Unity of the mind and concepts of cohesion. Intellectual strategies of large-scale political entities from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period

Open to the Public
Monday, June 8, 2009 - 9:30am
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Monday, June 8, 2009 - 9:30am to 5:00pm

Convenors: György Geréby (Medieval Studies) and László Kontler (History)

Participants: Yosset Schwartz (Tel Aviv), Ory Amitay (Haifa), Claudia Rapp (UCLA), Tamás Visi (Olomouc), Andrew Louth (Durham), Ádám Vér (ELTE, PhD candidate), Niels Gaul (CEU).

Coordinators: Réka Forrai (PhD CEU 2008), Zsolt Farkas (PhD candidate CEU)

The exploratory workshop addressed the problem of the role of cultural factors in the long term stability of large-scale political entities, a.k.a. empires. The working hypothesis was that a significant difference exists between e.g. the Roman Empire, and its successor entities, like the Byzantine Commonwealth or the Western Roman (German) Empire (or even the Medieval Church for that matter), the Arab Empires (for short), and the Ottoman Empire on the one hand, and on the other hand e.g. Alexander’s original empire, the Hun, the Tartar, or the Avar empires. While e.g. the Roman empire had shown a remarkable permanence (observed already by Polybius), other empires came into existence and disappeared within a very short period, together with the elites which established and run them. Stability is especially interesting in the case of such long-term institutions as rabbinic Judaism, the Church, or Islam. What is the explanation for their permanence? The workshop organized on the 8th June, 2009 addressed the issue in terms of a set of (modified) concepts taken from Carl Schmitt about historical form, but referring also to Clifford Ando’s book: Imperial ideology and provincial loyalty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). The conclusion of the workshop was that the conceptual framework seems promising and further investigations would be welcome. The minutes of the meeting were prepared by Ory Amitay. A book (in Hungarian, though) was submitted on the subject by one of the convenors, György Geréby (due in November, 2009).