The specter of cultural war

Yesterday sexuality and family morality; today immigration and the environment. After a quarter of a century of being torn by the United States, social issues dominate the public debate in Europe. Will the struggle between "progressives" and "populists" monopolize the political field?

By Anne Dujin Posted today at 15.15

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Corinna Staffe

The story seemed well oiled. In a video that the government issued in the autumn of 2018 and wants to encourage citizens to vote in the European elections in May, images follow each other: migrants rush to the borders of Europe, pieces of ice floes that collapse in the ocean. With these words on the screen: "Immigration: check or undergo?" Climate: act or ignore? "The faces of the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who reveals the crowds, also appear, and the film ends with what appears to be a warning: "Europe will change in 2019. By voting, you decide how." Immediately announced by oppositions left and right as government propaganda, this video nonetheless portrays the story that the next European elections seems to be structuring, with the "progressives" being "opposed" to populists. Although employment concerns are also mentioned, it is the problems of society – migration, environment, identity – that are at the core of this gap.

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It suffices to see the European press in recent months that the idea that the political opposition in Europe is less about socio-economic issues than about social issues has spread. The "cultural war" (war culture) is not a European idea. Like Halloween or Black Friday, it is one of those many imports from across the Atlantic that we mobilize without always measuring the backgrounds. In Europe, and especially in France, the term "culture" refers to # & # 39; first to the field of the arts. In the United States the term, for common sense, refers to the system of values ​​and the way of life.

"Counterculture"

Its use in the political lexicon appears in the 1960s when a "counterculture" emerges, challenging the dominant values ​​and way of life. But as Michael Behrent, a historian and specialist in the history of ideas in Europe, explains, that the introduction of the idea into the American public debate dates back to the beginning of the nineties: "First there was the publication, by sociologist James Davison Hunter, in 1991, of an essay entitled Culture Wars – The Struggle to Define America, insisting on the growing gap between a so-called "orthodox" view of Christian-inspired American identity on issues such as family, sexuality or the relationship to authority, and a so-called "liberal" vision or "progressive" on the same topics. "