Epilogue: from Civilizing Missions to the Defence of Civility
2021, Osterhammel, Jürgen
Taking up arguments advanced by the editors in their Introduction to the present volume, the Epilogue revisits the issue of possible connections between the idea and practice of imperial civilizing missions and modernisation programmes in the period after decolonization. During the time-span from late nineteenth-century “high imperialism” to the United Nations’ doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” in the early twenty-first century, discontinuities seem to be at least as great as continuities. From a current perspective, talk of “civilizing missions” is utterly discredited and seems to be a phenomenon of the past. At the same time, the question of universally valid standards of political conduct and social behavior refuses to disappear. The transcultural norm of “civility”, manifesting itself in many specific variations, should be kept alive and deserves an increasing amount of scholarly attention.