The ideal of freedom has historically instituted the Transatlantic Community of Values spanning the USA and Europe. Given the framework of liberal crises that currently dominates Western mental maps, it is crucial to contemplate what has happened to this legacy of freedom and, consequently, to the very foundations of this value community. To achieve this, we draw on the theoretical debates on freedom to construct a novel conceptual framework of the potential uses of the notion in political discourses. This scaffold is then utilised as a tool to analyse, and ultimately compare, the employment of freedom in a selection of documents produced by the leaderships of the EU and the USA since the turn of the millennium.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
We are naturally aware of the different connotations of the notions of freedom and liberty, prevalent in the English language—but not in, for instance, French, German or Finnish. The latter would seem to relate to unrestricted (political) action, and the former more generally to the contractual nature of political community. This difference, however, proved limitedly relevant for our analysis.
Cf., for example, Dowding .
We could also talk of an ‘essentialist paradigm’ as one form of a positive understanding of freedom. ‘Essentialism’, however, can turn out to be highly problematic, a way towards the acceptance of the existing state of affairs. In other words, ‘[c]ritical and imaginative autonomy renounces essentialist preconceptions which posit absolute limits on the choice of norms, and it rectifies negative ideas which bypass the need to wrestle with present constraints’. Kioupkiolis, ‘Three Paradigms,’ 481.
Pettit, ‘Freedom as Antipower’.
Honneth uses the attribute reflexive to denote the type of freedom usually labelled as ‘positive’. See Honneth .
For Honneth, social freedom is the third main category of freedom, along with the negative and reflexive classifications. See Honneth, Das Recht der Freiheit.
To a degree, we in fact here disagree with Ian Manners, the initiator of the debate on Normative Power Europe. For him, ‘freedom is always just one of several rights, held alongside other equally important principles such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law’. Manners .
Van Rompuy  (emphasis added).
Van Rompuy .
European Union .
European Union .
Mogherini . Cf. Mogherini in the Foreword to European Union, ‘Shared Vision, Common Action,’ 4.
For many scholars, resilience represents a neoliberal justificatory device; it makes it possible for the EU to pursue its policies without being accused of neocolonialism. There are, however, others who see the notion in much more positive terms, a source of real societal critical potential. Of these two interpretations, the former seems to represent a systemic logic—misused systemic freedom—whereas the latter proponents think in terms of social/institutional freedom. Cf. Mckeown and Glenn , Bourbeau and Caitlin .
European Union, ‘Shared Vision, Common Action,’ 27.
This form of pragmatism may also echo the ‘pragmatic turn’ of International Relations scholarship (whatever that may mean); the ideas of academia do make an impact occasionally.
European Union, ‘Shared Vision, Common Action,’ 8 (emphasis added).
The debate initiated by Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida in the aftermath of the Iraq war in 2003 is the most famous example in this respect, see Levy . It might also be possible here to refer to the establishment of the EU’s defence/military dimension in the late 1990s, beginning from the St. Malo Declaration by the British and French leaders in December 1998. However, as, for example, Henrik Larsen argues, the logic of action at the time was primarily based on problem-solving—crises such as the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s should not be possible in the EU’s neighbourhood—rather than identity-building in terms of sovereignty. See Larsen .
Unlike in many other fields, in defence cooperation European integration seems to be taking steps forward at the moment. As a confirmation of this, 23 Member States signed a joint notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in this field in November 2017. Under this framework, member states can, for example, jointly develop their defence capabilities and strengthen the operational readiness of their armed forces. The notion of strategic autonomy is frequently employed.
European Union, ‘Shared Vision, Common Action,’ 11 (emphasis added).
Bush . On the failure to realise this attitude of modesty from the perspective of third countries, see Mahbubani, Has the West.
See White House .
Obama, ‘United Nations’. See also White House .
Trump, ‘United Nations’. See also Trump .
Charles S. Maier introduced the notion of consensual hegemony in the late 1970s to describe the relationship between the US and its European allies in the post-World War II context. The arrangement can be termed consensual because the European allies consented to US leadership replete with economic support and security guarantees, but it can also be regarded hegemonic in the sense that Americans were able to define the terms (e.g. rules, norms, practices) of the arrangement. Maier .
