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Warren F. Kuehl and

Gary B. Ostrower

Internationalism in American foreign policy has had different meanings for nearly every generation of citizens and diplomats. It has been associated with all forms of external contact with the world, the relationships becoming more extensive and political with the passage of time. As a foreign policy, it has usually been viewed as the antithesis of isolationism, and in that sense it has involved political commitments or "entanglements" through multinational treaties as well as membership in international organizations. In a broader context, it has also encompassed official and unofficial nonpolitical activitieseconomic, social, cultural, and scientificusually evidenced through affiliation with specialized international societies or agencies. Some internationalists have thought in terms of a universal community, a broad brotherhood of people with common concerns, needs, and aspirations that exists as a reality beyond the confines of nation-states. In recent times, internationalism has taken on a new meaning under a doctrine of responsibility, with the United States assuming the burden of "policeman of the world," both unilaterally and multilaterally.


Long before isolationism became an established policy in the nineteenth century, citizens of the American colonies recognized that they could not live apart from the rest of the world. They existed within an imperial system that involved them in numerous crises and four world wars (Queen Anne's War, King William's War, King George's War, and the French and Indian War), mostly related to trade and territories. Early Americans understood that international law applied to them as they redefined their relationships toward their neighbors and their mother country. William Penn reflected the cosmopolitan atmosphere when he drafted his Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe (1693), in which he called for a congress of states to promote stability. Evidence of a broad perspective also appeared in a colonial union, the New England Confederation of 1643, and in the suggestion for joint action embodied in the Albany Plan of 1754. Joseph Galloway's proposal for an Anglo-American council in 1774 also expressed a cosmopolitan outlook. Such experiences, as well as an awareness of the Iroquois League of the Five Nations, may explain why revolutionary leaders like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine spoke favorably of an international organization. Certainly, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1789 revealed a general awareness that sovereign states could combine to promote their interests.

Events during and after the Revolution related to the treaty of alliance with France, as well as difficulties arising over the neutrality policy pursued during the French revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars, encouraged another perspective. A desire for separateness and unilateral freedom of action merged with national pride and a sense of continental safety to foster the policy of isolation. Although the United States maintained diplomatic relations and economic contacts abroad, it sought to restrict these as narrowly as possible in order to retain its independence. The Department of State continually rejected proposals for joint cooperation, a policy made explicit in the Monroe Doctrine's emphasis on unilateral action. Not until 1863 did an American delegate attend an international conference. Even so, Secretary of State William H. Seward reflected prevailing views by refusing to sign an 1864 multilateral treaty related to the Red Cross. The United States did not subscribe to such a convention until 1882. Thereafter, cooperation on economic and social matters seemed acceptable, but political issues, especially those involving Europe, were generally avoided until the end of the century.


Although most citizens accepted the principle of isolationism, scattered voices throughout the nineteenth century called for a more cooperative stance toward the world. As early as the 1830s the American Peace Society, under the direction of William Ladd, sponsored essay contests concerning international organization, and in 1840 Ladd utilized many of the ideas in drafting his wellknown Essay on a Congress of Nations. His proposal for both a political body and a judicial agency gained considerable public notice through petition and educational campaigns during the ensuing years. After Ladd's death in 1841, Elihu Burritt, a reformer known as "The Learned Blacksmith," presented the congress of nations program to European pacifists with such regularity that they referred to it as the "American idea."

The Civil War in America (18611865) and conflicts in Europe (18541856, 18701871) undermined the peace movement, but a developing interest in the law of nations kept alive the concept of global cooperation during the last third of the century. Several societies emerged to promote the codification of international rules of behavior and to encourage the settlement of disputes through arbitration by a third party. These were not new ideas, but leading citizens in many nations around the turn of the twentieth century seized upon the arbitration concept to guarantee a warless world.

This activity contributed substantially to the evolution of thought concerning an international organization. As countries signed arbitration accords, menand a few womenbegan to think beyond such limited agreements. Agencies would be needed to implement the treaties; laws would have to be codified. As John Westlake, an English law professor, observed, "When we assert that there is such a thing as International Law, we assert that there is a society of States; when we recognize that there is a society of States, we recognize that there is International Law."

The arbitration settlement in 18711872 of the Alabama Claims, an Anglo-American dispute over damages caused by Confederate cruisers, led to the signing of many other arbitration agreements during the next four decades. Most were disputes involving monetary and boundary claims and questions arising under treaty clauses; this discouraged pacifists, who hoped to see accords calling for all controversies to be arbitrated. They rallied to promote their goal, gaining public endorsement in the 1890s. The Lake Mohonk (New York) Conference on International Arbitration, which began in 1895 and met annually through 1916, united American civic, business, religious, and educational leaders in a quest to institutionalize arbitration. Proponents recognized that the Senate would not subscribe to unlimited agreements, so they agreed that matters involving national honor and vital interests be exempted. Their support resulted in the Olney-Pauncefote Treaty with Great Britain in 1897, which called for the arbitration of monetary and territorial differences. As expected, the Senate exempted disputes affecting national interest and honor, and then insisted that the Senate have authority to exempt from arbitration any dispute submitted for settlement. Even these safeguards did not satisfy the extreme isolationists. After adding yet other reservations, the Senate refused to ratify the treaty.

These developments had a lasting impact upon American internationalist thought. First, arbitration accords encouraged the exploration of cooperative methods of resolving disputes and breached barriers that had kept statesmen from previously examining such subjects. Second, these experiences warned internationalists that they must be cautious about proposals for a union of nations. It was quite clear by the time that the United States fought Spain in 1898 that Washington would not assume obligations that would weaken its sovereignty or jeopardize interests deemed vital to its welfare. Finally, the advances in arbitration influenced discussions at the first genuine international assembly of nations, the Hague Conference of 1899.


U.S. delegates at The Hague supported a convention to create the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Because the Court was little more than a list of names of persons who could be called upon to hear issues, because the convention exempted matters of national honor or interest, and because the submission of disputes was optional for governments, isolationists in the Senate put up little serious resistance. The convention proved popular, especially after the American delegates added a proviso that ratification would not mean abandoning traditional policies of nonentanglement or policies like those found in the Monroe Doctrine.

The convention fertilized the young internationalist movement. By 1900 a number of persons had presented plans that would move the world beyond courts of arbitration. Most of these called for a world federation that vaguely reflected the American political experience. Benjamin F. True-blood, secretary of the American Peace Society, advanced the idea in The Federation of the World (1899), in articles, and in lectures. The interdependence of men and nations, he argued, would lead inevitably to "a complete political union of the world, a great international world state, built up somewhat on the pattern of our union of States, with supreme legislative, judicial and executive functions touching those interests which the nations have in common." Trueblood quickly cautioned that he envisioned no powerful agency. The union would operate primarily in a legislative and judicial capacity, without a formal executive, and it would possess no authority to compel its members to maintain peace. Between 1899 and 1914 a wide variety of proposals appeared, with a few internationalists devoting exceptional thought and time to the subject. Their suggestions unquestionably influenced the twentieth-century movement toward international organization, and their writings reflected a number of basic assumptions. First, they believed that an inexorable evolutionary process was at work. That process included the arbitration treaties, the willingness of governments to cooperate at The Hague in 1899, and the budding interest of governments in a court of justice. Secretary of State Elihu Root in 1907 enunciated this viewpoint when he declared that the importance of The Hague meeting of 1899 was that it made a follow-up meeting possible. Out of this he foresaw law, order, and peace. Said Root, "The world has entered upon an orderly process through which, step-by-step, in successive conferences, each taking the work of its predecessor as its point of departure, there may be continual progress toward making the practice of civilized nations conform to their peaceful professions."

Raymond Bridgman, a Boston journalist, echoed Root in a volume of essays, World Organization (1905). He saw continued meetings as the foundation stone for an international body. It could begin with a legislature modeled after the U.S. Congress, and then be followed by a court and an executive agency. New York attorney Hayne Davis also reflected this philosophy in articles published between 1903 and 1912. A "United Nations" would emerge, said Davis in what appears to have been the first use of that term. Just as the United States had been forced to develop a more perfect government after the Revolution and the Confederation period, so would the world be compelled to build a better system to keep the peace.

This evolutionary concept appeared in nearly all of the internationalist proposals. Each began by calling for further development of the arbitral network through a series of treaties that would bind nations together. Then states could explore other ways to promote their common needs. Events seemed to confirm such logic. Between 1903 and 1914 governments concluded more than 162 arbitration accords, and in 1907 the Second Hague Conference convened. The State Department kept step by negotiating a series of treaties in 1904 and 1905 that respected the Senate's concern for American rights, honor, and interests. Nevertheless, senators inserted into each agreement a clause giving the Senate the right to veto arbitration of a dispute. President Theodore Roosevelt reacted sharply. He considered the Senate action to be a violation of the constitutional authority of the chief executive and refused to exchange ratifications. In 1908, however, he relented, authorizing Root to negotiate other agreements that reflected the Senate's wishes.

In 1910, President William Howard Taft decided to go further and seek agreements to arbitrate all disputes. Two such treaties in 1911 inevitably ran afoul of the Senate, which nullified his efforts and restricted the process in such a way that Taft abandoned his quest. In short, even before Woodrow Wilson became president, internationalists understood that the Senate would likely object to any meaningful proposal for American participation in a world organization.

This may explain why Wilson's secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, took a less controversial course by signing conciliation accords with many governments. Unlike arbitration agreements, these did not bind the signatories to the decisions of a third party. Bryan also introduced the "cooling-off" principle, whereby political leaders promised they would not resort to force while a case was pending. This concept was widely adopted after 1914.

Internationalists soon moved beyond their advocacy for an arbitration system and presented an even more important proposal. The world, they argued, needed a genuine court of justice. They viewed arbitration as limited because it contained no fixed principles that could be universally applied. With established laws and impartial judges, nations could submit disputes to a reliable and fair tribunal. With the U.S. Supreme Court as their (usually) unstated example, internationalists believed that an international system incorporating universally accepted rules (laws) might prompt governments to allow the court to hear even cases involving honor and independence.

The United States officially supported the goal of a court of justice at the Second Hague Conference, but the delegates had been unable to agree on a method of selecting judges. International lawyers and advocates of the evolutionary hypothesis continued to work for some type of judicial agency. The American Society of International Law, established in 1906, and the American Society for Judicial Settlement of International Disputes along with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, both formed in 1910, concentrated on this objective. Resolutions of peace congresses and other internationalist organizations reflected a popular desire for a judicial tribunal. President Taft's secretary of state, former corporate lawyer Philander C. Knox, proposed in 1909 that a maritime prize court discussed at the Second Hague Conference be reconstituted as an international court of justice. The proposal went nowhere. The fears of nationalists continued to be more influential than the hopes of the internationalists.

Nevertheless, proposals concerning an international court of justice inevitably revived interest in the old scheme of a periodic congress. Evolutionists viewed it as a vital next step. Even more significantly, advocates of an international court saw it as an important development because, they argued, some agency had to establish the rules (the international law) that would guide the judges. The First Hague Conference had stimulated demands for additional meetings, and the congress theme became increasingly popular after 1900. Bridgman began a successful petition campaign to obtain the endorsement of the Massachusetts legislature, while the American Peace Society embarked upon an extensive propaganda campaign to reach religious and civic bodies. One writer breathlessly called the periodic congress idea "the demand of the hour."

Such agitation prompted action that had a direct bearing upon calls for the Second Hague Conference. In 1904, representatives of the Inter-parliamentary Union, an association of legislators from congresses within nations, met at St. Louis, where they resolved to support the convening of a second Hague Conference. Under the leadership of U.S. Representative Richard Bartholdt of Missouri, they persuaded President Roosevelt to join them in calling on foreign chancellories to support the plan. The 1907 conference was the fruit of their labors.

