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The Macron Doctrine: Repackaging Old French Ideas Or A New Direction For Europe (And The World)?

15 December 2020

3 mins

Professor Helen Drake, Director of the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance, together with Sophie Meunier, a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University, have published an article discussing the Macron Doctrine and how conversations have shifted.


Though the Macron Doctrine may look like old French wine in new bottles, the young French president is all about shifting the conversation.

“We need two strong guiding principles: to get back on track with useful international cooperation that prevents war and addresses our current challenges; and to build a much stronger Europe, the voice, strength and principles of which can carry weight in this reformed framework.”

With these words, included in a long interview of the French President published in November 2020 in Le Grand Continent, Emmanuel Macron laid out his foreign policy doctrine. This was not the first time he had done so, but it was the lengthiest exposition to date, and the most comprehensive. Here the French president was attempting to put France back at the centre of world affairs, not only as a matter of national prestige, but above all fuelled by a fervour for nothing less than rescuing humanity from itself, and the planet from its humans (in that order).

The Macron doctrine is articulated around two central ideas. The first is that the liberal international order is living through a major historical juncture and needs to be replaced with new forms of multilateral cooperation. In short, Macron claims, it is time to substitute the post-war ‘Washington consensus’ with something new, namely the ‘Paris consensus’ launched by this very interview. Why is that? There are a whole host of factors. Demographic and economic forces have shrunk the relative weight of advanced industrialized democracies, challenging Western hegemony.

The resurgence of Russia and the rapid growth of China are posing an existential challenge to the stability and desirability of liberal democracy. The United States, the historical pillar of the liberal international order, has disengaged from the multilateral governance of global issues such as climate change, and in some cases is even actively sabotaging traditional alliances and multilateralism, such as NATO and the WTO. The 2020 US election of Joe Biden might well repair traditional alliances and smooth transatlantic relations, but in Macron’s mind, Europe can no longer count on the US as a steady, like-minded partner.


You can read the full article here.

Professor Helen Drake is also the lead editor and co-author of chapters 1, 2 and 12 for the sixth edition of Developments in French Politics. You can find out more about the new book here.

To find out more about Professor Helen Drake and her research, please visit our website.

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