The term Abendland (Occident) refers to a primarily German discussion about Europe, which was particularly active from the end of the First World War to the early 1960s. A Catholic Christian conservatism formed as a "hegemonic integrative ideology" in two waves, in the interwar period and in the 1950s. However, to fully understand the primarily diachronic transfer of ideas involved in the development of the concept, it is necessary to consider the "Third Reich" period, during which many exponents of a Catholic idea of Europe came around to National Socialist ideas and concepts of order.
The term "Reich" is found in a variety of European languages and has several applications in German. "Das Reich" is different, however, and it derives its suggestive force from a combination of secular and religious sources. This German "Reich" – or the Altes "Reich" as it is commonly referred to by modern historians in order to distinguish it from the German "Reich" of 1871 – played a central role in European history from the Middle Ages until its dissolution in 1806. Thereafter its legacy periodically continued to inspire and preoccupy groups of all political persuasions into the late 20th century.
This article explores the transformation of the directional concept "the west" into the socio-political concept "the West". From the early 19th century onward, the concept of the West became temporalized and politicized. It became a concept of the future ("Zukunftsbegriff"), acquired a polemical thrust through the polarized opposition to antonyms such as "Russia", "the East", and "the Orient", and was deployed as a tool for forging national identities. The gestation of "the West" went hand-in-hand with the gradual substitution of an east-west divide for the north-south divide that had dominated European mental maps for centuries.
This article discusses the transformation of Europe from a collection of Christian dynasties and (city-) republics, which were all part of the Church of Rome and represented at the Councils of Constance (1414–1418) and Basle (1432–1448), to a Europe of sovereign states. Of these states, five would go on to dominate Europe for much of 18th, 19th and the first part of the 20th century. These five powers saw their position of dominance destroyed by the First and Second World Wars, after which Europe was dominated by two powers which were fully or partly non-European, the Soviet Union and the United States, both of which led alliance systems (Warsaw Pact, North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Given that one of these alliance systems has already ceased to exist, it can be argued that the emergence of the modern occidental state remains the most significant development in modern world history.