Germany as the EU's reluctant hegemon? Of economic strength and political constraints

Simon Bulmer*, William E. Paterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the growing perception, prompted by the eurozone crisis, of Germany as a hegemonic power in the European Union. The article explores the realignments in the power balance within the European Union (EU) by making an original application of the insights from the literature on hegemony. It reviews the evidence for Germany playing a hegemonic role, but then emphasizes three sets of constraints. First, German pre-eminence is largely confined to the economic sphere. Even in this area Germany has not acted fully in line with the role ascribed by hegemonic stability theory. Second, its pre-eminence in the EU encounters problems of international legitimacy. Third, growing constraints arising from German domestic politics further hamper playing the role of hegemon. In consequence, Germany is intrinsically a reluctant hegemon: one whose economic leadership is recognized but politically contested. The conclusion considers the significance of these findings on the EU's most important member state. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1387-1405
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European public policy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • domestic politics
  • European Union
  • eurozone
  • Germany
  • hegemony
  • legitimacy


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