Academic Keynote Speech: Ramifications of the Retreat of Liberalism for the EU and its Normative Power
‘Liberalism’, ‘European Union’, ‘international community’: touchstones of Western Europe for seven decades. Now all seem to be in retreat. In unison.
How to address the ‘retreat of Liberalism? How to address the ‘crisis of the EU’? How to address the ‘breakdown of the international community’? Each of these questions contain a myriad of separate questions about ‘populism’, ‘inequality’, and ‘disorder’. Rarely are these questions asked together, at the same time, and from a different perspective.
The speech raises all these questions, but from a different direction. It asks whether Liberalism should be considered the dominant ideology of the 21st century? It asks whether the EU should be an important actor in the 21st century? It asks whether ‘normative power’ should be the projection of the EU in 21st century international politics? And finally, its asks whether the hegemony of international community and/or global competition is appropriate for the 21st century?
The speech sets out the problems of assuming Liberalism was dominant, is in retreat, and should be defended in its dominant ideological form. It sets out the problems of assuming the current EU was important, is in crisis, and should be retained in its current legal-institutional form. It sets out the problems of assuming that normative power was a traditional power projection, is a traditional power projection, and should be a traditional power projection in international politics. Finally, the speech sets out the problems of assuming that the international community was hegemonic, is breaking down, and should be defended in international politics. But the speech goes further in setting out how assumptions about national security, regional security, and international security suffer from similar problematic assumptions.
The ramifications of the retreat of Liberalism for the EU and its Normative Power are captured by the need to address all these questions and problems holistically. A holistic approach to realising European Union in planetary politics means realising that Liberal ideology asks the wrong questions. It means realising that European union must answer the right questions. It means realising that normative power must move beyond accepting the status quo of power relations. It means realising that our planetary politics are characterised by truly planetary relations of causality that can only be understood and addressed holistically. And it means realising that insecurities can only be understood and addressed holistically when ontological security is realised.