Theme 2015: Fraternity

Rationale and motivation

For the last three years the Utrecht Network Summer school has offered a series of summer school courses under the heading of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This trilogy was coined during the French revolution of 1789 and became the symbol for modern politics in Europe. Liberty was at the core of political thinking in the Enlightenment and found its way to the constitutions and declarations of human rights of the 19th and 20th century. Claims for equality became prominent in the 19th century and challenged the formalism of 18th century liberalism. Fraternity raised the question of liberty and equality for whom.

The meaning of fraternity

In the 19th century fraternity became the concept and the image through which feelings of community could be expressed. The democratic challenge to the dominant absolutist monarchies was based on a strong sense of commonality among citizens of equal rights. The idea of nation which appeared forcefully with the French revolution found its emotional resonance in the image of fraternity. Later, nation also came to indicate a strong linkage of communities to the past as it was rendered in the histories written in the 19th century. Proponents of equality pointed to the inequalities of an emerging class society and carved the idea of solidarity.

Within the Utrecht Network Summer school we deal with the pressing issues of contemporary European life. The cycle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity allows us to investigate how the core values of European democracy form our contemporary societies. We highlight the challenges to democracy inside Europe itself and from the changes caused by the ever increasing globalization. The goal of the summer school is to give our participants the tools to understand these challenges and to think in innovative ways on how meet them with new answers. The challenges of today are grand. Answers cannot be provided within a sole academic discipline. In order for us to come up with viable and informed answers we need to combine disciplines. Within the Utrecht Network Summer school we have chosen to work in interdisciplinary way. It is the trademark of our Summer school to look at the pressing issues of today’s world through interdisciplinary lenses. Participants will work together with historians, anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists and lawyers. We expect that our students will involve themselves wholeheartedly in our interactive teaching which will include people whore are working closely with the grand challenges.

Fraternity today

Today fraternity is as important as it was for the French revolutionaries and for 19th century political activists. We are witnessing societies that are rift by splits between majorities and minorities. Peoples fleeing from desperate situations are knocking on the doors of our societies. Increasing unemployment and poverty is threatening the distribution systems of the European states. Nationalism is taking new forms. The idea of a united Europe is losing ground. The belief in democratic politics is being eroded by a wave of political scandals. The question of how we can reflect on the meaning of community is as present as ever. Fraternity might sound old-fashioned, but the basic idea that we have to engage in communities the values of which we believe in is certainly in great demand.