European Political Science

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 11–19 | Cite as

Rival Universalisms in Transatlantic Relations: Obama's Exceptionalism Meets Europe's Low Profile

  • Cristina Barrios


This article offers the central argument that universalisms – defined as narratives of identity and role-playing in International Relations (IR) – depict different roles and identities for the United States and the European Union (EU). On the one hand, America's universalism depicts the democratic city upon a hill that leads in the world by example and with power, hard and soft. On the other, Europe's universalism is a utopia (an ideal plan) and a fragile balance between supranationalism and intergovernmentalism, putting forward consensual but ambiguous notions of ‘civilian’ and ‘normative’ power. Despite ample evidence of its international primacy and potential, the EU insists on keeping a low profile in IR. As a result of these trends, the rhetoric of the West and common values on the basis of transatlantic relations are clearly undermined.


transatlantic relations European Union universalism civilian power 


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Copyright information

© European Consortium for Political Research 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Barrios
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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