Kupchan, ‘The Clash of Exceptionalisms’.
Cf. Lilla .
Daalder and Lindsay .
White House .
See especially US Department of State .
Alessandri et al. .
Obama . Obama ultimately failed to deliver on this pledge, largely due to domestic political constraints. At the time of writing, October 2018, Guantanamo Bay remains in operation, and there is little prospect of closure during President Trump’s term(s).
US Department of State .
White House .
Donald J. Trump, ‘People of Poland’.
Donald J. Trump, ‘Inaugural Address’.
See, for example, Wike .
See Waltz .
Berlin, Isaiah. 1969. Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pettit, Philip. 1996. Freedom as Antipower. Ethics 106(3): 576–604.
Lagerspetz, Eerik. 1998. Seitsemän vapauskäsitystä: Isaiah Berlinin ‘positiivisen’ ja ‘negatiivisen’ vapauden kritiikki. Politiikka 40(2): 87–104.
Skinner, Quentin. 2002. Visions of Politics, Volume 2: Renaissance Virtues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kioupkiolis, Alexandros. 2009. Three Paradigms of Modern Freedom. European Journal of Political Theory 8(4): 473–491.
Podoksik, Efraim. 2010. One Concept of Liberty: Towards Writing the History of a Political Concept. Journal of the History of Ideas 71(2): 219–240.
Spector, Horacio. 2010. Four Conceptions of Freedom. Political Theory 38(6): 780–808.
Dowding, Keith. 1992. Choice: Its Increase and Its Value. British Journal of Political Science 22(3): 301–314.
Skinner, Quentin. 2002. A Third Concept of Liberty. Proceedings of the British Academy 117: 237–268.
Mahbubani, Kishore. 2018. Has the West Lost It? A Provocation. London: Penguin.
Wallace, William. 2016. Are Values Diverging Across the Atlantic? European Foreign Affairs Review 21(3): 355–364.
Honneth, Axel. 2011. Das Recht der Freiheit. Grundriss einer demokratischen Sittlichkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Vogt, Henri. 2005. Between Utopia and Disillusionment. A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe, chap. 5. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Berglund, Sten, Joakim Ekman, Henri Vogt, and Frank Aarebrot. 2006. The Making of the European Union. Foundations, Institutions and Future Trends. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Manners, Ian. 2008. The Normative Ethics of the European Union. International Affairs 84(1): 49.
Solana, Javier. 2005. Speech by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Inauguration of the Academic Year 2005–2006. https://www.coleurope.eu/speeches#nid1811. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Tusk, Donald. 2017. Speech by President Donald Tusk at the Ceremony of the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/03/25/tusk-ceremony-rome-speech/. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Borg, Stefan. 2014. European Integration and the Problem of the State: Universality, Particularity, and Exemplarity in the Crafting of the European Union. Journal of International Relations and Development 17(3): 339–366.
Van Rompuy, Herman. 2012. Speech by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council at the Stockholm School of Economics. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/130057.pdf. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Ashton, Catherine. 2011. Speech on Main Aspects and Basic Choices of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence policy. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-11-326_en.htm. Accessed 19 March 2018.
European Commission. 2011. A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood: A Review of European Neighbourhood Policy’, European Commission, 3–4. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52011DC0303&from=EN. Accessed 8 June 2018.
Van Rompuy, Herman. 2014. Looking Back, Looking Forward: Speech at the Conference “Dove va l’Europa”—“The State of the Union”. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/21280/145686.pdf. Accessed 21 March 2018.
European Union. 2017. The New European Consensus on Development: “Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future”, European Commission, §4. https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/policies/european-development-policy/european-consensus-development_en. Accessed 21 March 2018.
European Union. 2016. Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe: A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, European Union External Action Service, 7. https://eeas.europa.eu/archives/docs/top_stories/pdf/eugs_review_web.pdf. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Tusk, Donald. 2017. Address by President Donald Tusk at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/09/20/tusk-speech-un-general-assembly/. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Mogherini, Federica. 2017. Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/31635/speech-high-representativevice-president-federica-mogherini-2017-bled-strategic-forum_en. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Juncos, Ana E. 2017. Resilience as the New EU Foreign Policy Paradigm: A Pragmatist Turn? European Security 26(1): 8.
