Clashing traditions: German foreign policy in a new era

Jamie Gaskarth, Kai Oppermann

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A series of crises over the last decade have put pressure on Europe’s fundamental ordering principles: European integration, guarded by the collective defence umbrella of NATO. In response, German policymakers are scrambling to reinterpret Germany’s foreign policy for a new era. To understand this process, the authors utilise an interpretivist approach, analysing German foreign policy discourse through the lens of four traditions of thought informing debates: regionalism, pacifism, realism and hegemonism. The article examines a series of speeches by key German foreign policymakers and explores how these traditions are used to support certain policy ideas and marginalise others. To do so, it deploys a three-part structure looking at German identity, interactions, and notions of responsibility. The article suggests that despite serious challenges, prevailing patterns of belief centred round regionalism and pacifism, supported by a particular, civilian understanding of hegemony persist. Yet, Germany’s allies are challenging this framework and calling for the country to accept more responsibility for regional and global security. As a result, a realist tradition is re-emerging in Germany’s discourse. The taxonomy provided in the article allows a richer understanding of these debates as well as an appreciation of how policymakers mobilise ideas to resist or enable policy change.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Studies Perspectives
Early online date4 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Oct 2019


  • German foreign policy
  • interpretivism
  • realism
  • pacifism
  • hegemony


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