Bartholdt had launched this project along with peace advocate Hayne Davis, and the two men proposed that "a regular Congress of Nations be created, to meet at stated periods, to discuss international questions and make recommendations to the governments." By April 1906 the nearly two hundred congressmen who had joined the Interparliamentary Union agreed to endorse Bartholdt and Davis's aims. The periodic congress proposal gained acceptance at The Hague in 1907 in the form of a resolution calling for further meetings. Internationalists hoped that a third session might convene in 1914 or 1915. The out-break of war, however, frustrated their aims.

As the periodic congress idea gained in popularity, some planners began to focus on specifics, exploring, for instance, how an evolving organization would operate and the powers that it must have. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these planners thought in terms of a federation modeled after that of the United States, with legislative, judicial, and executive agencies. Such a structure would allow nations to divide their sovereignty. They would allocate certain responsibilities to the central body while retaining control over those affairs most important to themselves, an arrangement that many internationalists hoped, or perhaps assumed, would mollify nationalistic members of the Senate. Hamilton Holt, managing editor of The Independent magazine, popularized this theme, with help from other prominent internationalists like Andrew Carnegie. The steel magnate repeatedly called for a "league of peace," a proposal that may well have inspired Theodore Roosevelt to float his own version of a league of peace in 1910.

The most ambitious undertaking in the years from 1910 to 1912 was what Holt and his coactivist, Oscar Crosby, called a World-Federation League. Its intricacy may have owed much to Crosby's background as an inventor and engineer. He and Holt had been energized by Roosevelt's brand of skeptical idealism. They called for the creation of a U.S. commission authorized to draft for Congress "articles of Federation" for the "maintenance of peace, through the establishment of a court that could decide any dispute between nations." This was revolutionary enough, but what especially distinguished their proposal was that the court would have the ability to enforce its judgments by calling for the use of military force by members of the federation. The Holt-Crosby emphasis on legal procedures backed up by military force would become more commonand more controversialduring the next decade.

Although Congress failed to address their proposal, in 1910 it did unanimously pass a resolution sponsored by Representative William S. Bennet of New York. Perhaps the fact that the resolution passed unanimously signifies that it had little real importance, for it actually committed the United States to nothing that nationalists viewed as threatening the concept of sovereignty. What the resolution did do, however, was to call for a commission to explore the possibility of both arms reduction and the creation of an international naval force (composed of existing navies) that could police the oceans. In a sense, this may have been less radical than it appears. Former President Theodore Roosevelt had recently incorporated the policing idea into what historians call the Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine as well as his league of peace proposal. Although his motives were no less nationalist than internationalist, he more or less legitimized the concept sufficiently to elicit congressional approval of Bennet's 1910 resolution.

President Taft, however, never acted. Despite pressure from pacifists and federationists, Taftwho would later contribute a great deal to the movement for a league of nationskept his own counsel. Yet it is worth noting that Taft, whom historians generally view as much more conservative than either his predecessor or his successor, reflected the progressive emphasis on settling international disputes peacefully. Taft was the most legalistic president of the twentieth century, even more so than Woodrow Wilson. His commitment to the so-called conciliation treaties, along with his dedication to international law, provided additional foundation work for the flowering of internationalism later in the century.


A few internationalists of the pre-1914 period went beyond federal principles to advocate a world government. Sixty years later, this kind of thinking would fuel a backlash against internationalism. Not so before World War I, when the idea was too novel to inspire great fear. Journalist Raymond Bridgman called for an internationalist agency that would coin money, regulate trade, control patents and copyrights, and (again reflecting a powerful current in turn-of-the-century progressivism) even supervise global monopolies. He and his followers also favored the establishment of an international executive with considerable authority, including the authority to use force to maintain peace. Roosevelt incorporated this latter idea in his Nobel Peace Prize address; Holt occasionally flirted with the idea; and Bartholdt's suggestions to the Interparliamentary Union in 1905, no less than the Bennet resolution of 1910, embodied this principle. Andrew Carnegie, too, endorsed the need for an international police force, as did Lucia Ames Mead, a prominent Boston reformer and peace advocate. Publisher Edwin Ginn favored an army to maintain order, and Cyrus Street, an eccentric realtor from San Francisco, presented some extreme views along this vein. He published a small journal, called The United Nations, in which he noted the need for a government "with power to make, judge, and execute laws; and to provide for the final disposal of all their armies and navies." He meant by this that a United Nations would have the sole authority "to enforce peace and prevent war from ever occurring again" (italics in original). After 1919, of course, this would hardly seem so eccentric.

Representative James L. Slayden of Texas added another feature when he introduced House Joint Resolution 72 in April 1913. It called for all Western Hemisphere nations to unite in "the mutual guaranty of their sovereignty and territorial integrity." Although the resolution never got out of committee, it again points to the degree to which traditional isolationismor, more accurately, the unilateralism expressed by such things as the Roosevelt Corollarywas subject to challenge.

In truth, such suggestions represented a minority opinion among those who favored the creation of an international organization prior to 1914. The plans for periodic congresses (inspired by the Congress System that emerged from the Vienna Conference of 1815), for a federal approach to order that clearly limited a single organization's powers, and for a court of justice appealed to many more Americans. Even the court idea, however, was complicated by competing legal visions. American delegates had proposed the formation of a court of justice at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. The court concept, however, stood in conflict with the arbitration ideal that emerged from both the First and Second Hague Conferences. The formation of a Permanent Court of Arbitration appealed powerfully to some internationalists, but it contradicted the hopes of those, like legal scholar James Brown Scott, who hoped to see a court more committed to "adjudication" and less to arbitration. The differences between these concepts was not always clear, even among internationalists, but the former was usually viewed as more useful in legal disputes among nations, while the latter would presumably handle more "political" matters that involved the necessity for compromise.

While such debates monopolized the attention of lawyers, other internationalists gravitated toward more modest proposals. Historian George L. Beer advocated an English-speaking union, while Ellery C. Stowell, who taught law at Columbia University, believed that a general alignment of states along geographical lines would provide the basis of order. Stowell was among the first to use the term "internationalism," a concept that he viewed as binding America and its allies along both political and economic lines.

Cultural and racial considerations, too, came into play. The new Rhodes Scholarship program appealed to Americansmany of them imperialists like Theodore Rooseveltwho believed that the United States indeed should share the white man's burden. Internationalism and imperialism would part company in the United States after World War I, but there was yet no consensus about this in the prewar period, as the turn-of-the-century debate over the U.S. role in the Philippines had shown.

One thing, however, was becoming increasingly clear. The development of turbine-engine ocean liners and the telegraph had already compressed both time and space in ways that would profoundly influence the growth of internationalist thought. Since the end of the Civil War, Americans had participated in a growing number of meetings on an ever-widening variety of topics. "Functionalism," modern writers call this theme, as if to emphasize that cooperation regarding such functions has powered the growth of internationalism generally. Subjects as varied as communications, health and sanitation, weights and measures, patents, copyrights, currency, and agriculture provided the basis for international conferences. And not just conferences. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries became an age of organizations such as the General Postal Union, founded in 1875, followed by a telegraphic union, a health organization, and many others. These bodies redefined the very context in which isolationism could survive and internationalism would thrive. Not only public officials, but private citizens, served as delegates to these organizations and attended these conferences. Such contacts engendered a growing awareness of global interdependence as the United States developed industrially and thrust outward economically and territorially.

The result was the development among some internationalists of a genuine sense of global community, promoting what is commonly called cultural internationalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Unlike the more typical internationalists who took the Darwinian system of sovereign states for granted and sought to tame interstate competition through legal restrictions and, occasionally, military cooperation to enforce the peace, the cultural internationalists approached their task in a very different frame of mind. They saw the process of unity advancing not through a political process involving institutions and agencies created by the nation-state, but through the relationships of people more or less transcending the state. They were precursors of those who, a century later, would describe the world as a global village, and they viewed international society as much more organic than the political and legal internationalists who emphasized individual rights rather than the rights of societies (whether national or international). If the political and legal internationalists tended to approach their task via the rule of law and military enforcement, the cultural internationalists more often appealed to common interests and a sense of common humanity.


The First World War began in Europe in 1914, engulfing the United States nearly three years later. This was the war that Americans of a progressive generation had sought to avoid, isolationists by ignoring Europe, internationalists by erecting the machinery that might prevent a small dispute from becoming a larger conflict. At first, internationalists despaired. In 1915, however, the military carnage in Europe energized Americans who argued not that international cooperation was impossible, but that it had not been sufficiently tried. In short, they resolved to work harder, to construct peacekeeping machinery that might work much more effectively than the failed pre-1914 arbitration and conciliation treaties.

Although arbitration and conciliation had been discredited, few internationalists gave up on the quintessentially American faith in law. Led by former president Taft, many Americans joined what soon became the most important internationalist organization of the wartime years, the League to Enforce Peace. Such a league, argued its founders, would incorporate a judicial court to provide the basis for international stability. Formed in the spring of 1915, it aimed to prevent war, not to win a war once war broke out or to use force as a threat to prevent states from violating the peace in the first place. This point is important, because the League to Enforce Peace really had little inclination to enforce anything. Its program reflected the prewar faith in procedural machinery that could be used to resolve differences before they erupted in war. It would compel nations to submit their disputes to various agencies in order to guarantee that peaceful disputes did not turn violent. Sanctions, both economic and military, theoretically existed to compel a state (or states, as long as they were members of the organization) to resolve differences peacefully. Presumably, sanctions would be applied whenever a party to a dispute refused to follow prescribed procedures. But theory and practice were never reconciled, for the League to Enforce Peace recommended no use of force in the event that states rejected its recommendations or decisions. As one of its leaders, Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell, put it, no international organization could be effective once war erupted; it had to succeed in preventing war, not ending war.

Other internationalists agreed. Few would endorse the potential use of force by any international organization. The World's Court League, second only to the League to Enforce Peace as an internationalist organization with substantial national influence, called for a judicially centered body with no power to compel the submission of controversies or to uphold decisions. No power meant no effectiveness, but the noise of war ironically shrouded this reality in the context of World War I. The emphasis on judicial authority without enforcement provisions spoke to the aspirations of most Americans, who believed that it really made no sense to fight a war to prevent a war. Pacifists, of course, applauded such an approach. So did many lawyers who either neglected the need for enforcement to compel people (or states) to obey the law, or who were so enamored of the logic and sanctity of law that they ignored the fundamentally anarchic nature of the international system.


Despite the limitations of these plans, both organizationsthe League to Enforce Peace and the World's Court Leaguecampaigned vigorously to promote not only their projects but the more general idea of a league. Even the critics of international organization did not doubt that a vast majority of citizens found the league idea attractive by 1919. President Wilson incorporated it into the famous Fourteen Points address, his most important speech regarding war aims. At the Paris Peace Conference, he then insisted that the final peace treaty contain the League of Nations proposal. Nevertheless, Wilson had done little to clarify his thinking about a league during the war. He consciously and consistently rejected suggestions to spell out a peace plan before the summer of 1918. Only after the British presented their own plan and the fortunes of war turned decisively in favor of the Allies did the American president encourage more detailed thinking about the subject.

In part because he believed the British plan, authored mainly by Lord Phillimore, to be toothless, he increasingly emphasized the importance of both economic and military sanctions to compel states to maintain the peace. This approach not only differed from that of the British but substantially deviated from that of the League to Enforce Peace. Wilson not only became increasingly sympathetic to sanctions, but veered away from the League to Enforce Peace plan in a number of other ways. These included his insistence on a guarantee of territorial integrity, his emphasis on disarmament, and his stress on the binding and compulsory nature of arbitration. Oddly, the president, who had written some serious history, ignored the main lines of prewar American internationalist thought. By calling for an organization with considerable authority that emphasized elements of power politics rather than legal principles, he virtually guaranteed that his plan would encounter stiff opposition at home.

