National interest

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The national interest is a sovereign state's goals and ambitions (economic, military, cultural, or otherwise), taken to be the aim of government.[citation needed]


The Italian phrase ragione degli stati was first used by Giovanni della Casa around the year 1547.[1]

The expression "reason of state" (Ragion di Stato) was championed by Italian diplomat and political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli, and was later popularised by Italian political thinker Giovanni Botero around 1580s,[1]. Prominently, Chief Minister Cardinal Richelieu justified France's intervention on the Protestant side, despite its own Catholicism, in the Thirty Years' War as being in the national interest in order to block the increasing power of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor.[citation needed] At Richelieu's prompting, Jean de Silhon defended the concept of raison d'État as "a mean between what conscience permits and affairs require."[2][3][4]


Within the field of international relations, national interest has frequently been assumed to comprise the pursuit of power, security and wealth.[5][6][7][8][9] Neorealist and liberal institutionalist scholars tend to define national interest as revolving around security and power.[10][11] Liberal scholars view national interests as an aggregation of the preferences of domestic political groups.[12] Constructivist scholars reject that the national interest of states are static and can be assumed a priori; rather, they argue that the preferences of states are shaped through social interactions and are changeable.[7][13][14]

In a February 2020 article for CSIS, Gordon de Brouwer argued: "The national interest has three components—security, prosperity, and social wellbeing—and they should all be part of framing the problem and solutions. All three matter. More than ever, they reinforce each other. Security underpins prosperity, prosperity creates power and pays for security, and a well-functioning society reduces economic and security risks."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Burns, J. H. (1991). Cambridge History of Political Thought 1450–1700. Cambridge University Press. p. 479. ISBN 0521247160.
  2. ^ Thuau, E. 1996. Raison d'État et Pensée Politique a l'époque de Richelieu. Paris: Armand Colin.
  3. ^ Church, W.F. 1973. Richelieu and Reason of State. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 168.
  4. ^ Franklin, J. 2001. The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 80–81.
  5. ^ Donnelly, Jack (2000). Realism and International Relations. Themes in International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511612510. ISBN 978-0-521-59229-1.
  6. ^ Krasner, Stephen D. (1978). Defending the National Interest: Raw Materials Investments and U.S. Foreign Policy. Princeton University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv15r5858. ISBN 978-0-691-02182-9. JSTOR j.ctv15r5858. S2CID 241358563.
  7. ^ a b Finnemore, Martha (1996). National Interests in International Society. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8323-3. JSTOR 10.7591/j.ctt1rv61rh.
  8. ^ Cook, Thomas I.; Moos, Malcolm (1952). "Foreign Policy: the Realism of Idealism". American Political Science Review. 46 (2): 343–356. doi:10.2307/1950833. ISSN 0003-0554. JSTOR 1950833. S2CID 10476584.
  9. ^ Brouwer, Gordon de (2020-02-12). "Bringing Security and Prosperity Together in the National Interest". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Baldwin, David Allen (1993). Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-08441-3.
  11. ^ Morgenthau, Hans J. (1952). In Defense of the National Interest. Knopf. ISBN 9780598862778.
  12. ^ Moravcsik, Andrew (1997). "Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics". International Organization. 51 (4): 513–553. doi:10.1162/002081897550447. ISSN 0020-8183. JSTOR 2703498. S2CID 7058364.
  13. ^ Finnemore, Martha (2003). The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs About the Use of Force. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-3845-5. JSTOR 10.7591/j.ctt24hg32.
  14. ^ Wendt, Alexander (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge Studies in International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511612183. hdl:1811/31969. ISBN 978-0-521-46557-1.
  15. ^ Brouwer, Gordon de (2020-02-12). "Bringing Security and Prosperity Together in the National Interest". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Beard, Charles A. 1934. The Idea of National Interest. Macmillan.
  • Burchill, Scott. 2005. The National Interest in International Relations Theory. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Frankel, Joseph. 1970. National Interest. London: Pall Mall.
  • Hu, Shaohua. 2016. "A Framework for analysis of national interest: United States policy toward Taiwan." Contemporary Security Policy 37(1):144–167.
  • Nuechterlein, Donald. 1976. "National interests and foreign policy: A conceptual framework for analysis and decision-making." British Journal of International Studies 2(3): 246–266.
  • Rosenau, James. 1968. "National Interest." pp. 34–40 in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 2(1), edited by D. L. Sills and R. K. Merton. New York: Macmillan/Free Press.
  • Troianiello, Antonino. 1999. Raison d’État et droit public, Thesis paper, Université du Havre, 748 pages.