Normative Power Approach to European Union External Action

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The field of studying EU external relations/actions has embraced and endorsed mainstream International Relations and European Integration theoretical orthodoxy over the past three decades. This ideological orthodoxy is proving catastrophic as the accumulation of economic, social, environmental, conflictual, and political crises are increasingly demonstrating. As Joseph Stiglitz succinctly puts it, ‘neoliberalism will literally bring an end to our civilization’ as the ecological and climate catastrophe accelerates through the 21st century. In contrast, the Normative Power Approach (NPA) to the EU sets out a radically different means of studying and changing planetary politics. The NPA uses normative theory, theories of explanation and understanding, and practical theories, all at the same time. First, the NPA brings normative theory to the field through the critical social theory of agonistic cosmopolitics that challenges the ideological common sense of existing notions of power, the EU, and international affairs. Second, the NPA advocates critical thinking of explanatory concepts and theories of understanding through the idea of European communion. Third, the NPA sets out empirical-practical innovations in EU external actions that have grown from normative political theory since the end of the Cold War. In conclusion, the chapter clarifies how the NPA’s radical re-envisioning of the field of EU external actions provides a theoretical innovation that has not only shaped EU studies, but has a wider spread impact on the study of foreign policy and international relations beyond Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe External Action of the European Union
Subtitle of host publicationConcepts, Approaches, Theories
EditorsSieglinde Gstöhl, Simon Schunz
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781352012132
ISBN (Print)9781352012125, 9781352012187
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 29

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • Normative Power
  • Normative Power Approach
  • Holistic
  • European Union
  • European Integration
  • External Action
  • foreign policy


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