The use of the expression anti-Semitism to indicate hostility towards the Jews – only the Jews and not as generally thought towards all “Semitic” people – dates back to the second half of the 19th Century, when the word, a neologism derived from linguistics, was spread throughout Europe by an anti-Semitic German agitator, the journalist Wilhelm Marr.
Generally speaking, “Christianity” means the ensemble of churches, communities, sects, groups, but also the ideas and concepts following the preaching of he who is generally considered the founder of this religion, Jesus of Nazareth, a travelling preacher from Galilee, born between 4 B.C. and the year 6 A.D. and who died in about the year 30, sentenced to crucifixion by the Roman authority because of political rebellion.
Citizenship means the shared political belonging of those living in the same state and all this belonging involves in terms of rights and duties. One cannot however say that all members of a state are necessarily citizens: in and absolute monarchy one speaks of subjects, in a dictatorship one would speak of the people or fellow countrymen, but not precisely citizens.
The city is an artefact. Like a hammer, but with some added qualities. The hammer is a relatively simple and small product, while the city is large and complex. To be sure, even a hammer is no mean object, although it could be used for mean purposes. It is a piece of very mature technology, marvellous in its simplicity: in its shape, weight, and balanced structure, it embodies the stratified experience of millennial practice and compounds the strength and adroitness of the human arm.
From the mid-1980s to the present, civil society has been a key category of democratic politics, increasingly in a genuinely international setting. Its still undiminished importance is a product of learning experiences first and foremost within the tradition of left politics and social movements, one that certainly involved an opening to liberal democratic and sometimes classical conservative concepts. As all really important political terms, civil society is a highly contested one. There are today many versions, liberal, radical democratic, communitarian and even neo-liberal variants, staunchly secular and “accomodationst” versions along with different ways of drawing on alternative national and religious traditions. But all versions, with the exception of extreme libertarianism and authoritarian communitarianism do have an essential assumption in common. They break with a political theology based on the revolutionary, or populist reoccupation of the symbolic center of society , whether by the state, a party or a movement, as well as the rejection of a Freund-Feind definition of the political that would entail dealing with internal opponents as enemies.
Constitution is a key category, one of the most important, of modern political and legal theory. The fact that all countries with very few exceptions have written, documentary almost always entrenched constitutions should not be overemphasized, but it is still a testimony to the importance of the concept. Constitutions have been considered the only normatively justifiable outcomes of revolutions. That may overburden the concept of revolution. But constitutionalist constitutions whether written or “unwritten” have been rightly considered since the great revolutions in England, America and France to be preconditions of liberal societies based on rights and “popular sovereignty”. Today the debate is less about this assumption, than concerning the making and the interpretation of constitutions.
It is the philosophical and political concept that extends the ideas of citizenship and homeland to the whole world and to all humankind, opposing the particularity of nations and national states. Those sharing a cosmopolitan idea of relations between persons and peoples, refuse to identify with one particular vision of the world or with one particular civilisation.
“Cultural pluralism” is a recent concept in Europe to the extent that many do not know what it means. While political pluralism and freedom of thought are deeply rooted in our continent, and everyone is capable of distinguishing a democratic regime from one that is not, there are some extremely extravagant and vague opinions concerning pluralism of cultures and the relationship between the various religious, linguistic and ethnic cultures. The concept of “multiculturalism” is used even by men and women in government to exorcise problems experienced in integrating millions of immigrants and to conceal political failures. We effectively live in multi-ethnic cities which conflicts with a nostalgic, identity-based and homogeneous vision of our communities.
The concept of culture has changed in the course of time. In the Greek world there was the concept of paideia, used to indicate the process involving the formation of the human personality achieved through learning. This use of the idea of culture survives in the link the Latin world established between culture and colere. In this sense the concept of culture continued to exist also during the Middle Ages and in early modern times, until the 18th century.
In the Greek polis the meaning of the term “democracy” implied the government of a vast majority of the people, the “plebs”, as opposed to the aristocracy. In modern politics the word signifies that the entirety of the population, made up of free and equal individuals, is the source of sovereignty, even though the population does not rule directly but rather through a free mandate.
In recent times, "dialogue" has emerged as an important and even central notion in both philosophy and politics. We speak of a "dialogue among civilizations" in opposition to a "clash of civilizations", and of a "dialogue among religions" as an antidote to the "clash of fundamentalisms". Why has dialogue emerged as such a crucial term today? Because it denotes the opposite of unilateralism and monologue.
