1900 till today), 18th Century, 19th Century, Between Berlin Congress and WW I, Fascism, Nazism and WW II
Published by: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR
Keywords: Bedřich Loewenstein;Czech historiography;Central European historiography;Fascism;nationalism;civic society;modernity;progress

Summary/Abstract: In his article, the author presents, in a concise and condensed fashion, the foundation, contours, principal features, and themes of the thinking of Bedřich Loewenstein (1929–2017), a modern and contemporary history historian spanning a multitude of disciplines. He finds the deepest layer of Loewenstein’s thinking in historical anthropology, in his interest in specific human beings and their actions, motivations, and orientations, explaining the historian’s “frame of mind” by his personal, lived experience of a Central European intellectual confronted with dramatic turns of history in the twentieth century. This also the reason behind Loewenstein’s understanding for the diversity of identities (in Central Europe mainly ethnic and national) and their coexistence, as well as his sensitivity to historical location and conditionality of individuals. According to Havelka, Loewenstein was representing a viewpoint (fairly rare in the Czech environment) which regarded “spiritual sciences” as sciences on creations of the collective and individual human spirit, focusing also on historical forms and influences of these creations, no matter whether his research topic was Fascism, “Bonapartism”, civic society, development and progress, or, more generally, history of ideas. The author points at Loewenstein’s skepticism toward constructions of great theories and his pronounced terminological nominalism refusing to grant essential validity to collective entities such as nations and cultures. This is related to Loewenstein’s conviction about the openness of history, both to the past and to the future, toward potential alternative interpretations. The historical pessimism is counter balanced by Loewenstein’s complementary perception of historical processes of disciplination and emancipation, or the formation of order and human freedom, although he was also a historian of nationalism, violence, and mass manipulation. The author pays special attention to Loewenstein’s concepts of modernity, civilization, and mainly belief in progress, which is viewed in his works in diverse manifestations of its ambiguity. In the end, Havelka emphasizes Loewenstein’s Europeism as a perspective of his historical view and as an integrating civilization principle which is associated with trust in intellect as a means of understanding, tolerance, and consensus.

  • Issue Year: XXV/2018
  • Issue No: 1-2
  • Page Range: 35-51
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: Czech