Americans bided their time while Wilson in Paris, together with a handful of colleagues from the larger states, hammered out the League of Nations Covenant behind closed doors. French skepticism about a league and British fear of too strong a league gave way before Wilson's influence. Moreover, the president's willingness to compromise on territorial, imperial, and financial issues was contingent on European willingness to approve his version of the Covenant. At the heart of that Covenant were four articles that, Wilson had come to believe, would make war a thing of the past. Article 10 guaranteed the territorial and political independence of every member state. Article 11 mandated that any threat to the peace was of concern to every member of the organization and authorized the league to take "any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations." Article 15 established procedures to settle matters that could not be arbitrated or settled in court, and Article 16 provided the machinery for economic and military sanctions. For a nation schooled in isolationism and quite unprepared for the kind of commitments that Wilson had championed in Paris, the change in course was quite radical. Wilson gambled that the fear of another world war would persuade Americans to embrace his proposals. Nonetheless, by failing to prepare the public for such a radical change, and by ignoring the crassly political crosscurrents that the treaty fight unleashed, the president found himself on the defensive during the remainder of his term.

The story of the treaty fight of 19191920 has been recounted many times. Conventional interpretations emphasize the clash between isolationism and internationalism, and between the Democratic president and his chief Republican opponent, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Henry Cabot Lodge. Isolationism, of course, was an extension of nationalism, and the next two years would witness a real clash between internationalism and nationalism. Even former president Theodore Roosevelt would repudiate his internationalist leanings by damning the league as pro-German. "We are not internationalists," he said as he denounced the league, "we are American nationalists." His own hatred of Wilson was reflected in his indictment of the league. Substituting internationalism for nationalism meant, he argued, the rejection of patriotism. "The professional pacifist and the professional internationalist are equally undesirable citizens," said the still-popular ex-president.

This kind of demagoguery took its toll. Even though historians agree that most Americans favored a league of some kind, the public grew increasingly wary of a league that contained the kind of advance commitments regarding force embodied in Articles 10 and 16. To many Americans, fighting a war to prevent a war just did not make much sense, as the prewar internationalists in the World's Court League had claimed. Perhaps Wilson really believed that the threat of using force against an aggressor state that violated the League of Nations Covenant would suffice to guarantee the peace. The American public was less sure. The result was that the Senate debated not membership itself, but the kind of league the United States might join. The slim Republican majority in the Senate, and even some Democrats, sought to whittle away the obligations of membership. Wilson remained uncompromising. The president's supporters, therefore, failed to mobilize the two-thirds Senate majority needed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Sadly for Wilson, the first twenty-six articles of that treaty constituted the League Covenant.


The refusal of the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, followed by the victory in the 1920 presidential election of Warren G. Harding, who had rejected the league, claiming to favor a mythical "association of nations," meant that the United States never joined the League of Nations. Neither would the Senate ratify a treaty to join the country to the Permanent Court of International Justice, organized in 1921 as an affiliated agency of the league. Did this in fact represent a repudiation of internationalism? Scholars are not of one mind. Almost surely the voting public in 1920 would have approved a somewhat scaled-down League of Nations that lacked the automatic territorial guarantee embodied in Article 10. And although the Harding administration refused even to answer mail from the League Secretariat in Geneva, there are few indicators that the public approved the administration's rigid rejection of international cooperation. Indeed, by 1923 the State Department had begun to soften its anti-league policy by accepting invitations to league-sponsored meetings and sending unofficial observers ("something between a guest and a spy," quipped one league proponent) to Geneva on a regular basis.

Another piece of evidence that many Americans remained sympathetic to internationalism was the Harding administration's disarmament and foreign policy. State Department support for hosting the Washington Naval Conferenceheld from November 1921 to February 1922stemmed at least in part from the fear that, with the League of Nations a going concern, America might find itself more isolated than was desirable. Certainly many isolationists favored the naval limitation treaty that emerged from the conference, but the treaty garnered overwhelming support among internationalists, both of the idealist variety and those who would later be called realists, like Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and future Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson. The other agreements signed at Washington also spoke to the belief among internationalists that U.S. strategic and economic interests made isolationism obsolete. The Four-Power Pact guaranteeing the status quo in the western Pacific may not have contained enforcement provisions, but it did obligate the signatories to consult in the event of a threat to the peace. Internationalists likewise supported the Nine-Power Pact guaranteeing the "open door" and the status quo in China.

In short, the Harding administration forged a web of relationships that did not support overt intervention abroad but did contradict the fundamental basis of isolationism. These relationships were further supported by an economic policy that increasingly reflected the corporate side of American life. The postCivil War Industrial Revolution tied American prosperity to a healthy global economy. The policymakers who promoted U.S. loans to China and Latin America were internationalists, not isolationists, as were their banker and industrialist friends. They may have differed among themselves over such issues as imperialism and even military intervention, but few still doubted that America needed to be involved in the global economy of the twentieth century. Some of these policymakers were themselves financiers and industrialists, like oil magnate Charles G. Dawes, who served as vice president during the Coolidge Administration (19251929), and banker Norman Davis, who served both Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt in various foreign policy posts. Their prominence gave substance to the belief that international cooperation had become an article of faith in postWorld War I Washington.

No wonder, therefore, that even President Harding favored U.S. membership on the World Court, officially the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Advisory Committee of Jurists who met at The Hague in 1920 and drafted the court's statute included the influential Elihu Root, a Republican Wall Street lawyer who had served Theodore Roosevelt as secretary first in the War Department and then in the State Department. Root typified many of the Republican internationalists during the 1920s. He had misgivings about President Wilson's brand of enforcement internationalism, preferring the prewar legal approach that emphasized the importance of judicial processes and the codification of international law. His prestige, along with that of future World Court judges like Charles Evans Hughes and the legal scholar John Bassett Moore, helped to legitimize the court for most Americans. The unimaginative Calvin Coolidge, who succeeded Harding in the White House and has often (and too simplistically) been described as an isolationist, also called for membership on the court. So did every subsequent president and secretary of state during the interwar period. Enough isolationist opponents of the court remained in and out of Congress, however, to prevent ratification of court membership until after World War II. When the most important Senate vote on membership occurred in 1935, these isolationists capitalized on the insecurities generated by the Great Depression and the fear of an aggressive Germany and Japan to block ratification by a two-thirds vote. Americans favored international cooperation, but not to the extent of risking war. This may not have been full-blown internationalism, but neither was it isolationism.

It is important to remember that support for World Court membership during the interwar period did not always translate into support for league membership. Nevertheless, many internationalists continued their Wilsonian campaign into the early 1930s, believing (perhaps correctly) that the new organization could not succeed without U.S. participation. As with so much else regarding foreign policy between the wars, the results were mixed.

Pro-league spokesmen lobbied with some success for support in the political platforms of the two major parties, and they publicized the league's work in order to generate renewed interest. Hamilton Holt, former Supreme Court justice John H. Clarke, and Theodore Roosevelt's former attorney general, George W. Wickersham, founded in 1922 the most focused supportive organization, the League of Nations Non-Partisan Association, later renamed the League of Nations Association. Women's and religious organizations, such as Jane Addams's Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, strongly endorsed the league, while pacifist groups and legal bodies supported World Court membership. The World Peace Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the American Society of International Law led the pro-Court parade.

Internationalist educational activity complemented these efforts. The establishment of organizations like the Foreign Policy Association, with its many local chapters, publicized international affairs generally and cooperative international activity in and out of Geneva specifically. The Carnegie Endowment helped to sponsor international clubs in high schools, while a number of colleges and universities instituted major programs in international relations. A few, like Harvard, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins, founded graduate institutes to produce specialists who might find their way into the State Department or into teaching positions at other institutions.

Other organizations, too, warrant mention, including some that encouraged cultural internationalism. Of special importance was the establishment in 1919 of the Institute of International Education. The IIE promoted educational exchanges abroad for both students and teachers and, after World War II, administered the Ful-bright scholarship program. It shared an assumption common among interwar internationalists: that familiarity with foreign cultures would promote understanding and therefore peace.

A few internationalist enthusiasts, such as the journalist Clarence Streit, who founded one of the more popular internationalist organizations, Federal Union, favored a plan to organize the world's democracies into a world federation to ensure peace. Streit's movement eventually included more than a quarter of a million Americans in local chapters and represented the most popular prointernationalist response before Pearl Harbor. Other internationalist organizations, like the Council on Foreign Relations, which first appeared in 1921, headed in a more traditional, or "realist," direction. Founded by former cabinet members Elihu Root and Henry L. Stimson, the council capped its membership at about 550 prestigious individuals from government, business, journalism, and university life who met with domestic and foreign officials, hosted seminars on wide-ranging issues concerning foreign policy, and published the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs. The council's influence was much greater than its actual membership would suggest. The degree to which it closed its doors to the general public led many isolationists, both then and later, to see it as the center of an internationalist conspiracy to involve the United States in foreign entanglements or wars. Unlike Streit's organization, it remained committed to a very traditional model of state sovereignty, albeit one that rejected the assumptions undergirding American isolationism.

When by 1923 it was clear that the United States would not join the League of Nations, internationalists turned their attention to increasing American cooperation with the league and its agencies short of membership. But they also sought to influence American attitudes toward the outside world by creating a sense of collective "responsibility"the word would soon achieve almost religious meaningto support Covenant principles that advanced peace.

The first program succeeded reasonably well. By the mid-1920s the United States regularly participated in league commissions dealing with nonpolitical matters, notably health, social, and economic problems. It also cooperated in the disarmament area, though without much success. International cooperation, of course, was not pursued exclusively through the league or league-related agencies. Some Americans continued to work for pre-league internationalist objectives such as arbitration of interstate disputes and legal, not political, means to resolve problems. The arbitration ideal, discredited by World War I, bounced back among Americans with short memories and received additional support by the league itself with the establishment in 1927 of the Arbitration and Security Commission. Partly through the commission's efforts, Washington would eventually negotiate twenty-seven arbitration treaties between 1928 and 1931, though these treaties, as earlier, usually excepted consideration of such important interests as the Monroe Doctrine.

Efforts to further strengthen international law as a bulwark against disorder led the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1923 to establish and fund the Academy of International Law at The Hague. The Carnegie Endowment also funded efforts to continue the codification of international law, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. James Brown Scott, who founded and led the American Society of International Law, spearheaded this work. To the disappointment of Scott and his colleagues, little of it captured the public imagination as it had before World War I. At best, the limited agreements that resulted from these efforts allowed the United States to balance its economic interests and its legal ideals.

Those economic interests carried the U.S. government in both directions during the interwar period, sometimes at the same time. Internationalists applauded the involvement of Washington in forging the loan programs embodied in the Dawes Plan (1924) and Young Plan (1929) to stabilize the European economy. They were silenced, however, by the economic nationalism expressed in 1930 when President Herbert Hoover signed the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Act. Nor did the Democrats who joined the Roosevelt administration offer consistent support to the economic internationalists. When Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of state, Cordell Hull, an orthodox Wilsonian, attended the London Economic Conference of 1933 to forge a global solution to the economic crisis, the president undermined his efforts by siding with economic nationalists who opposed Hull. Yet the following year, Roosevelt gave his blessing to Hull's internationalist program for reciprocal tariff agreements to lower rates.


