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The Idea of Europe as the Point of Encounter between Power and Freedom, Interests and Universal Values: A Consideration of Kissinger’s and Ratzinger’s Visions of Europe

  • Mary Frances McKenna (a1)


The aim of this article is to contribute to thinking on pre-political foundations of secular societies. I do so through the idea of Europe. The importance of pre-political foundations relates to power and freedom, specifically how freedom truly can be freedom and not ultimately power. The paper includes two sections: Section 1 discusses Europe’s Westphalian system as the model for global international relations. Henry Kissinger’s proposal that a modern Westphalian system should be adopted by the international community, as outlined in his 2014 World Order Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, is explored and critiqued. Section 2 looks at an alternative vision of Europe as the global template which addresses many of the open issues identified in Kissinger’s proposal. Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sees Europe as a historical and cultural idea with, as pre-political foundation, the primacy of rationality as creative reason. Ratzinger’s vision does not displace Kissinger’s; rather it informs it. Core to this discussion are freedom, power, interests and universal values, specifically how these four components interact and can be managed to produce positive constructive outcomes; ultimately these interactions relate to the pre-political foundations that orientate societies.


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1. Kissinger, H. (2014) World Order Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History ((London: Allen Lane)
2. Kissinger, H. (1994) Diplomacy (London: Simon & Schuster), p. 65.
3. Machiavelli, N. (1997) The Prince, Translated by C.E. Detmold (London: Wordsworth Classics)
4. Ratzinger, J. (2006) Values in a Time of Upheaval, Translated by B. McNeil (New York: Crossroads Publication), p. 102.
5. Ratzinger, J. (2008) Church, Ecumenism & Politics New Endeavours in Ecclesiology, Translated by M.J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), pp. 216217.
6. Ratzinger, J. (2004) Introduction to Christianity, Translated by J.R. Foster (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), pp. 137150 The basis of Ratzinger’s thought is Christianity’s recognition in the truth of being of the God of the philosophers, the God of Jesus Christ, the God who is love, and that the God of the philosophers is fully understood through the God of Jesus Christ.
7. Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (2002) The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Translated by E. Jephcott (Stanford: University Press), pp. 1–34, 63–74, 149. originally published in 1947.
8. Ratzinger, J. (2004) Truth and Tolerance, Translated by H. Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), pp. 181. 138–209.
9. See for a more detailed discussion of truth, meaning, being and divine reason, Ratzinger, J. (2004) Introduction to Christianity, Translated by J.R. Foster (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), pp. 1129 39–79.
10 Ratzinger, J. (2010) A Turning Point for Europe, Translated by B. McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), pp. 110112.
11.I compare Ratzinger’s thought on pre-political foundations of the state with that of Jürgen Habermas and Alasdair MacIntyre in my paper ‘The Future of Europe Philosophical and Theological Perspectives’, presented at the Ratzinger Symposium, 7 June 2017, Dublin. Unpublished.


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