From the Distant Crusades to 'local' 'islamic Terrorism' – from European Civilizing Processes to a Contemporary Western De-Civilizing Process?
This paper takes as its point of departure a number of wars fought in the Middle East and Eastern European countries, far away from most of the European survival units in the 11th/12th centuries. Our argument is that distant wars fought at the frontiers of 'Europe' in the 11th/12th centuries, often named as the Crusades, were perceived as crucial to the development of the European civilizing process and its later consolidation by the defeat of the Ottomans in front of Vienna in 1683.
From the early 16th century until the peace of Westphalia war is fought within and between the European survival units partly due to the great power rivalry between France and the Habsburgs and partly due to a set of religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. This dual set of conflicting relations created a specific set of conditions for the development of European civilizing processes: the external 'Islamic' threat contributed to a European civilizing process in which Christianity became an important force, an aspect sometimes overlooked by Eliasian scholars. This Islamic 'threat' also functioned as a common enemy for most European survival units with some continuity from the 7th and 8th centuries to the 16th and 17th centuries and it returns in the 21st century. During this period of time, war against 'Islam' moves from being a distant war in the Middle East to an internal war ('War against terrorism') in large cities in Europe. Finally, we argue that future European civilizing processes might turn into a de-civilizing process if current European survival units do not succeed in removing the perceived ‘enemy’ within Europe – ironically this might be one of the significant unintended consequences of the European civilizing process.