Political Ideas of Regional Order*
The term Abendland (Occident) refers to a primarily German discussion about Europe, which was particularly active from the end of the First World War to the early 1960s. A Catholic Christian conservatism formed as a "hegemonic integrative ideology" in two waves, in the interwar period and in the 1950s. However, to fully understand the primarily diachronic transfer of ideas involved in the development of the concept, it is necessary to consider the "Third Reich" period, during which many exponents of a Catholic idea of Europe came around to National Socialist ideas and concepts of order.
Eine Region ist eine Raumeinheit mittlerer Größe, die durch ihre relative Unbestimmtheit und Fluidität gekennzeichnet ist. Sie bedarf einer Referenzgröße, definiert sich mithin in Abgrenzung von bzw. in Beziehung zu kleineren Raumeinheiten, wie Städten, sowie zu größeren Raumeinheiten, wie etwa dem Nationalstaat. Ausgehend von einem soziologischen Verständnis von Raum, das diesen als "relationale (An)ordnung sozialer Güter und Menschen (Lebewesen) an Orten" (Martina Löw) begreift, betont die neue Regionalgeschichte den fortdauernden Prozess der Konstruktion von Regionen und akzentuiert damit ihre historische Dimension.
The term "Reich" is found in a variety of European languages and has several applications in German. "Das Reich" is different, however, and it derives its suggestive force from a combination of secular and religious sources. This German "Reich" – or the Altes "Reich" as it is commonly referred to by modern historians in order to distinguish it from the German "Reich" of 1871 – played a central role in European history from the Middle Ages until its dissolution in 1806. Thereafter its legacy periodically continued to inspire and preoccupy groups of all political persuasions into the late 20th century.
This article explores the transformation of the directional concept "the west" into the socio-political concept "the West". From the early 19th century onward, the concept of the West became temporalized and politicized. It became a concept of the future ("Zukunftsbegriff"), acquired a polemical thrust through the polarized opposition to antonyms such as "Russia", "the East", and "the Orient", and was deployed as a tool for forging national identities. The gestation of "the West" went hand-in-hand with the gradual substitution of an east-west divide for the north-south divide that had dominated European mental maps for centuries.