It was shortly before Franklin Roosevelt became president that Japan set in motion a series of challenges to the existing international order that eventually led to American involvement in World War II. These were the kind of affronts to the postWorld War I treaties that the League of Nations had been created to prevent. For good or ill, American officials had shunned league consideration of such political controversies until the Manchurian crisis of 19311932. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, a staunch internationalist who believed powerfully in the sanctity of treaties, sent a delegate to the league council debates in October 1931 to consider Japan's violation of the Nine-Power Pact of 1922. Stimson's anger at Tokyo almost triggered a fundamental shift in Republican Party policy toward Geneva. The secretary, a proponent of what would soon be called collective security, gave serious consideration to embargoing American trade to Japan should the league invoke the sanctions authorized by the Covenant's Article 16. President Herbert Hoover demurred, however. He feared that economic sanctions would inevitably lead to military sanctions, which in his mind meant war. As a result, Stimson's initiatives, while heartening the battered internationalist movement at home, ultimately led nowhere.

Nor was the next president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, able to repair things. He had been a strong supporter of league membership when he ran for vice president in 1920. In 1932, however, he reversed his position, fearing that he might alienate isolationist progressives from the Midwest and West whose support he needed for the presidential nomination. Domestic political considerations overrode his internationalist instincts.

Nevertheless, by the time he became president in 1933, cooperation with Geneva concerning nonpolitical subjects had become so routine as to be hardly newsworthy. Internationalists had established extensive ties at Geneva. American citizens held league administrative posts and promoted both official and unofficial contact between Washington and Geneva. Arthur Sweetser, a Boston journalist who served in the league's Information Section, became the focus of such contacts. He worked closely with the Harvard law professor Manley Hudson, who established a study and research center at Geneva. Hudson even sought gifts from Americans to underwrite league programs, and those he obtained included a Rockefeller Foundation grant of $2 million to establish a library at the league's headquarters.

Until the late 1930s, however, little of this kind of activity made much difference. Even Roosevelt, privately sympathetic to international cooperation, remained publicly wary of pro-league enthusiasts who advocated outright membership or even just political cooperation with Geneva. Nevertheless, amid the indifference or even hostility of many depression-scarred Americans concerning international cooperation, a few well-known internationalists kept the faith. The historian James T. Shotwell became the leading advocate of the idea that the United States must reject doing business as usual with governments that broke treaties or defied the League Covenant. If this could not be done through league membership, then states should morally condemn violations of international law through such treaties as the Kellogg-Briand Pact (Pact of Paris) of 1928, which renounced war as an instrument of policy. Similar was internationalist support for Secretary Stimson's 1932 nonrecognition doctrine, enunciated to deprive Japan of legal sanction for its occupation of Manchuria. Internationalists also applauded Roosevelt's support for the Neutrality Act of 1935 because it permitted the United States to establish economic sanctions parallel to potential league sanctions against an aggressor by prohibiting American trade in war-related materials. But like so much other activity during the Great Depression, these measures were not unambiguously internationalist. Isolationists, too, generally supported themindeed, it was Senator Gerald Nye, an isolationist, who initially proposed neutrality legislationbecause neutrality posed so little risk to the United States. The result was a foreign policy that veered erratically between internationalism and isolationism, leading critics to claim, with some justification, that the Roosevelt administration had no foreign policy at all.


This ambiguity dissipated after the European phase of World War II began in September 1939, ushering in what eventually became the most internationalist phase of American foreign policy. Between 1939 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, the country was sharply divided between internationalist advocates of aid to America's European allies and isolationists who feared such aid would lead to an unwanted and unnecessary American involvement in the war. The internationalists were themselves divided between outright interventionists and those who, led by William Allen White and his Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, argued that sending military equipment and loans would make American participation in the war against Adolf Hitler unnecessary. All these internationalists called for the repeal or modification of neutrality legislation and other laws that hindered the free flow of materials to governments fighting the Axis Powers. By late 1941, Washington had lifted most restrictions against sending aid to Great Britain. Rejecting the charge of inconsistency, these same internationalists applauded the imposition of economic sanctions against Japan regarding oil and scrap iron.

The European war in 1939 and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 seemed to confirm what internationalists had been saying for years about the need for an effective collective security organization. They also reinforced the argument in favor of American membership. Isolation, charged the internationalists, had not only failed but made world wars more rather than less likely. Even months before Pearl Harbor, 87 percent of Americans claimed they favored some kind of postwar organization. To most Americans, Hitler had made internationalism not only respectable but necessary.

The president of the League of Nations Association, James T. Shotwell, and his executive director, Clark M. Eichelberger, founded the somewhat pompously named Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, which cooperated with the State Department in formulating U.S. proposals for what eventually became the United Nations. (The League of Nations Association changed its name to the American Association for the United Nations in 1943.) Next in importance to the commission was the Federal Council of Churches to Study the Basis of a Just and Durable Peace, led by collective-security advocate and future secretary of state John Foster Dulles. Altogether, thirty-six private internationalist organizations joined this effort to create the UN, threatening to make the task chaotic.

The task of coordinating the planning for the UN fell mainly on an obscure State Department economist, Leo Pasvolsky, who headed the department's Division of Special Research (which had, at various times, other bland titles). No one worked more tirelessly or anonymously than he. At a time when American planning for the UN was hampered by rivalries between State Department officers, between Republicans and Democrats, and between congressional leaders and State Department officials, Pasvolsky managed to keep the project afloat. And because American officials had done much more planning than their counterparts in other countries, the final charter would reflect American thinking to a great extent.

The UN Charter was drafted primarily at three conferences: Dumbarton Oaks (AugustOctober 1944), Yalta (February 1945), and the special UN conference at San Francisco (April to June 1945). Although the president had raised the issue of a postwar organization with the USSR's Joseph Stalin and Britain's Winston Churchill at various wartime conferences, the detailsincluding the critical questions relating to membership and great power authoritywere postponed until the latter stages of the war. A small group of officials, not the internationalist movement generally, resolved these matters, agreeing with Stalin's insistence that each of the great powers possess a permanent veto in the UN's Security Council. They also agreed that the Security Council, and not the larger General Assembly, would control the UN's enforcement machinery.

This time the president and his advisers, in contrast to President Wilson, did their political homework. They employed a broad spectrum of American internationalists to prepare the way for ratification of the UN Charter. Preceding the vote the administration launched the most ambitious campaign to support a foreign policy objective of the entire twentieth century. It included parades, parties, lectures, and radio and school programs. UN supporters turned isolationism into a dirty word. Everyone, it seemed, had become an internationalist, which masked the real differences within the movement. Even many Republicans who had opposed League of Nations membership a quarter of a century earlier now promoted UN membership. Less than a month after the San Francisco Conference, the Senate ratified the UN Charter by 89 to 2.

The charter reflected much of the structure and many of the operational features of the League Covenant, including a basic reliance upon power politics and a response to crises only after a breach of the peace. Like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt believed that an alliance of nations, functioning through an organization, could best maintain stability (though Wilson thought more in terms of universality, Roosevelt more in terms of great power cooperation). The United Nations Charter called for states to sacrifice very little sovereignty. Even former American isolationists could call themselves internationalists, knowing that American interests were protected by the permanent veto.


Nevertheless, the nation had indeed shifted decisively toward a more internationalist position. Washington quickly and quietly joined UN-related agencies like the new International Court of Justice (which replaced the older Permanent Court of International Justice) and the International Labor Organization. (The United States had actually joined that organization in 1935, but only because ILO proponents emphasized its separation from the League of Nations itself.) Membership in both came with some of the usual nationalist protections, such as the Connally Amendment preventing the International Court from hearing cases that Congress considered within the "domestic jurisdiction" of the United States.

Not all Americans accepted the United Nations unquestioningly. A vocal isolationist remnant, led by Senator Robert Taft, challenged the new internationalist faith and its emphasis on sanctions and entanglement. A small but visible group of internationalists, too, raised concerns about the UN. They complained not that the UN had too much power, but that it had too little. Where isolationists and nationalists feared that the new organization would compromise American sovereignty, the internationalist critics mainly argued that the UN left its members with too much sovereignty. Many called for a world federation, more or less inspired by Clarence Streit's Union Now (1939). UN proponents may have stolen much of Streit's thunder, but his movement continued to promote the federation ideal, which emphasized the primacy of people rather than states. This became evident in 1958, when Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn published the most famous treatise on the subject of federalism, World Peace Through World Law. They proposed that the UN General Assembly become the foundation of the new system, with delegates elected by subject populations and not selected by sovereign governments. Law, not national interest, would be the driving force behind the federation, therefore ensuring the likelihood of permanent peace.

Considered utopian by most academic writers, this brand of internationalism never achieved real popularity. A diverse coalition of groups called Americans United for World Organization sought to mobilize support for this kind of federalism even before the end of the war, but internal disputes eventually rendered it impotent. In 1947 it merged with a few other federalist groups to form its better-known successor, United World Federalists. This organization, too, failed to dent the pro-UN consensus. In part, its timing was wrong. Federalism necessitated international cooperation, exactly the opposite of what occurred after 1947 as the Cold War became the dominant international reality. Ideological differences and military alliances rendered the federalists irrelevant.


Ironically, the American love affair with the UN would mask some real changes to the organization. Not only did the Cold War make the federalists irrelevant, it stripped the Security Council of authority at the very moment that it most needed support. With the Soviet Union increasingly using its permanent veto to block enforcement action by the UN's American-led majority, the UN could not live up to its promise. Only in Korea during 1950, and then solely because a Soviet boycott of the Security Council left the USSR unable to exercise its veto, did the UN come close to addressing its original purpose. As a rule, the veto shifted the UN to the periphery of world politics. Americans increasingly came to associate collective security not with the UN but with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949. But NATO was much closer to being a traditional military alliance than a universal collective security organization. As long as the UN would be hampered by the Soviet vetowhich meant that so long as the UN would not serve as a convenient instrument of American foreign policyCold War internationalists like Dean Acheson, secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, would hold it in disdain.

The Great Depression, World War II, nuclear weapons, and the Cold War had discredited isolationism. But internationalists may have celebrated their victory too casually. If nearly everyone had become an internationalist, then the term was in danger of losing its meaning, which is exactly what happened during the next forty years. Indeed, many outspoken nationalists proclaimed themselves internationalists, promoting the projection of U.S. power throughout the world through the new system of alliances. Yes, they admitted, the world had shrunk. Economic interdependence and advances in communications and weaponryincluding intercontinental bombers and missilesmade cooperation expedient. But it was anticommunism, not technology, that served as the glue holding their foreign policy worldview together, and anticommunism, as the McCarthy era proved, was often associated with xenophobia and unilateralism.


What did all this mean? Confusion, at least. Scholarly terms reflected the confusion: internationalism, interventionism, globalism, multilateralism, transnationalism, hegemonism. But some things are clear, including that for many members of the postWorld War II generation of internationalists, U.S. involvement abroad, utilizing UN agencies or other institutions, lacked a commitment to equality that the preWorld War II internationalists had promoted. Prewar internationalists generally viewed internationalism as a way to create a warless world and a more just international society. PostWorld War II internationalists proved more willing to ignore both. Justice played second fiddle to the national interest. Especially after 1970, as Third World countries became the UN majority, Washington rejected what it viewed as radical proposals to share the resources of the industrialized North with the developing and needy South. From 1972, when the State Department rejected Third World demands for a new international economic order, to 2000, when the Clinton administration ignored proposals to forgive the debts of sub-Saharan African nations, issues of economic justice have been greeted unsympathetically by official Washington.

Americans after World War II also proved more willing to entertainand occasionally even promotethe use of military force, as they did in Korea and Vietnam, but also in less risky areas such as the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf (1991), and the former Yugoslavia (1999). Motives varied, ranging from anticommunism to regional hegemony to humanitarianism. So did the degree of international cooperation. In Korea, Cold War internationalists fought under a UN flag; during the Gulf War, under less formal UN authorization; in Yugoslavia, under NATO command. But in Latin America there was barely a pretense of cooperation. In fact, the Organization of American States formally condemned the U.S. intervention in Grenada.

