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Political Science in Europe

Leadership in and of European Foreign Policy: A Social Role Theory Analysis

European Union
Foreign Policy
International Relations
Political Leadership
Lisbeth Aggestam
University of Gothenburg
Lisbeth Aggestam
University of Gothenburg

Leadership in and of European foreign policy has received surprisingly little theoretical attention by scholars interested in the collective action problem in multilateral European foreign policy. This paper addresses this conceptual void and offers a framework of analysis that builds on social role theory. Central to this framework is the concept of leadership as a relational activity involving learning, socialization and trust between leader and followers. This dimension is particularly important when trying to explain the internal leadership problem in EU foreign policy. The internal and external aspects of leadership are, however, two sides of the same coin. For a non-state actor like the European Union, external leadership is problematic. As a social role, European leadership requires recognition by external actors. It is from this baseline that role expectations and role prescriptions of leadership emanate and on which the social role of leader can evolve and become meaningful. Rather than treating leadership as either exclusively structural or actor-specific, social role theory provides a bridge across the divide between theories of International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis.
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