In the strictest sense Enlightenment means the cultural movement of philosophical origins that spread through Europe after the beginning of the 18th Century until the French revolution and that is characterised by trust in reason and its clarifying power. In French it is âge des lumières, in Italian Illuminismo, in German Aufklärung: in all languages incorporates the metaphor of light and clarification.
Many of the conflicts or mass violence of recent decades have been characterised by the adjective “ethnic”. This means that the leading players were groups opposing one another on the basis of identitarian, religious, linguistic or more generally cultural assertions.
Ethno-psychiatry and ethno-psychology experiment the paths to be followed so as to address the cultural differences within the disciplinary wisdom and practices (western) of psychiatry and psychology. It is not possible here to fully report on the complexity and fascination of these processes. We will simply present two aspects experienced by Tobie Nathan, a professor at the Paris VIII University and director of the Devereaux Centre providing psychiatric care for immigrants mostly coming from central Africa.
While empathy breaks down the barriers of borders, ethnocentrism – the supposed superiority of one’s own cultural world – is addressed at strengthening them, and if possible, at raising new ones. Ethnocentrism is universally widespread and often relatively innocuous: almost all human societies consider themselves as the most successful of the species; in some cases the fully human characteristics of other groups are even questioned.
The philosophical justification of the idea of freedom is one of those enigmas all great philosophers have addressed, often concluding their imposing attempts by acknowledging the impossibility to access a firm Archimedean point placing freedom on a incontrovertible theoretical pedestal.
Fundamentalism means the literal and dogmatic interpretation of holy texts (but these may also be secular texts), the prescriptive indications of which are considered the foundations of all action. Fundamentalism rejects all systems of beliefs that oppose such foundations and considers its own religious texts as infallible and above all as having a historical basis, in spite of possible contradictions identified by modern theories and science.
The word genocide is nowadays used in a number of different ways and one must to try and analyse them separately, to the extent that this is possible. Often it is precisely the superimposition or intermingling of various levels that confuses further the possibility of obtaining clear information and coherent communication on this subject.
Islamism is a highly militant mobilizing ideology selectively developed out of Islam’s scriptures, texts, legends, historical precedents, organizational experiences and present-day grievances, all as a defensive reaction against the long-term erosion of Islam’s primacy over the public, institutional, economic, social and cultural life of Muslim societies in the 20th century.
Following the conquest of the Americas, the word “mestizo” was used to indicate children born of parents belonging to different races, usually and an American Indian woman and a white man (or vice versa). Coming from the Latin mixticius (mixed), the word is also used for animals to indicate a lack of pure breeding.
The concept of modernity can be analysed from various points of view. A sociological perspective sees modernity as the historical era arising from feudal society’s profound transformation processes and that, starting with the Protestant Reformation, sees the emergence of the new bourgeoisie.
The word began to be used at the end of the Eighties in the United States to indicate an ideal society in which various cultures could co-exist with reciprocal respect, but avoiding all domination and assimilation into the dominant culture.
The 20th Century was par excellence the century of nationalisms. It is sufficient to remember that the causes of the two world wars were directly linked to the consequences of nationalist doctrine exalting all that belongs to one’s own nation.
The process resulting in the definition of one’s own identity – hence an “us” – in an oppositional manner by, explicitly or implicitly comparing ourselves with “others”, is considered a universal movement in every society. “Whatever “we” are, this is humankind; and hence whatever “we” are not is what “others” are” (Leach). The creation of an identity – be it “us” or “others” – is therefore an inalienable process for human beings (Remotti).
“Pan-Arabism” is a movement the objective of which is the unification of Arab peoples and nations. This is a modern cultural trend with political finalities, arising as an answer to colonialism and the West’s involvement in the Arab world.
It is possible to participate in a brutal event – such as gang rape, lynching, an ethnic cleansing operation – or in a humanitarian event – fund raising, collective adoption, sacrificing oneself in an exchange of prisoners.
All types of thought –also those of scholars and scientists – proceed according to established models, stereotypes and prejudices. Prejudice is intrinsic to every cognitive process: according to Hans Georg Gadamer, prejudices condition the historical reality of an individual far more than his judgments. He believes that it is impossible to set them aside, although one can continuously question them to avoid them becoming crystallized.