The inconsistency concerning collective military activity also characterized the record of the United States in areas even more traditionally viewed as internationalist, such as support for international law and arms negotiations. Ever since the Hague Conferences, internationalist lawyers had promoted the creation of an international court to reduce the anarchy inherent in a system of sovereign states. They believed that the codification of international law would promote stability and peace, and that an international court would serve as a capstone of the legal system. Their dreams were partially fulfilled when, after both world wars, the victorious nations established international courts. But the court ideal never attained its promise, partly because of American policy. During the interwar period, Congress refused to ratify the statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Nearly forty years after World War II, American support for its successor, the International Court of Justice, would be dramatically reversed when the Reagan administration in 1984 rejected the court's authority in a celebrated case brought against the United States by Nicaragua. To accentuate the retreat from internationalism, Washington then formally repudiated the court's compulsory jurisdiction in all cases involving U.S. interests unless specifically mandated by treaty. Nevertheless, inconsistency triumphed here, too, as the United States joined with other countries at the end of the century to create the International Criminal Court with authority to try defendants charged with genocide and other violations of the law of war.

Arms negotiations offered another version of the same story. The development of atomic weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union during and after World War II dramatized the need for arms reduction and limitation. Internationalists helped to negotiate and ratify a number of agreements, most notably the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the bilateral accords negotiated with the Soviet Union during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s (SALT I, the 1972 ABM Treaty, the 1987 International Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START). In 1997 the Clinton administration, with some support from Republican nationalists, persuaded the Senate to ratify a comprehensive chemical weapons ban. But other treaties, including SALT II, signed by the Carter administration in 1979, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, and a 1997 treaty prohibiting the use of land mines, failed to win Senate approval, the latter two supported by more than one hundred governments. Indeed, in 2001 the administration of George W. Bush not only ended efforts to have the Senate ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, but to terminate the 1972 ABM Treaty despite strong objections from America's European allies.

The theme of inconsistency also applied to the subject of international economic cooperation. During the late stages of World War II, the United States had initiated efforts to create international financial institutions that would economically stabilize the postwar world and prevent another Great Depression. The most important such institutions emerging from the war were the World Bank, to provide bank-sponsored development loans, and the International Monetary Fund, to grant government loans to stabilize currencies.

The last half of the twentieth century also witnessed tariff reduction, long applauded by internationalists. The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs dates back to 1947; the agreement involved numerous conferences held over decades. GATT addressed the hopes of Wilsonians, who continued to argue that economic nationalism was a powerful cause of war. But here, too, internationalists met increasing resistance at home. Labor unions, fearful of losing jobs to low-wage workers abroad, joined forces with (generally) small businesses fearing foreign competition, nationalists, environmentalists, and neoisolationists to pass measures like the 1988 Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act undermining the free-trade aims of internationally oriented businesses and banks. For the most part, the legislative record from 1962 to 2001 favored the free traders. The North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993, membership for the United States and its trading partners (most controversially, China) in the World Trade Organization (GATT's successor), and the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations' support for the Free Trade for the Americas Treaty (not yet finalized in 2001) exemplify this trend.

Inconsistency also characterized international cooperation regarding the environment. Internationalists successfully promoted modest environmental reform, such as the creation of a UN Environment Program that emerged out of the 113-member UN Stockholm Conference of 1972, and two agreements (Vienna in 1985 and Montreal in 1987) limiting the release of ozone into the atmosphere. However, the Senate refused to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty negotiated between 1972 and 1982, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity negotiated at Rio de Janeiro, and the 1997 Kyoto Accords limiting carbon dioxide emissions negotiated at the UN Conference on Climate Change. Indeed, by the early twenty-first century, American environmentalists were themselves aligning in opposition to internationalism, fearing that looser environmental standards abroad would undermine environmental protections at home.


There is a larger issue here: the last third of the twentieth century witnessed a general deterioration of support for internationalism. The causes were many. They have included the upsurge of nationalism that accompanied the appearance of the evangelical religious right; disillusionment concerning foreign entanglements stemming from the American defeat in Vietnam; the decline of the industrial economy resulting from foreign competition in low-wage countries; the failure of the UN in highly publicized peacekeeping ventures (most importantly, Somalia and Bosnia during the early and mid-1990s); the increase in international terrorism; and the rise of anti-American policies at the UN (seen in programs like the New International Economic Order of 1972 and the New World Information and Communications Order of 1978). A former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace described the late twentieth century as "the twilight of internationalism."

He may have exaggerated the reaction against internationalism, but he was onto something important. Since 1994, the United States has sharply curtailed its support for UN peacekeeping missions. Facing criticism of U.S. peacekeeping activity in both Somalia and Bosnia, President William Jefferson Clinton sharply scaled down American support (including both military and financial support) for these missions. Some 74,000 peacekeeping troops from seventy-six countries served in 1994; by 2000 this number had shrunk to less than 20,000. Presidential Decision Directive 25, the most important State Department policy paper concerning peacekeeping since the Congo crisis of 1960, placed stringent criteria on peacekeeping, reversing calls for more U.S. involvement uttered just two years earlier by Bill Clinton as he campaigned for the presidency.

Nor was the disillusionment with internationalism confined to peacekeeping. After the 1970s it spread to the UN generally. During the mid-1980s, President Ronald Reagan began to withhold American dues to the UN, a process encouraged by Congress when it passed the 1983 Kassenbaum Amendment unilaterally cutting the American share of UN assessments. The growth of conservative nationalism during the 1990s intensified anti-UN sentiment, especially after the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1995. Dues and peacekeeping assessments went unpaid, threatening America with the loss of its vote. Congressional critics of the UN more or less blackmailed the Secretariat not only into bureaucratic reform (which was overdue), but into further reducing the percentage of revenues paid by the United States. Tellingly, few internationalist voices inside or outside Washington expressed strong objections.

Other important developments during the last third of the century also reflected the decline of internationalism. In 1977 the United States withdrew from the ILO for what turned into a three-year absence. A similar story was repeated at the International Atomic Energy Agency between 1981 and 1983. Washington withdrew from the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1984 and from the UN Industrial Development Organization in 1995. American officials may have rightly deplored the politicization of these agencies. Nevertheless, Washington's decisions to withdraw altogether symbolized the priority that Congress and the White House increasingly gave to national rather than international interests.

American internationalism, of course, ranges far beyond the subject of the UN. Regional organizations, most importantly the Organization of American States (OAS), which rests on three treaties ratified in 1947 and 1948, have also been a part of this story, but without the centrality or the visibility of the League of Nations or the UN. Indeed, Article 51 of the UN Charter sought to make room for regional collective defense, a matter that was central to some of the negotiations regarding the UN Charter during World War II. Moreover, American obligations under the OAS charter regarding nonintervention have occasionally clashed with U.S. Cold War objectives, a clash that led some Western Hemispheric countries to seek recourse at the UN. This was especially the case regarding crises in Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1962), and Grenada (1983). During each episode U.S. officials gave short shrift to UN and OAS objections regarding American intervention.

Washington also gave little heed to OAS demands to highlight the principle of collective economic security, which many in Washington viewed as a regional variation of the New International Economic Order. Although U.S. policymakers have never been sympathetic to resource transfers from rich nations to poor (with the possible exception of technology transfers), some of the Latin American demands for wealth sharing contributed to Washington's willingness to negotiate the free trade agreements of the 1990s. This was an area in which internationalist sentiment coincided with what every presidential administration from Reagan to George W. Bush has viewed as U.S. economic interests.


With the end of the Cold War, the subject of cultural internationalism returned to prominence as it had after World War I. Disillusionment with political internationalism has not yet affected the health of the Fulbright scholarship program, begun after World War II to promote among Americans knowledge of other cultures and to attract foreign scholars to the United States. Cultural, athletic, and scientific exchanges thrived during the last third of the twentieth century. The degree to which Americans have taken up soccer, long considered a foreign sport, is a small sign of this, as is the internationalization of baseball, with American players in Japan and a great many Latin American players along with a growing number of Japanese players in the Major Leagues.

A similar story can be told about other sports, as with the internationalization of rock and roll and American films. More moviegoers saw Schindler's List (1993) and Titanic (1997) outside of the United States than inside. Michael Jordan T-shirts are worn by Asian teenagers who never saw a basketball game. The Internet, for good or ill, has connected people in different countries in ways that seemed unimaginable in 1990. This may not be exactly what the founders of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had in mind when they formed their organization in 1910. Neither is it likely to be what President George H. W. Bush meant when he called for a new world order in 1990. Nevertheless, it addresses the vitality of cultural internationalism even when disillusionment, pessimism, and cynicism have crippled the movement politically.

In short, the history of American internationalism has been the history of complexity and inconsistency. This remains as true at the beginning of the twenty-first century as it was one hundred years earlier.


Alder, Selig. The Isolationist Impulse: Its Twentieth Century Reaction. New York, 1957. Covers internationalism while addressing isolationism.

Bartlett, Ruhl J. The League to Enforce Peace. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1944. Excellent on developments between 1914 and 1919.

Brinkley, Douglas, and Townsend Hoopes. FDR and the Creation of the U.N. New Haven, Conn., 1997. Updates Robert Divine's wellknown study.

Curti, Merle. Peace or War: The American Struggle, 16361936. New York, 1936. A classic intellectual history.

Davis, Calvin D. The United States and the First Hague Peace Conference. Ithaca, N.Y., 1962. Describes the politics leading to the conference.

. The United States and the Second Hague Peace Conference: American Diplomacy and International Organization, 18991914. Durham, N.C., 1975. Describes the politics leading to the conference.

Divine, Robert A. Second Chance: The Triumph of Internationalism in America During World War II. New York, 1967. Somewhat dated but still very useful in tracing the United States's role in writing the UN Charter.

Dunne, Michael. The United States and the World Court, 19201935. New York, 1988. The very best work on the legal issue. Dunne also wrote a number of fine articles about American diplomacy and internationalism that appeared in the British journal International Affairs during the 1990s.

Gill, George. The League of Nations from 1929 to 1946. Garden City, N.Y., 1997. A companion volume to Ostrower's work on the 1920s.

Herman, Sondra R. Eleven Against War: Studies in American Internationalist Thought, 18981921. Stanford, Calif., 1969. Develops the position of the "community-minded" internationalists.

Hilderbrand, Robert C. Dumbarton Oaks: The Origins of the United Nations and the Search for Postwar Security. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1990. Views the UN as a combination of Wilsonian idealism and Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Policeman" realism.

Hoffman, Stanley. "The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism." Foreign Policy 98 (Spring 1995). Indispensable in understanding end-of-the-century internationalism.

Hughes, Thomas L. "The Twilight of Internationalism." Foreign Policy 61 (winter 19851986): 2548. Traces the reasons for the resurgence of nationalism.

Iriye, Akira. Cultural Internationalism and World Order. Baltimore, 1997. Provides an excellent overview of the nonpolitical side of internationalism from the perspective of a committed internationalist.

Johnson, Robert David, ed. On Cultural Ground: Essays in International History. Chicago, 1994. Contains essays that redefine the subject of internationalist thinking.

Josephson, Harold. James T. Shotwell and the Rise of Internationalism in America. Rutherford, N.J., 1975. Offers insight into the most active proponent of an organized world.

Knock, Thomas J. To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. New York, 1992. A rousing and exceptionally insightful defense of Wilson as liberal idealist.

Kuehl, Warren F. Hamilton Holt: Journalist, Internationalist, Educator. Gainesville, Fla., 1960. The standard biography of a key internationalist.

. Seeking World Order: The United States and International Organization to 1920. Nashville, Tenn., 1969. Provides the fullest account of early support for cooperation.

