The ‘Difference Engine': Constructing and Representing the International Identity of the European Union

Ian Manners, Richard Whitman

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to develop more fully the notion of the international identity of the European Union (EU) in world politics. We will attempt to balance our previous focus of work on the ‘active dimension' of the EU's attempts to ‘assert its identity on the international scene' by looking at the ‘reflexive dimension' of the EU's international identity from a more sociological perspective. Our article will argue that the distinctive polity perspectives and role representations of the EU can be thought of as a form of ‘difference engine' which drives the construction and representation of the EU's international identity. Like Babbage's original difference engine, the EU's international identity is not a multiplier of difference, exaggerating the dissimilarities between the EU and the rest of the world through the generation of a new European supranational identity, but functions on the basis of addition - by adding an international EU element to Europeans' complex and multifaceted identities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)380-404
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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