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Zivilmacht Europa : a critical geopolitics of the European Union as a global power

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The EU's global role is the focus of much media, political and scholarly commentary. This paper explores how ideas associated with the term ‘civilian power’ became an enduring geopolitical conception for an integrated Europe as a significant global actor. It traces their evolution from the early 1970s, whereby in 1972 François Duchêne (Anglo-Swiss scholar, journalist and advisor to Jean Monnet) introduced a vision of the European Community as a civilian power, just before the first enlargement of the Community and at a moment of geopolitical and geoeconomic turbulence associated with a sense of faltering American hegemony. Narratives about civilian power have subsequently been reworked and revitalised in the context of further European Union enlargement and challenges from American neo-conservatism. In these contexts, this paper critically scrutinises the range of meanings associated with civilian power and their relations to other claims and visions of what it means to be a great power.

Keywords: European Union; François Duchêne; Imperialism; civilian power; critical geopolitics; power

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Geography, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2009


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