Kuehl, Warren F., and Lynne K. Dunne. Keeping the Covenant: American Internationalists and the League of Nations, 19201939. Kent, Ohio, 1997. Provides an overview of pro-league sentiment by individuals and organized groups.

Marchand, C. Roland. The American Peace Movement and Social Reform, 18981918. Princeton, N.J., 1972. Sees internationalism emerging from the progressive movement generally.

Michalak, Stanley J. "The UN and the League." In Leon Gordenker, ed. The United Nations in International Politics. Princeton, N.J., 1971. Skillfully compares U.S. policy toward the League of Nations and the UN.

Ninkovich, Frank A. The Diplomacy of Ideas: U.S. Foreign Policy and Cultural Relations, 19381950. New York, 1981. Offers insight into the American shift from isolationism to Cold War interventionism.

. The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1900. Chicago, 1999. Provides a less idealistic view of Wilson than is traditional, comparing Wilson's "crisis internationalism" to the more benign variety.

Nordholt, Jan Willem Schulte. Woodrow Wilson: A Life for World Peace. Berkeley, Calif., 1991. A very insightful and underrated biography that explores the nature of internationalism.

Ostrower, Gary B. Collective Insecurity: The United States and the League of Nations During the Early Thirties. Lewisburg, Pa., 1979. Provides an in-depth view of American policy during the Manchurian crisis.

. "The United States and the League of Nations, 19191939." In Zara S. Steiner, ed. The League of Nations in Retrospect. Berlin, New York, 1983. A concise overview of the U.S.League of Nations story.

. The League of Nations: From 1919 to 1929. Garden City, N.Y., 1996. Offers a general history of the league including its nonpolitical work.

. The United Nations and the United States: From 1940 to 1998. New York, 1998. Emphasizing the inconsistency of American policy, this is the best single survey of the U.S.UN relationship.

Patterson, David S. Toward a Warless World: The Travail of the American Peace Movement, 18871914. Bloomington, Ind., 1976. Competently explores the internationalist perspective of peace workers.

Righter, Rosemary. Utopia Lost: The United Nations and World Order. New York, 1995. A superb study critical of U.S. policy at the UN.

Widenor, William C. Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy. Berkeley, Calif., 1980. One of the best examinations of the isolationist-internationalist debates after World War I, viewing Lodge as motivated by principle, not political advantage.

Wittner, Lawrence S. Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 194160. New York, 1969. Contains the fullest presentation of post-1945 popular attitudes.

See also Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation; Collective Security; Cultural Relations and Policies; Embargoes and Sanctions; Globalization; Imperialism; International Law; International Organization; Isolationism; Wilsonianism .

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When the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412c. 323 BCE) was asked where he came from, he said "I am a citizen of the world" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, bk. 6, chap. 63). The Greek term is "kosmopolitēs," the source of the English word "cosmopolitan." Cosmopolitanism is actually a range of viewsmoral, political, and culturalaffirming the importance and value of the community of all human beings. Against particular and local allegiance to the polis, city-state, or modern nation-state, the cosmopolitan would emphasize a general and far-reaching concern for humanity.

It remains unclear whether Diogenes' own view was meant to affirm a positive duty to humanity or only to deny the conventional obligations of citizenship associated with the polis. But the Greek Stoics, such as Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus in the third century BCE, developed the tradition by identifying the law of the cosmos with divine reason and extending world citizenship to everyone who lives in accordance with it. Roman Stoicismespecially as developed by Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aureliusstrongly influences modern cosmopolitanism by counting the possession of reason as a sufficient condition of membership in this foremost ethical community. Marcus Aurelius developed the idea of natural law as the common law of the polis of which all human beings are fellow citizens (Meditations, bk. 4). Nonetheless, the Roman Stoics readily acknowledged duties to one's country along with duties to humanity as a whole.

With advances of natural-law theory in the seventeenth century, international law, or the law of nations, got its first explicit modern statement in the theories of Hugo Grotius and Samuel Von Pufendorf. In the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant, partly inspired by Stoicism, viewed all persons as members of a single community of rational agents, each of whom is free, equal, and independent. On these grounds he strongly criticized European colonialism and imperialism. In Perpetual Peace (1795), Kant argued for a federation of republics, each recognizing the human rights of all persons. (See Heater 1996 for a history of cosmopolitan thought.)

Cosmopolitanisms, as sets of moral, political, and cultural views, have developed significantly in the late twentieth century. Below are some of the most important arguments and distinctions made in recent debates, with particular emphasis on the core moral claims.

Moral Cosmopolitanism

Moral cosmopolitanism is characterized by three basic commitments. First, it is a species of moral individualism, maintaining that the basic units of moral concern are human individuals rather than groups or other collectivities. Second, it is egalitarian, holding that each individual counts equally from a moral perspective, that is, that no person is worth more than any other and that every person is entitled to equal consideration. Finally, cosmopolitans are moral universalists, who believe that the proper scope of moral concern encompasses all persons, regardless of their ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and national affiliations. In short, moral cosmopolitanism affirms the equal worth of every human individual, quite apart from any subgroup to which they might belong, along with a commitment to impartial concern.

The great interest in these ideas is for their possible implications for an account of the basic moral and political obligations of persons. A dominant puzzle is the apparent contradiction between (1) widely recognized special obligations and associative duties, for example, ties to one's family members, friends, fellow citizens, and compatriots, and (2) general duties to individual human beings, regardless of membership in any of these communities. How are special duties compatible with the requirement of equal concern?

To address this question, it will be useful to flag two truths about cosmopolitanism. First, it can be defended by a deeper moral theory, including utilitarianism, a theory of human rights, contractarianism, and a Kantian account of fundamental obligations explained ultimately by the categorical imperative. Such defenses are exemplified by some of the most notable recent thinkers in this tradition: the utilitarian Peter Singer, the human-rights theorists Henry Shue and Thomas Pogge, the contractarian Brian Barry, and the Kantian Onora O'Neill. Charles Beitz is less easily classified: His moral cosmopolitanism at times has drawn on contractarian thought and lately has issued in a sustained focus on human rights as the appropriate language of international justice.

The second truth about cosmopolitanism is that it can come in strong and moderate varieties, both sharing a commitment to helping other human beings regardless of citizenship, nationality, ethnicity, race, religious affiliation, and geographical location (Scheffler 2001). Strong moral cosmopolitans believe that universalist, egalitarian individualism entails that the basic moral claims of all human beings are the same, and that any special regard for some persons over others must be justified by the role such regard plays in promoting the good of the human community as a whole. As the prominent cosmopolitan Martha Nussbaum has said, the reason a cosmopolitan should show additional concern for the locals or fellow nationals "is not that the local is better per se, but rather that this is the only sensible way to do good" (1996, pp. 135136). Moderate moral cosmopolitans, on the other hand, believe both that there are basic obligations toward all other human beings that each of us must recognize, and that particular affiliationsto family, nation, state, and so ongive rise to special duties justified independently of any instrumental value for promoting the good of humanity. On this view, associated duties do not derive from our universal duties to human beings in general.

David Miller's defense of nationality (1995, 2002) is a good example of a view strongly opposed to the idea that we have the same duties to each person in the world. For Miller, a nation is a community of belief, extended in history, active in character, tied to a particular homeland, and associated with a distinctive public culture. Compatriots share a common national identity and possess special reasons for recognizing duties to one another beyond those to persons generally. For one thing, nation-states involve institutionalized reciprocity, in which members contribute their efforts and wealth to the community for the benefit of fellow members. For another thing, nation-states pursue collective cultural projects involving distinctive choices about work, religion, and culture more generally, and these projects give rise to nationally different mixtures of burdens and benefits. The upshot of these two points is that fellow nationals owe to one another a range of duties that they do not owe to nonmembers, but these duties are compatible with the view that each person is due equal concern in virtue of their being human.

This dispute about the nature of cosmopolitan morality becomes especially acute in matters concerning just distribution. Here a range of views seem to deny the force or extent of cosmopolitan justice. Theorists such as Michael Walzer (1983) claim that these duties of distributive justice make sense only within the context of a community, such as a nation, within which the goods to be distributed are produced and shared. David Miller (1998) has defended the related view that some principles of distributive justice are comparative and some are noncomparative, and the comparative principles can apply only within communities and not globally. John Rawls (1999) has argued that the scope of distributive justice should be limited to the basic structure of a particular society conceived of as a self-contained cooperative venture for mutual advantage. On his view, justice beyond the nation-state is concerned with interstate rules aimed at promoting toleration and peace worldwide, but questions about the distributive entitlements of particular individuals considered as such can gain no footing.

Such views seem to go beyond merely rejecting strong moral cosmopolitanism; they offer positive views that seem to minimize the substance of global duties of distributive justice. But it is precisely on the basic justice-related claims of individuals that something like strong cosmopolitanism appears most plausible. If one believes that all human beings possess the same rights to be free from torture, persecution, hunger, and homelessness, it seems natural to infer that our duties as human beings include aiming to bring about a world in which these rights are protected and promoted to the same extent for each and every person in the world. No amount of reciprocity between fellow nationals in one country can generate special duties to each other when there are countless foreign nationals suffering from deprivations of their basic interests. Moral cosmopolitanism and the idea of justice itself seem to share a fundamental commitment to impartial concern for all persons affected by an institutional framework. In a worldwide network of social, political, and economic institutions, distributive justice demands that each human being on the planet be entitled to concern from a perspective that includes their interests on a par with everyone else's. Special treatment for insiders is legitimate only if it can be justified to those excluded from it (Barry 1998, p. 145).

These sorts of considerations have led cosmopolitans to argue for strong obligations to alleviate the continuing dire suffering and death of millions of our fellow human beings. Peter Singer (1972) has defended the utilitarian view that we are morally required to stop such suffering where we can do so without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance. The argument emphasizes the moral irrelevance of distance. A dying child on another continent obligates us just as much as a dying child next door. This cosmopolitan aspect of the case has been more readily accepted than the specifically utilitarian aspect of maximizing benefits, the demand for which has seemed difficult to square with commonsense views about the limits of moral obligation.

One influential line of argument proposed by Brian Barry (1973), Thomas Pogge (1989), and Charles Beitz (1999) has suggested that a consistent application of John Rawls's justly famous original-position argument for principles of distributive justice would lead in the direction of strong moral cosmopolitanism. If the Rawlsian veil of ignorance rules out knowledge of facts about oneself that unfairly skew one's choice of principles, thenalong with sex, race, class, and conception of the goodcitizenship too ought to be obscured from the contractors' considerations. If principles of distributive justice should not privilege or disadvantage people on the basis of characteristics they possess for which they are not responsible, then their citizenship should not affect their life prospects. If Rawls is correct that inequalities should be allowed only when they maximally benefit the worst-off group, the scope of principles of justice should encompass the least advantaged in the world.

Political Cosmopolitanism

There is a long tradition of favoring political institutions beyond the local or nationala view often allied with the need to promote global peace. While the positions of moral and political cosmopolitanism are distinct, political and legal proposals tend nonetheless to be linked to underlying moral views that emphasize the universal scope of concern for the interests of persons. Options for political cosmopolitanism take various forms, each an instance of the general institutional view that authority should be shifted from individual states to supranational political institutions (Beitz 1994, p. 124).

One option would be a single state encompassing the whole world. Immanuel Kant's rejection of a world state has been followed by later theorists, including John Rawls, who concurs with Kant's judgment that such a state would be either a global despotism or the backdrop for unending civil wars. But if duties to other persons have global scope, it seems reasonable to think that global institutions of some sort will be necessary to make sure that those duties are fairly distributed and that they achieve the goal of protecting human beings from avoidable harm.

