Crisis and Reconfigurations: 100 years of European Thought Since 1914

November 6, 2014
Deakin University

Burwood Corporate Centre
221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood 3125

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An event hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Centre ( and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University.

Venue: Deakin Corporate Centre, Burwood Campus

Keynote speaker:
William Altman, author of The German Stranger: Leo Strauss and National Socialism, Martin Heidegger and the First World War: Being and Time as Funeral Oration, Nietzsche: Philosopher of the Second Reich, and Plato the Teacher, the Crisis of the Republic

August 2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the first global war, and the beginning of what some historians have called a second ‘30 years’ war.’  The 1914 war itself, then the Russian revolutions of 1917, a contested peace after 1918, accelerating economic crises, the rise of fascism in Spain, Italy, then Germany, the systematic atrocities committed under these regimes, and the division of the world into the two blocs of the cold war following 1945 profoundly shocked European consciousness and culture.  Many philosophers and thinkers, like Hannah Arendt, argued that there had been an irreversible breach in the continuing traditions of the West.  Many others took these crises as proof positive of the redundancy, or culpability, of the ideals of the 18th and 19th centuries, centring around notions of progress, the beneficence of scientific advance, and the overcoming or taming of natural necessity.  In academic philosophy, this period saw the opening up of the gulf between angloamerican, analytic and ‘continental’ modes of philosophising, a distinction which still has real currency today.  Within European thought, while German post-war thinking largely saw a profound shift away from the figures of Nietzsche, Schmitt and Heidegger, held to have been implicated in their national disaster; in French thought, following 1960, Nietzschean and Heideggerian thought had a huge say in shaping the post-structuralist generation of thinkers whose wider influence around the world, and across disciplinary boundaries, is still felt today.  Differently, the need to avoid any perceived proximities to the oppressive statism of the National Socialist and Stalinist regimes has had a huge role to play, via Hayek, Friedman and others in the economic thought that has widely reshaped the international economic and political landscape since 1979.

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