Romania Development Path in 19th Century: A Debate

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The debate on Romania's developmental path started in the second half of the 19th century. It is generally accepted nowadays that the philosopher and literary critic Titu Maiorescu (1840-1917) was the first outstanding intellectual who articulated a radical critique of the modernization program based on the implementation of Western-type institutions in Romania. It is in his seminal article "În contra direcţiei de astăzi în cultura română" (Against the current trend in Romanian culture), published in 1868, that Maiorescu developed his theory of "forms without substance" (forme fără fond). In his conception, the program of rapid and uncritical import of Western institutions - which was imposed upon the Romanian society - hampered its gradual, organic development.21 Nevertheless, Maiorescu acknowledged that the "forms" could precede the "substance," but only for a short time span. Otherwise, the wider the gap between forms and substance and the longer the period of exposure to such forms, the more falsified the pattern of the Romanian modern civilization would become. Lovinescu, however, had a totally different opinion. In his view, the Romanian cultural "substance" was not able to develop properly without borrowing Western forms. Such forms would determine the emergence of a modern and original Romanian culture, in synchronism with the more advanced cultures in the world. Lovinescu argued that, until the 19th century, Romania, being isolated from the Western civilization, developed inferior cultural forms and genres: Isolated from the rhythm of Western civilization by its surroundings and its religion, the Romanian people was unable to develop in its own manner and was derouted from the potentialities of its race; for entire centuries it expressed its Latin thought in cumbersome cyrillic letters; descended of those whose unbeaten will and energy conquered the world, our soul was dislocated by infiltrations of oriental fatalism [emphasis added].22 Furthermore,...
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