Another approach is David Held's model of "cosmopolitan democracy" (2004), which envisages not a single world government but a range of reforms of international political and economic institutions in the name of democratic accountability, consent, and inclusiveness. Held's approach is distinctive in its appeal to democracy as the core value of global political legitimacy, but this is questioned by those who rank justice, rather than democracy, as the highest-ranking value underpinning any assessment of global political institutions.

Cultural Cosmopolitanism

Cultural cosmopolitanism is a view about the conditions under which individuals can generate an identity and live a good life. It emphasizes that cultures are constantly changing and that individuals can benefit from mixing elements from different cultural traditions. Strong cultural cosmopolitans believe that individuals can live well only by drawing on a range of cultural traditions and practices, while moderate cultural cosmopolitans hold that a range of good lives can be grounded in both this sort of openness to cultural variation and a more traditional, inward-looking existence with its settled cultural commitments (Scheffler 2001, Waldron 1992).

While the strong position is more contentious, both views deny that lives can be good only when lived within the confines of a particular cultural or national tradition. Consequently, this form of cosmopolitanism is relevant to evaluating cultural nationalism and its attendant claim to political self-determination (Caney 2005)


The recent flourishing of cosmopolitan thought signals a recognition that any plausible account of politics, morality, distributive justice, and the good life for human beings should take seriously the idea that humanity is a community whose claims on us are both fundamental and far-reaching. A significant project for the future is developing a comprehensive account of the basis and implications of cosmopolitan political morality.

See also Chrysippus; Cicero, Marcus Tullius; Diogenes of Sinope; Epictetus; Grotius, Hugo; Kant, Immanuel; Marcus Aurelius Antoninus; Multiculturalism; Nussbaum, Martha; Postcolonialism; Pufendorf, Samuel von; Rawls, John; Republicanism; Seneca, Lucius Annaeus; Stoicism; Zeno of Citium.


Barry, Brian. "International Society from a Cosmopolitan Perspective." In International Society: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, edited by David Mapel and Terry Nardin, 144163. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Barry, Brian. The Liberal Theory of Justice. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

Beitz, Charles. "Cosmopolitan Liberalism and the States System." In Political Restructuring in Europe: Ethical Perspectives, edited by Chris Brown, 123136. London: Routledge, 1994.

Beitz, Charles. Political Theory and International Relations. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Caney, Simon. Justice beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Heater, Derek. World Citizenship and Government: Cosmopolitan Ideas in the History of Western Political Thought. Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan, 1996.

Held, David. Global Covenant. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2004.

Miller, David. "Cosmopolitanism: A Critique." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 5 (2002): 8085.

Miller, David. "The Limits of Cosmopolitan Justice." In International Society: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, edited by David Mapel and Terry Nardin, 164181. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Miller, David. On Nationality. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Nussbaum, Martha. "Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism" and "Reply." In For Love of Country, edited by Joshua Cohen, 317, 131144. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

O'Neill, Onora. Bounds of Justice. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Pogge, Thomas. Realizing Rawls. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Pogge, Thomas. World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2002.

Rawls, John. The Law of Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Scheffler, Samuel. "Conceptions of Cosmopolitanism." In his Boundaries and Allegiances, 111130. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Shue, Henry. Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Singer, Peter. "Famine, Affluence, and Morality." Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1972): 229243.

Waldron, Jeremy. "Minority Cultures and the Cosmopolitan Alternative." University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 25 (1992): 751792.

Walzer, Michael. Spheres of Justice. Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1983.

Charles Jones (2005)

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Internationalism has a series of overlapping meanings, all of which revolve around an attempt to regulate political life at the global level in the hopes of constructing a more peaceful order. Its most common meaning is that of a political ideology that advocates greater cooperation among nation-states in the pursuit of peace through the creation of international law and institutions. It is closely associated with international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations (UN), although it is not synonymous with these organizations.

Internationalism is also a U.S. foreign policy doctrine that advocates working through international organizations. Obviously related to the first definition of internationalism, this foreign policy idea is based upon the assumption that working through such organization is beneficial to U.S. national interests, and will additionally benefit the global community.

Internationalism is also a form of cooperation advocated by socialists that assumes the eventual disappearance of the nation-state. For some, this would come only through a revolutionary process; for others it would be a gradual reformation of the international system.

Each of these forms of internationalism is premised on the assumption that peace will result only from programmatic attempts at organizing international affairs. It is thus primarily a liberal ideology, although some suggest there can be a conservative version of it as well (Holbraad 2003). The overriding goal, however, is the promotion of peace through alignment of what might otherwise be conflicting interests.


As an idea, internationalism arose from the collapse of a European, Christian institutional order (Ishay 1995). As the Christian ethicopolitical order came under strain as a result of the rise of Protestantism, the Renaissance, and then the Enlightenment, political philosophers turned toward natural law as a means by which to construct a peaceful international system. An important part of this move was the recognition that allegiance to and obligations toward political communities are not necessarily wrong, but that such allegiances and obligations need to be modified by a larger set of rules and norms that might govern relations among those communities. One of the first attempts to construct such an order came from Hugo Grotius (15831645), a Dutch theologian and philosopher who helped create modern international law by linking older natural theories to an emerging Renaissance interest in the historical practice of political communities. Grotiuss famous The Rights of War and Peace (1625) proposed a theoretical foundation for governing war that reformulated the just war tradition and launched modern international law.

The nineteenth century saw the emergence of positivist international law, which kept the same internationalist agenda but turned to different sources for its justifications (Nardin 1998). International law became the primary focus of attempts to promote internationalism, with its insistence that states remain the central agents and its attempts to limit their ability to launch war (Koskenniemi 2002). Internationalism as a political project arose from these legal attempts to align an unwillingness to give up on the nation-state with a desire for peace.

Internationalism was also an important idea among philosophers. Immanuel Kant famously argued for methods by which the international community could avoid war (Ishay 1995). Kants proposal for a republican peace pact has been the foundation both of the democratic peace thesis and for internationalism. Kant argued that as more states became republics, their citizens would demand more cooperation (1795). This located internationalism within the nation, something that others sought to do during the Enlightenment and romantic periods.

A very different type of internationalism arose from the philosophy of Karl Marx. Marxs argument that the decay of capitalism would result in the construction of communism was meant to apply not just to specific states but also to the human condition more broadly. Lenin took Marxs ideas to a more specifically international level in his work on imperialism. These ideas were taken up by both revolutionary socialists, who argued that active attempts to overturn the nation-state and its bourgeois foundations were necessary, and reform-oriented socialists, who believed that cooperation through various international fora would lead to the collapse of the capitalist order.


These ideas, particularly those in the realm of international law, became more concrete at the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries. Prior to and particularly after World War I, proponents of greater international institutional arrangements to ensure peace published a number of works (Navari 2000, Jones 2002). With the end of World War I, proposals for international institutions to moderate war came to fruition with the League of Nations. For some internationalists, the League was a concrete expression of their views, but for others it was too weak to create a truly internationalist sentiment. The failure of the United States to join the League and the abandonment of its tenets by Germany, Italy, and then Japan eviscerated it, and World War II finally forced the collapse of the League.

The end of World War II saw a resurgence of internationalism, particularly in the United States. Leading the way to the creation of a new international institution, the Americans agreed to host the newly created United Nations. Once again, some internationalists were enthusiastic about the new institution, but others found it wanting. The creation of the World Federalist League was an attempt to push the U.S. public, and the wider international community, toward greater forms of cooperation. Functionalists argued that as international affairs became more complex, there would be greater need for cooperation among nations.

Coupled with the creation of the United Nations, international law exploded in the postWorld War II era. The International Law Commission, a body of international lawyers exploring important issues, pushed various issues forward on the international agenda, with some becoming treaties that led to new international organizations such as the International Criminal Court. As decolonization progressed the UN General Assembly soon grew beyond its few members and passed numerous nonbinding resolutions. After the end of the cold war the UN Security Council aggressively expanded its reach, producing not just binding resolutions but also more regulations to govern wider aspects of international life.


Internationalism needs to be kept separate from two related but distinct terms: cosmopolitanism and globalization. Cosmopolitanism finds its roots in antiquity, with Stoic philosophers from ancient Greece and Cicero in Rome arguing for the consideration of all persons as equal (Hayden 2006). If all were truly citizens of the world, war and strife for the purposes of empire or monarchical advancement were pointless. This sentiment resurfaced in various religious traditions, with Christianity and Islam both arguing for a broadly understood universal community, albeit one founded on their particular religious tenets. Cosmopolitan thinking intersected with internationalism during the Enlightenment, but internationalists such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau did not see much point in abandoning the nation-state. Instead, they thought that republican forms of cooperation, in which states agreed to limit their sovereignty for purposes of greater cooperation, were preferable to the destruction of those states in the name of a larger international community.

Cosmopolitanism has been revived with globalization, a process by which the international economic and cultural sphere becomes more unified and interdependent. Especially among analytic philosophers interested in global justice, cosmopolitan ideas have great resonance. Again, though, internationalists find some of these proposals at odds with the current power structure of the international system, in which great powers would be loathe to abandon their position in a formally anarchic, but practically hierarchic system.

Internationalism differs from proposals for a world government, against which it was largely posited in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Worried that a world government would lead to an oppressive and unwieldy bureaucracy, internationalists hoped to keep the nation-state as a foundation, but to moderate its aggressive elements through various institutional arrangements.

Finally, within the American polity, internationalism reflects a support for a foreign policy orientation toward international institutions. Although some international economic institutionsfor example, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Foundation, and the World Bankare widely accepted by the U.S. foreign policy elite, the United Nations continues to generate strong debate. Neoconservatives and libertarians find the constraints imposed by the UN on the ability of the United States to run its own affairs unconscionable, whereas many Democrats and centrist Republicans find the UN and its promise of multilateralism the only real option in a world so interconnected and conflictual. Especially as U.S. power is stretched to its limits in places such as Iraq, the benefits of internationalism as a foreign policy strategy will become more influential. For those who believe in the values of the Enlightenment, such a move would be most welcome, returning the United States to its role as a leading proponent of Enlightenment theory and practice.

SEE ALSO Cosmopolitanism; Enlightenment; Globalization, Social and Economic Aspects of; Government, World; International Economic Order; International Monetary Fund; League of Nations; Lenin, Vladimir Ilitch; Libertarianism; Marx, Karl; Peace; Transnationalism; United Nations; World War II


Grotius, Hugo. [1625] 2003. The Rights of War and Peace, ed. Richard Tuck, from the edition by Jean Barbeyrac. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

Hayden, Patrick. 2006. Cosmopolitan Global Politics. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate.

Holbraad, Carsten. 2003. Internationalism and Nationalism in European Political Thought. New York: Palgrave.

Ishay, Michelene. 1995. Internationalism and Its Betrayal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jones, Dorothy. 2002. Toward a Just World: The Critical Years in the Search for International Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kant, Immanuel. [1795] 1991. Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. In Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss, trans. H. B. Nisbett. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Koskenniemi, Martii. 2002. The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 18701960. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Nardin, Terry. 1998. Legal Positivism as a Theory of International Society. In International Society: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, ed. David Mapel and Terry Nardin, 1735. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Navari, Cornelia. 2000. Internationalism and the State in the 20th Century. London: Routledge.

Anthony F. Lang Jr.

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Cosmopolitanism refers to both a lifestyle incorporating aspects from all or many parts of the world and an ideology based upon the premise that every human shares, or should share, equal status as a "citizen of the world." The two are not exclusive of one another, but it is certainly possible to encounter either the ideal or the lifestyle without the presence of the other. Though similar to the concept of multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism should be distinguished from this term. Whereas cosmopolitanism entails the "recognition, acceptance, and eager exploration of diversity," multi-culturalism includes more concern for boundary maintenance than for empathetic border crossings (Hollinger, p. 84).

