National interest, Nationalism, Federalism, Democracy

Published 15 Feb 2017

National interest

The national interest is a nation’s goals and objectives whether financial, military, or cultural. The concept is an essential one in global relations where recreation of the national interest is the base of the realist school. The national interest of any country is multi faceted. Primary is the survival and safety of the country. The pursuit of capital and financial growth and power is as well essential. Several countries, particularly in present era, consider the preservation of the nation’s culture as of big significance.

Background and controversial problems

In early human background of the national interest was regularly analyzed as inferior to that of ethics or religion. To connect in a war rulers required to rationalize the action in these contexts. The first thinker to advocate for the dominance of the national interest is generally known to be Niccolò Machiavelli. The practice of National interest was initially observed as being employed by France in the 30 Years’ War when it occurred on the Protestant side, even though its own Catholicism, to block the growing influence of the Holy Roman Empire. The concept of the national interest soon came to govern European politics that became severely competitive over the subsequently centuries. States may possibly now frankly embark on wars simply out of self-interest. Mercantilism can be seen as the financial justification of the violent recreation of the national interest. With hegemonic stability theory, the notion of the United States national interest was prolonged to comprise the preservation of open sea lanes and the maintenance and development of free trade.

These notions turned into much criticized after the bloody disaster of the 1st World War, and the thought of the balance of power was changed with the thought of collective safety, whereby all members of the League of Nations would consider an attack upon one as an attack upon every one, therefore deterring the use of violence for all time. The League of Nations was not able to work, somewhat since the U.S. declined to join and somewhat for the reason that, in practice, states did not forever find it in the national interest to discourage each other from the use of power. (David 1995, p. 1) The events of World War II led to a rebirth of Realist and then Neo-realist thought, as worldwide relations theorists re-emphasized the function of power in worldwide governance.

Nowadays, the theory of the national interest is often linked with political Realists who wish to distinguish their policies from idealistic policies that inquire about either to inject ethics into foreign policy or encourage solutions that rely on bilateral institutions which might fail the sovereignty of the state. (Tamir 1993, p. 1) As substantial disagreement exists in each country over what is or is not included in the national interest, the expression is as often raised to justify isolationist and pacifistic policies as to justify dominant or aggressive policies. (Gerard 2005, p. 1)


Nationalism is an ideology that holds that a nation is the primary unit for human social life, and takes priority over any other social and political ethics. Nationalism naturally makes definite political claims based upon this principle: especially, the argument that the nation is just completely legitimate basis for the state, that every nation is allowed to its own state, and that the borders of the state ought to be fitting with the borders of the nation. Nationalism refers to both a political doctrine and some communal action by political and social movements for particular nations.

Nationalism as ideology comprises ethical principles: that the moral duties of individuals to fellow members of the nation dominate those to non-members. Nationalism states that national loyalty, in case of variance, overrides local loyalties, and all other loyalties to family, friends, occupations, religion, or class. (Ernest 1983, p. 45)

Types of nationalism

Nationalism may manifest itself as part of official state ideology or as a popular (non-state) movement and may be expressed along civic, ethnic, cultural, religious or ideological lines. These self-definitions of the nation are used to classify types of nationalism. (John 2000, p. 1) on the other hand, such categories are not commonly exclusive and many nationalist movements merge some or all of these elements to unreliable degrees. Nationalist movements can moreover be classified by other criteria, for instance scale and location.

Background and problems

Definite examples of nationalism are very different, the problems and matters are emotional, and the variances often bloody. The theory of nationalism has constantly been complex by this background, and by the imposition of nationalist ideology into the theory. There are as well national variations in the theory of nationalism, because people describe nationalism on the basis of their local practice. Theory and media coverage might exaggerate conflicting nationalist movements, ethnic stress, and war – switching attention from common theoretical issues; such as, the characteristics of nation-states. (Margaret 1996, pp. 18-20)

Nationalist movements are enclosed by other nationalist movements and nations, and this may color their version of nationalism. It could focus simply on independence, and disregard other nations. When conflicts occur, though, ideological attacks upon the identity and legitimacy of the ‘enemy’ nationalism may turn into the focus. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as, both sides have claimed that the other is not a ‘real’ nation, and consequently has no right to a state. Jingoism and chauvinism make exaggerated claims about the dominance of one nation over another. National stereotypes are as well general, and are usually insulting. This type of negative nationalism, directed at other nations, is surely a nationalist phenomenon, however not an adequate basis for a universal theory of nationalism. (Eric 1992, p. 12)


Federalism is defined as a political philosophy in which a group or body of members are bound together with a governing representative head.

Further defining Federalism, it is a system of government in which self-government is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units similar to states or provinces, creating what are repeatedly called a federation. Proponents are known as federalists a lot.

Federalism in Canada means opposition to sovereignties movements generally in Quebec. In Europe, federalist is often used to explain those who support a stronger federal government or European Union government and weaker provincial governments. On the other hand, in recent years in America federalism has come to be coupled with opponent to a stronger federal government. (Rogers 1996, p. 1)


The case for federalism is complex by federalist theory, which disagrees that federalism gives a robust constitutional system that anchors pluralist democracy, and that it improves democratic participation all the way through providing dual citizenship in a complex republic.

The typical declaration of this position can be found in The Federalist, which argued that federalism helps preserve the principle of due process, limiting arbitrary action by the state. Primary federalism can limit government authority to violate rights, while it creates the chance that a legislature wishing to control liberties will lack the constitutional power, whereas the level of government that possesses the power lacks the desire. Subsequently, the legalistic decision making processes of federal systems control the pace with which governments can act.

The argument that federalism helps to secure democracy and human rights has been influenced by the contemporary public choice theory. It has been argued that in smaller political units, individuals can participate more directly than in a monolithic unitary government. Moreover, individuals disappointed with circumstances in one State have the decision of moving to another. Certainly, this argument assumes that a freedom of movement among States is essentially protected by a federal system.

Some U.S. politicians have histories of rejecting civil liberties to black people, women, and others. Conversely, the laws and constitutions of several states have confined such minorities with legal rights and securities that surpass those of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Bill of Rights. (Benedict 1998, pp. 45-55)

The U.S. Constitution produced a federal government with enough powers to both represent and unite the states, however did not displace state governments. This federal arrangement, by which the central federal government exercises delegated power over several issues and the state governments apply power over other issues, is one of the essential characteristics of the U.S. Constitution that ensures governmental power.


  • Breuilly, John. 1994. Nationalism and the State. 2nd ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Canovan, Margaret. 1996. Nationhood and Political Theory. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
  • Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric J. 1992. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press
  • Delanty, Gerard and Krishan Kumar (eds) 2005 Handbook of National interest. London: Sage Publications
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark. 1993. The New Cold War: Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State. Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Miller, David. 1995. On national interest. Oxford University Press
  • Tamir, Yael. 1993. National interest. Princeton University Press
  • Anderson, Benedict. 1998. The Spectre of Comparison: Federalism, U.S. and the World. London: Verso.
  • Brubaker, Rogers. 1996. Federalism: Federation and the National Question in the New Europe. Cambridge University Press
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