Mckeown, Anthony, and John Glenn. 2017. The Rise of Resilience after the Financial Crises: A Case of Neoliberalism Rebooted? Review of International Studies 44(2): 193–214.
Bourbeau, Philippe, and Ryan Caitlin. 2018. Resilience, Resistance, Infrapolitics and Enmeshment. European Journal of International Relations 24(1): 221–239.
Levy, Daniel, Max Pensky, and John Torpey (eds.). 2005. Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe: Transatlantic Relations after the Iraq War. London: Verso.
Larsen, Henrik. 2003. The EU: A Global Military Actor? Cooperation and Conflict 37(3): 283–302.
Solana, Javier. 2009. Speech by Javier Solana EU High Representative for the CFSP: Europe in the World. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/discours/110218.pdf. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Ashton, Catherine. 2014. Catherine Ashton Speech on EU Foreign and Security Policy to the European Parliament. http://eeas.europa.eu/top_stories/2014/040414_ep_ashton_speech_en.htm. Accessed 20 March 2018.
Myrdal, Gunnar. 1964. An American Dilemma, vol. 1, 4. New York: Harper & Row.
Wilson, Woodrow. 1917. Wilson’s War Message to Congress. https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Wilson%27s_War_Message_to_Congress. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Ikenberry, G. John. 2015. Liberal Internationalism 3.0: America and the Dilemmas of Liberal World Order. Perspectives on Politics 7(1): 76.
Reagan, Ronald. 1986. Remarks at a Dinner for Former Members of the Office of Strategic Services. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=37367. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Albright, Madeleine K. 1998. Albright Interview on NBC-TV: “The Today Show”. https://1997-2001.state.gov/www/statements/1998/980219a.html. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Kupchan, Charles A. 2018. The Clash of Exceptionalisms: A New Fight over an Old Idea. Foreign Affairs 97(2): 139–148.
Cha, Taesuh. 2015. American Exceptionalism at the Crossroads: Three Responses. Political Studies Review 13(3): 351–362.
Brands, Hal. 2018. Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era. Texas National Security Review 1(2): 8–33.
Hamilton, Daniel S. 2016. The Domestic Setting of American Approaches to Europe. In The West and the Global Power Shift, ed. Riccardo Alcaro, John Peterson, and Ettore Greco, 135. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bush, George W. 2001. President George W. Bush’s Inaugural Address. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/inaugural-address.html. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Bush, George W. 1999. A Distinctly American Internationalism. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/wspeech.htm. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Obama, Barack. 2009. Inaugural Address. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/realitycheck/the_press_office/President_Barack_Obamas_Inaugural_Address. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Obama, Barack. 2009. Remarks by the President to the United Nations General Assembly. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-united-nations-general-assembly. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Trump, Donald J. 2017. The Inaugural Address. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address/. Accessed 13 March 2018.
White House. 2018. Fact Sheets: President Donald J. Trump’s Foreign Policy Puts America First. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-foreign-policy-puts-america-first/. Accessed 13 March 2018.
Trump, Donald J. 2017. Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-72nd-session-united-nations-general-assembly/. Accessed 16 March 2018.
White House. 2015. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’, NSS Archive. http://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-2015/. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Trump, Donald J. 2017. Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-people-poland/. Accessed 16 March 2018.
Maier, Charles S. 1977. The Politics of Productivity: Foundations of American International Economic Policy after World War II. International Organization 31(4): 630–631.
Lilla, Mark. 2017. The Once, and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. New York: HarperCollins.
Daalder, Ivo H., and James M. Lindsay. 2003. America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy, 12–13. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Brown, Chris. 2004. Do Great Powers Have Great Responsibilities? Great Powers and Moral Agency. Global Society 18(1): 11, 13–14.
Hassan, Oz. 2008. Bush’s Freedom Agenda: Ideology and the Democratization of the Middle East. Democracy and Security 4(3): 271.
