The Long, Difficult and Tortuous Journey of Turkey into Europe and the Dilemmas of European Civilization

Author: José Casanova

June 1, 2006

Drawing its title from the 2005 declaration of the EU enlargement commissioner that Turkey's path to Union membership would be "long, difficult and tortuous," Casanova returns to a favorite topic: examining the fraught relationship between Muslim Turkey and (Christian) "secular" Europe. He begins by laying out a brief history of Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU, which foundered in 2005, then goes into a sociological examination of European disdain for Turkey. While descriptions of Turks and Islam in particular mirror older phenomena -- anti-Catholicism in the US and Europe in the 19th century, for example -- what Casanova maintains is "new and different" and "interesting sociologically" is "the strength of European secular identities." In other words, it is not the decline of religion within Europe or Europeans' suspicion of non-Christian religions at their borders that is novel; rather, Europe has become the first society to normatively link secularization with progress and enlightenment in its own self-conception. From there, Casanova concludes with a warning that Europeans' normative vision of their own secularization narrative has potentially dangerous consequences for globalization as a whole: Europe is deeply invested in a global cosmopolitan project, but how long can it go on assuming that all other countries and regions must follow its "secular" path to join the new world order? This articles was published in volume 13, number 2 of the journal Constellations.

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