Denis de RougemontDie Schweiz, Modell Europas

2.4 Denis de Rougemont, Die Schweiz, Modell Europas, Der Schweizerische Bund als Vorbild für eine europäische Föderation, 2. Auf, Wien, München, 1965, excerpt 4. Teil, Die Schweiz im künftigen Europa, p. 229-258 (La Suisse au l’histoire d’un peuple heureux, version original) (German translation of French original)

[Switzerland, A Model for Europe, The Swiss Confederation as a model for a European Unification?]

a) Background

The book at hand was first published in French under the title “La Suisse ou l’histoire d’un peuple heureux.“ Thereafter, it has been translated into German under the title “Die Schweiz Modell Europas, Schweizerischer Bund als Vorbild für eine europäische Föderation“ (1965). According to the introduction, the book is written in the tradition of the books by Gonzague de Reynold “Schweizer Städte und Landschaften“ and André Siegfried “Die Schweiz, Denkmal der Demokratie”; André Siegfried being the only non-Swiss author to carry out fundamental analysis of Switzerland and its federalist structure.

Denis de Rougemont (1906-1985) was a writer and journalist, as well as being a staunch supporter of European Federalism. He is one of the rare Swiss of whom it can be said, that he contributed via their writings and actions to the advancement of the reconciliation and unification of Europe. Denis de Rougemont was an independent and global intellectual, who has lived, written and thought in Frankfurt, Paris and New York and later on in Geneva. He never rejected his Swiss upper class protestant background, a world characterized by its high ethical principles. His so-called “personalist” view of mankind can be attributed to these roots. Denis de Rougemont was never just a literary figure. His numerous books, essays, articles and speeches are testament of an unusual determination to assume responsibilities and to act hic et nunc. He was always an editor, a journalist, an essayist, a teacher and a speaker. He was the author of major works such as L’Aventure occidentale de l’homme (1959), Le Part du Diable (1942), L’Avenir est notre affaire (1977), L’Amour et l’occident and La Suisse ou l’histoire d’un peuple heureuse (1965), (in German translation Die Schweiz Modell Europas; Der Schweizerische Bund als Vorbild für eine Europäische Föderation). Denis de Rougemont was the founder and the director of the “Centre Européen de la Culture” (CEC) in Geneva. From 1952 to 1956, he was the President of the Executive Committee of the “Congrès pour la Liberté de la Culture” in Paris. He was awarded the Robert-Schumann-Prize and the prize of the Schiller-foundation. Denis de Rougemont was a cosmopolitan intellectual, arguing against the destructive principle of the nation state as a source of all wars in Europe and militating for a creative and realism-based federation of communities and regions. He was an expert on Swiss history and culture and defended the particularities of Switzerland. In the national exhibition of 1939 – “Landi 39” – he authored the libretto “Nicolas de Flue” for which Arther Honegger composed the music. He is the author of statements and metaphors such as: “C’est quand on doute de soi qu’on a peur du voisin” (When we doubt ourselves, we fear our neighbours ). He also penned the motto of the part of the anthology on the process of Europeanization: “les suisses se lèvent tôt mais se réveillent tard (the Swiss get up early but wake up late).

b) Summary

The text at hand is an excerpt situated at the end of the book under the title Schweiz im zukünftigen Europa (Switzerland in a future Europe). The book as a whole is a tour d’horizont on the history of the emergence of the Swiss federalist state. It is written in a spirited and intellectual manner often full of humour. The preceding chapters deal with the topic of the historic landscape and how federalism comes into existence, the confederation, the guardian of the variety or the federation functions and the daily moral and ethics and the cultural climate or how one lives in a federation. It is full of specific examples and references to specific actors in Swiss history and culture.

In the excerpt, Denis de Rougemont was courageous enough to explore a potential contribution of Switzerland to a future of Europe. The chapter is a summary of the arguments in the book and a sketch of the vision of Switzerland in a future Europe. The future of Switzerland is reduced by de Rougemont to the question of the future of federalism. On that question, he is of the opinion that because of the specific history of Switzerland’s federalism, Switzerland is the guardian of the key concept of federalism.

Looking to the future of Europe, Denis de Rougemont says that the key question to decide is which type of unification Europeans will choose. He expounds three possibilities, a Europe of states, a unified Europe based upon the model of the French state and a unified Europe based on federalism. de Rougemont analyses the contributions of the Swiss vis-à-vis these European alternative options of unification. He again recalls major contributions from Switzerland to the idea of Europe such as the historians, von Müller, Madame de Staël, Benjamin Constant, Proudhon and Bluntschli.  He goes on to describes various efforts of organising a base for the formation of the UEF (Union Europäischer Föderalisten, Union of European Federalists) on Swiss territory. He cites initiatives of the European movement to form the Council of Europe, leading to the Schumann-plan, the failed attempt to form a European defence community, then the successful formation of the European Common Market and the answer of EFTA as an alternative and counter model.

He draws attention to the role of the Swiss and Switzerland in cultural matters. The Congress of The Hague had proposed to form a European cultural centre, which thereafter was founded in Geneva, which in turn called for a conference in December 1949. This conference was the birth of the European Center for a nuclear research (CERN) initiative. A first European chair was instituted 1957 at the University of Lausanne and beyond that Denis de Rougemont founded, based on Mazzini’s manifest, a journal of Young Europe in 1936.

In excerpt, he sketches the reasons of the Swiss defensive attitude vis-à-vis a European project. Denis de Rougemont lists four groups – political arguments, institutional arguments, economic arguments and traditionalist arguments – and gives his answers. Denis de Rougemont’s basic idea is that Switzerland should not completely refuse any participation in the European project based upon its neutrality nor should it unconditionally embrace it. His ideal is the vision that Switzerland would accede to a European union one day, which is formed on the federalist principle and renounces to war as a political means. From a new state of mind to grap the new realities of finding an adequate rule of Switzerland in times to come he states that there is not the least chance that anyone will offer such a solution to Switzerland, if the Swiss do not propose it. He further explores options to be proposed and identifies elements of federalist possibilities. He finally identifies for Switzerland three visions as a federal state (1), guidelines as a national park (2) or as a European federal district (3).

As other writers he ends with a recourse to famous statements of foreign authors, in this context, Victor Hugo: “Switzerland will have the last word in history.” The last word of Denis de Rougemont is, only under the condition, that Switzerland raises its voice and rises.

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
E_2.4_de ROUGEMONT_Modell Europas

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer,,

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