Reus-Smit, Christian. 2004. American Power and World Order, 52–53. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Smith, Tony. 2009. In Wilsonianism after Iraq: The End of Liberal Internationalism. In The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. G. John Ikenberry, Thomas J. Knock, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Tony Smith, 53–88. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
White House. 2002. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’, NSS Archive. http://nssarchive.us/NSSR/2002.pdf. Accessed 21 March 2018.
Krauthammer, Charles. Winter 2002/03. The Unipolar Moment Revisited. The National Interest 70: 5–18.
US Department of State. 2008. Institutionalizing the Freedom Agenda: President Bush Calls on Future Presidents and Congresses to Continue Leading the Cause of Freedom Worldwide, US Department of State Archive. https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/oct/110871.htm. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Rice, Condoleezza. 2005. Remarks at the American University in Cairo. https://2001-2009.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/48328.htm. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Alessandri, Emiliano, Oz Hassan and Ted Reinert. 2015. ‘U.S. Democracy Promotion from Bush to Obama. EUSpring Working Paper no. 1. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/euspring/publications. Accessed 14 June 2018.
Hassan, Oz. 2013. Constructing America’s Freedom Agenda for the Middle East: Democracy and Domination, 143. London: Routledge.
Obama, Barack. 2009. Remarks by the President at Cairo University. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-cairo-university-6-04-09. Accessed 14 June 2018.
US Department of State. 2010. Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR): Leading through Civilian Power. https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/153108.pdf. Accessed 14 June 2018, 21.
Obama, Barack. 2011. Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/19/remarks-president-middle-east-and-north-africa. Accessed 15 June 2018.
Obama, Barack. 2013. Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany. Accessed 13 March 2018.
White House. 2017. National Security Strategy of the United States of America. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.pdf. Accessed 13 March 2018, 41.
Pence, Michael R. 2018. Remarks by Vice President Pence at the National Religious Broadcasters’ Annual Convention. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-national-religious-broadcasters-annual-convention/. Accessed 15 June 2018.
Margon, Sarah. 2018. Giving up the High Ground: America’s Retreat on Human Rights. Foreign Affairs 97(2): 39–45.
Tillerson, Rex W. 2017. Remarks to U.S. Department of State Employees. https://www.state.gov/secretary/20172018tillerson/remarks/2017/05/270620.htm. Accessed 20 Nov 2018.
Bush, George W. 2002. President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020601-3.html. Accessed 15 June 2018.
Bush, George W. 2006. State of the Union Address by the President. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/. Accessed 16 March 2018.
Kennedy, Caroline. 2013. The Manichean Temptation: Moralising Rhetoric and the Invocation of Evil in US Foreign Policy. International Politics 50(5): 623–638.
Bush, George W. 2001. President Bush Speaks to United Nations. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011110-3.html. Accessed 15 June 2018.
Bush, George W. 2006. President’s Address to the Nation. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060911-3.html. Accessed 16 March 2018.
Huntington, Samuel P. 2002. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. London: Simon and Schuster.
Bush, George W. 2006. President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060919-4.html. Accessed 13 March 2018.
Trump, Donald J. 2017. Statement by President Trump on Syria. https://uk.usembassy.gov/statement-president-trump-syria/. Accessed 15 June 2018.
Wike, Richard. 2016. 5 ways Americans and Europeans are different. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/19/5-ways-americans-and-europeans-are-different/.
Waltz, Kenneth N. 2001. Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, revised ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
We would like to thank discussant Torbjørn Knutsen and the participants of the panel ‘Uncovering the West in Crisis’ at the 59th ISA Annual Convention for valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Juha Käpylä, Manuel Fröhlich and the two excellent reviewers of the JTS warrant special mention for commenting on earlier versions of the article. We are also grateful to Anu Ruokamo for her research assistance. Henri Vogt’s research has been supported by the project ‘Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making’ (312671), funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland (www.palosearch.fi).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Sinkkonen, V., Vogt, H. Connected in freedom? Reconstructing a foundational value in EU and US foreign policy discourses. J Transatl Stud 17, 341–369 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42738-019-00024-y
- Transatlantic relations
- Liberal world order
- European Union