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These days, when we hear the slogan ‘let's make our country great again’ we almost automatically assume the state concerned is the US, and the leader uttering the slogan is President Trump. This article invites readers to explore the discourse and practices through which another national leader is seeking to restore his country's ‘greatness’ and promote national and international security. The leader concerned is France's Emmanuel Macron. Why focus on the French president? Because since his election he has become the most dynamic European leader, on a mission to enhance France's international stature, and to do so via a broader process of protecting and empowering the EU. More broadly, France stands out as a country whose political leadership has long been committed to the goal of playing a global role. As Pernille Rieker reminds us, ‘Since 1945, French foreign policy has been dominated by the explicit ambition of restoring the country's greatness [la grandeur de la France], justified in terms of French exceptionalism’.1
Macron has cast his vision of national/European greatness, security, and international order in opposition to the isolationist, rigidly nationalist visions articulated by his domestic opponents and, internationally, by President Trump. In his view, France and Europe can only be secure if they defeat the illiberal ideas advocated by the increasingly vocal political forces, particularly far-right movements, seeking to undermine the core values and multilateral principles of the post-1945 international order. Under these circumstances, an analysis of Macron's policies and practices of grandeur can help us gain a better understanding of the competition between liberal and illiberal worldviews – a competition that is increasingly pronounced within the Western world.
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