Politicisation of Travelling

Interrail and Freedom


  • Kari Palonen University of Jyväskylä


Politicisation, travel politics, freedom from dependence, freedom from interference, freedom of movement, Interrail, Quentin Skinner, Max Weber, European Union


Travelling is today an important aspect of the European political agenda-setting of both individual actors and institutions. The paradigms of car and air travel are contested in terms of climate change; I continue the contestation from the perspective of political liberty. Three paradigms of personal travel – by car, by flight and by train – are confronted with two concepts of liberty: the freedom from interference versus the freedom from dependence.

Three ideal types of travel – travelling to, travelling away and travelling around – are judged from the perspective of the two freedoms. Train travel by Interrail is a political innovation that links the freedom of movement to the freedom from dependence on the national states. The EU could offer, with systematic and coherent pro-railway support, travellers’ freedom from dependence, and I suggest some simple pro-railway measures and steps towards parliamentarisation of travel politics. The conceptual point of the article is that freedom of movement can also be regarded as a part of freedom from dependence. In the Postscript I dispute the closing of borders under the corona lockdown and speculate how to retain the freedom of train travel under the condition of keeping the necessary distance from others.

Author Biography

Kari Palonen, University of Jyväskylä

Kari Palonen is Professor emeritus of Political Science at the University of Jyväskylä. He has published extensively on the concept of politics and its history, on the principles and practices of conceptual history, on the political thought and methodology of Max Weber, and on parliamentary concepts, procedures and rhetoric. More recently he has related these topics to the politics of European Union. He is currently writing on politics as a parliamentary concept, with the plenary debates of the German Bundestag as sources.




How to Cite

Palonen, K. (2020). Politicisation of Travelling: Interrail and Freedom. Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies, 4(1), 64–81. Retrieved from https://jass.ax/index.php/jass/article/view/42