Transnational migrations and global interdependence challenge the liberalism of western countries, which is becoming increasingly national and less universal. They are also challenging the sovereignty and the borders of states, patrolled not only with officers and laws, but also with xenophobic ideologies and racism. Europe’s new enemies, the only ones against whom Europe is inclined and ready to mobilise armies, are neither warmongering states nor expansionist empires. They are instead boat people, desperate people attempting to survive by fleeing hunger and abuse, although unfortunately no international laws and no convention provides them with the status of refugees, because poverty and economic destitution are not considered an abuse of fundamental human rights.
Few concepts are both so controversial and recurrent within the philosophical and cultural debate as the concept of relativism. A subject with different declinations and in some cases opposing ones, the idea of relativism has often been burdened, as in some recent cultural controversies, with an ethical meaning, with the intention of criticising concepts of the world considered excessively weak or even sceptical.
Though its semantic origins are pre-modern, revolution has been a fundamental category of the interpretation of modern times. Hardly anyone would deny that the “democratic revolutions” of the 18th Century and the “industrial revolution” of the 19th had decisive role in the formation of Western modernity, and indirectly even in the emergence of “multiple modernities”. From the 1970s however a “post modern” conception of radical change has emerged, that (paraphrasing Tocqueville) aims at radical transformation, but without the classical process and the relevant legal meaning of political revolutions as we have understood them since the great French forerunner. It may be characteristic mark of our situation that today concepts of post revolution and revolution co-exist in the discourse of both activists and analysts sometimes in the very same political struggle.
“Secularisation” means the process that has above all characterised western countries during the contemporary era and led to the progressive abandonment of religious rules and sacral kinds of behaviour.
This is an ambiguous word. A very easy one to use and a very hard one to define, and in recent years has led to juridical labyrinths and massive resorting to hypocrisy. In the West the technically acceptable definition mainly follows the British Terrorism Act 2000, which among European ones is the only one to attempt a full definition.
The Armenians descend from Indo-European populations who, between the 7th and 6th century B.C., settled in the area which is currently Southern Caucasia. For centuries they gave birth to independent states and according to some historians, they were the first to adopt Christianity as the State religion as early as the 4th century A.D. In the 15th century, after having been the theatrical stage for various invasions by the Romans, the Arabs, the Mongols and the Persians, the land of the Armenian population fell under Ottoman rule. In the 18th century the transcaucasian region became the target of the Russian Tsarists who, after having lost Persia in 1828, assimilated thousands of Armenians inside their own Empire, which they aimed to expand.
Literally a diaspora is the “dispersion of a people leaving their homeland and migrating in various directions”. The word itself, which derives from Greek “to sow here and there”, already appeared in The War of the Peloponnesus by Thucydides, and was later used to indicate the dispersion of the first Christian communities in the days of the Roman Empire.
Appeals to personal honor often seem to belong to the past, conjuring images of gentlemen in wigs dueling at dawn; or worse, of blood-soaked Achaeans storming the walls of Troy. And yet Italian criminal law still recognizes crimes of honor (defamation and insult) whose core seems to be a private harm to the honor of the victim. Indeed, until relatively recently—August 5 1981, to be precise—the Italian criminal code treated the murder of a spouse caught in flagrante delicto as punishable with a lighter sentence of three to seven years’ imprisonment (when the sentence for other murders is a minimum of 21 years), provided the act was committed in a state of anger due to the offense to his honor or that of his family. Until the same time, under Article 544 of the Italian criminal code, the rape of an unmarried woman by an unmarried man was not punishable if the woman consented to marry her rapist; the marriage in question being a matrimonio riparatore, because it restored the “lost” honor of the woman.
An ethnic and linguistic minority in the Near East, the Kurds now live divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, in a region unofficially known as Kurdistan, where they have always been the object of persecution and oppression. The Kurdish issue arose after World War I following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.
Mediterranean: literally the sea in the middle of lands, a bordering sea, and linking these lands. This characteristic makes the Mediterranean a sea that does belong to all the countries overlooking it, but to none in particular, a shared sea, not available for becoming private property.
The Organization of the United Nations is the largest international organisation and in fact includes almost all the states existing on the planet. There are currently 192 member states. The seat of the UN is in New York and the current Secretary General is the South Korean Ban Ki-Moon.
After the Nineties of the 20th Century tolerance returned to the centre stage in political thought, returning to fashion a concept that has certainly been central within the framework of political thought in modern times, but that appeared to have become a closed book with the French Revolution that on its flags bore the words freedom, equality and fraternity, and not tolerance.