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The roots of Western societal evolution

A concept of Europe by Jenő Szűcs

Society and Economy
Author: László Zsinka

Jenõ Szűcs wrote his essay entitled Sketch on the three regions of Europe in the early 1980s in Hungary. During these years, a historically well-argued opinion emphasising a substantial difference between Central European and Eastern European societies was warmly received in various circles of the political opposition. In a wider European perspective Szűcs used the old “liberty topos” which claims that the history of Europe is no other than the fulfillment of liberty. In his Sketch, Szűcs does not only concentrate on questions concerning the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Yet it is this stream of thought which brought a new perspective to explaining European history. His picture of the Middle Ages represents well that there is a way to integrate all typical Western motifs of post-war self-definition into a single theory. Mainly, the “liberty motif”, as a sign of “Europeanism” — in the interpretation of Bibó’s concept, Anglo-Saxon Marxists and Weber’s social theory —, developed from medieval concepts of state and society and from an analysis of economic and social structures. Szűcs’s historical aspect was a typical intellectual product of the 1980s: this was the time when a few Central European historians started to outline non-Marxist aspects of social theory and categories of modernisation theories, but concealing them with Marxist terminology.

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