The Return to Normativity: National Interest as a Theoretical Concept Cover Image
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Návrat k normativitě: Národní zájem jako teoretická kategorie
The Return to Normativity: National Interest as a Theoretical Concept

Author(s): Petr Kratochvíl
Subject(s): Politics / Political Sciences
Published by: Mezinárodní politologický ústav Masarykovy univerzity v Brně
Keywords: national interest; theory of international relations; normative theory; theories of democracy

Summary/Abstract: Although today national interest is a concept often deemed too old-fashioned for any relevant study of foreign policy or international relations, it is surprising how deeply embedded it is in practical political discourse. The aim of this article is therefore to recast the concept so as to make it a useful theoretical instrument again, hence renewing the conceptual link between the academic and practical discourses on the subject. The argument is divided into five steps: First, we will explain the realist account of national interest and its two major features – essentialism and its non-normative nature. Second, we will dedicate some attention to the critics of the realist approach. Third, we will try to demonstrate that both sides of this debate have committed a fundamental error in considering national interest as a descriptive category. By pointing to the concept’s historical evolution, we will show that national interest should be primarily understood as a normative concept. In the last two steps, we will couple the debate on interest to discussions in theories of democracy and set three criteria which must be met for interest to be considered legitimate.

  • Issue Year: XVI/2009
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 3-20
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: Czech