The Ideal of Cosmopolitanism

The word cosmopolitan can be traced to the Greek Cynic philosophers Antisthenes (c. 445365 b.c.e.) and his student Diogenes of Sinope (d. c. 320 b.c.e.). In the fourth century b.c.e., Diogenes likely responded to inquiry about his citizenship by boldly asserting, "I am a citizen of the world." His statement, though often used as a humanistic slogan, expressed a rather negative notion. Since he was not a citizen of any particular locale, he was not obligated to serve his particular city-state. He offered his allegiance to no single government. The Stoic philosopher Zeno of Citium (c. 335c. 263 b.c.e.) articulated a similar sentiment, but with more constructive implications. He imagined citizenship as a series of concentric circles. The self inhabited the innermost ring of this inclusive model, followed by family, city, region, and so on. Thus Zeno understood the individual as a part of all other affiliations.

Early Christianity also offered a unique notion of cosmopolitanism: The disciple obtained a new, spiritual citizenship that transcended the bonds of local government and regional identity through following the teachings of Jesus. St. Paul (c. 66) expressed this in an open letter to devotees in Colossi, proposing that "there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free" (Col. 3:11). This deconstruction of status and ethnicity represented a significant development in the cosmopolitanism as a concept, even if the established Christian church has often been a source of division.

Several humanist intellectuals advocated a cosmopolitan ideology during the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The philosophes imagined themselves as inhabitants in a republic of letters that transcended mere national boundaries. Believing in the preeminence of reason and scientific discovery, these men forged bonds of intellectual discourse throughout the North Atlantic. The ideas of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (17241804) were especially influential through the beginning of the twenty-first century. His writing advocated perpetual peace between nation-states during a time when nations were still being defined.

Contemporary scholars have implemented the cosmopolitanism of nineteenth-and-early-twentieth-century Indians alongside that of Kant. Swami Vivekananda (18631902) united the teachings of the Indian religious leader Sri Ramakrishna (18361886) with claims of scientific validity to increase awareness of the physical and spiritual practice of yoga. His contemporary, the poet Rabindranath Tagore (18611941), an undoubted anticolonial himself, chided the political and religious leader Mohandas Gandhi (18691948) for his penchant toward national self-reliance. Instead, Tagore pleaded for a transnational interdependency. The work of these men still exercises influence upon spiritual and political cosmopolitanism.

In each of these contexts, the ideal of cosmopolitanism sought to eclipse local or regional loyalties with the belief that humans share a bond free from provincial affiliations. Whether predicated on mysticism or reason, cosmopolitanism as an ideal locates the individual within a world community. However, those espousing the ideal have not always turned this admirable belief into a reality. Religious exclusion and ethnic nationalism have continued to flourish despite these recurrent appearances of a cosmopolitan ideal. However, this is not to say that cosmopolitanism has not been practiced in various times and locales.

The Practice of Cosmopolitanism

As a lifestyle, cosmopolitanism embraces, participates in, and combines the customs of several different cultures. The cosmopolitan is not tethered by local or national habits and prejudices. Rather, he or she welcomes encounters with those from different regions and aspires to fluidly navigate from one cultural context to another.

Cosmopolitanism has been achieved in disparate historical and geographical settings. The Ottoman Empire of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries encouraged the mingling of Northern African, Iberian, and Middle Eastern peoples. In the medieval period, Islamic scholars incorporated the works of ancient Greeks into their learning. Cities such as Istanbul became centers of trade and cosmopolitanism, even housing Freemasonry lodges in the nineteenth century.

At times, people may adapt a cosmopolitan way of life out of necessity as opposed to ideological conviction. Daniel M. Swetschinski's study of Portuguese Jews in the Netherlands of the seventeenth century recounts an historical setting in which members of a displaced ethnic group incorporated the customs of others. These "reluctant cosmopolitans," as Swetschinski calls them, became part of the flourishing Danish mercantilism. Landing in ports all throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean, they interacted with multiple cultures while maintaining a Jewish identity.

Certain social groups are almost always associated with cosmopolitanism. Intellectuals, diplomats, creative artists, the wealthy, and merchants each to a certain extent maintain a lifestyle that might be described as cosmopolitan. Certainly since the time of the Enlightenment, academia has extended beyond local influence. Intellectual communities, in both the humanities and the sciences, collaborate and compete along disciplinary lines rather than national borders. Diplomats, by the very nature of their profession, must be charming in midst of profound cultural difference. Adaptability to unique settings and a thorough understanding of distinct worldviews qualify political emissaries. Visual, literary, and performing artists, as well as their patrons, have long displayed a fascination with exotic subjects and media. International movements within the arts often indicate the merging of traditionally distinct ideas and people-groups. Historically, though, one need not display any of the aforementioned skills to live a cosmopolitan life. A person might become a world citizen by possessing the means to travel extensively. By journeying to distant climes, speaking foreign languages, and acquiring and displaying exotic goods, the wealthy could be included among the ranks of other cosmopolitans.

However, perhaps more than any other social group, merchants have both exemplified cosmopolitan lifestyles and prompted others to do the same. With the emergence of global capitalism, traders and business people are regularly in contact with multiple cultures and ethnic groups. Transnational enterprise demands its participants be capable of interacting with diverse populations. Moreover, through the commodification of goods produced in foreign lands, merchants encourage consumers to desire nonindigenous wares.

Opposition to Cosmopolitanism

Cosmopolitanism, as both an ideal and a lifestyle, has often been critiqued. Given those who have historically been considered cosmopolitans, it is not surprising that skeptics label it elitist. Cosmopolitanism most often required either remarkable talent or extraordinary financial means, and sometimes both. The vast majority of people simply did not have the option to participate in such a life.

Nationalists and some ethnic leaders have also attacked the concept. Because cosmopolitans lack the "roots" of others, these critics believe they cannot be loyal to the political process of a given geographic region. Ethnic essentialists are similar in that they disdain cosmopolitanism because it involves the internalization of others' cultural beliefs and practices. To the essentialist, people simply are not able to fit into any ethnic group other than their own.

Ironically, global capitalism coupled with national and religious extremism has created a nonelite group of cosmopolitans. Immigrants and refugees now bring a heterogeneous picture of humanity from their respective homelands. Moreover, relatively affordable travel and dazzlingly diverse urban landscapes bring the exotic within reach of many. In the technologically saturated, polyethnic world of the twenty-first century, the ideal and the practice of cosmopolitanism seem much more similar than they have in the past.

See also Intelligentsia ; Migration ; Nationalism ; Society .


Hollinger, David A. Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

Nussbaum, Martha Craven. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Edited by Joshua Cohen. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Schlereth, Thomas J. The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought: Its Form and Function in the Ideas of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire, 16941790. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977.

Swetschinski, Daniel. Reluctant Cosmopolitans: The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam. London: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2000.

Vertovec, Steven, and Robin Cohen, eds. Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Diverse collection and rich bibliography.

Kevin James Houk

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Internationalism. Internationalism emerged early in the twentieth century to challenge isolationism as a proper American approach to international affairs. In the balance between them lay competing perceptions of the role of external conditions in the country's remarkable security and well‐being.

For some Americans, the country's favored position rested on elements of international stability whose permanence required the nation's attention. At the turn of the twentieth century, writers such as Alfred T. Mahan, supported by members of the eastern Anglo‐Saxon elite, argued that the rise of potentially expansionist Germany and Japan demanded closer ties to Britain. Other internationalists discovered the surest guarantee of universal peace, and with it the perpetuation of a world that served U.S. interests admirably, not in superior force but in the international acceptance of non‐power devices, such as arbitration and conciliation, for the settlement of international disputes. For such legalists as William Howard Taft and Elihu Root, the final guarantee of world peace lay in a world court that would command the absolute confidence of the entire world. American internationalism scored its initial triumph in response to the horrors of the Great War of 1914. Pressed by President Woodrow Wilson, the Versailles Conference in 1919 adopted the American program for institutionalized peace in the form of the League of Nations and the World Court.

If the Senate's rejection of the Treaty of Versailles marked a powerful resurgence of American isolationism, it did not quell the determination of the country's internationalists to fulfill Wilson's admonition that the United States actively pursue the cause of peace. In the vanguard of the country's postwar internationalism were academics and students of international law, such as the University of Chicago's Quincy Wright and Columbia's James T. Shotwell. Members of the eastern establishment of international bankers and lawyers entered the internationalist ranks through membership in the recently founded New York Council on Foreign Relations. Internationalists comprised largely the country's pro‐League forces, who predicted endless triumphs for peace from a League of Nations morally enhanced by American membership.

In practice, the internationalists, no less than the isolationists, ignored the persistent role of power in affairs among nations. For them the goal of universal peace, rendered essential by the recent experience of war, was sufficiently overwhelming to eliminate the problem of means. Internationalists denied that the United States need be concerned with any specific configuration of political or military power in Europe or Asia. Whereas isolationism insisted that the United States had no external interests that merited resorts to force, internationalism declared that American interests existed wherever governments challenged peace or human rights. It presumed, however, that the universal acceptance of the principle that change, to be legitimate, needed also to be peaceful would control undesirable international behavior. Every program fostered by American internationalists during the 1920s—membership in the League of Nations and the World Court, the employment of arbitration conventions, the resort to consultation in the event of crises, collective security, naval disarmament, or the outlawry of war as embodied in the Kellogg‐Briand Peace Pact of 1928—denied the requirement of any precise definition of ends and means in external policy, and anchored the effectiveness of any moral condemnation of aggressors to the power of an aroused world opinion.

Consigned by adverse opinion to failure on the League issue, internationalists seized World Court membership as the alternative approach to effective international cooperation. Eventually the court battle comprised the most determined internationalist counterattack of the decade. When in May 1922 the court officially opened, a noted American authority on international law, John Bassett Moore, was among its eleven judges. Under internationalist pressure, President Warren G. Harding, in February 1923, submitted the question of court membership to the Senate. To satisfy congressional isolationists, Harding recommended four reservations that would absolve the United States of all commitments to the League but would retain for the country all powers on the court enjoyed by members of the League. Isolationists killed the measure as an overcommitment of American power and prestige.

Not until December 1925, when the issue of membership had won the support of peace groups, women's clubs, pro‐League forces, countless mass meetings, and much of the press, did the Senate agree to act. It approved membership, 76–17, in early 1926. But Senator Claude A. Swanson of Virginia introduced a fifth reservation that denied the court the right to render an advisory opinion on any question touching the interests of the United States. That reservation the court rejected; by the end of 1926, U.S. membership in the court had become a dead issue. Yet such membership would have entailed no commitment for the United States beyond paying its share of the court's expenses. Internationalists agreed that neither the League nor the World Court had confronted any major challenges, nor had either institution demonstrated any capacity to restrain a major power.

Despite its limited prospects, the internationalist faith in such institutions continued into the following decade. However, its central assumption that world opinion was the ultimate arbiter in world affairs denied its adherents any answer to the troubling aggressions of the 1930s. As late as 1939, internationalists looked to the League as the world's primary hope for peace. In their general unconcern for military preparedness, they had done little in previous years to provide the League with either the sanctions or the means required for effective collective security. But internationalism, as embodied in the ideals of the League of Nations, failed not only in its unwillingness to provide a defense against aggression and violence but also in its refusal to seek some accommodation with change as the only long‐term alternative to war. Any system of collective security would seek order rather than change.

For the British historian Edward Hallett Carr, in his noted book The Twenty Years' Crisis (1939), collective security, like American internationalism, expressed the concern of status quo powers to prevent unwanted change in the international system. Thus peace became the vested interest of the predominant powers. With no single country strong enough to exercise a pax Romana or a pax Britannica, slogans such as “collective security” and “resistance to aggression” proclaimed the identity of interest between the dominant, satisfied group of nations and the world as a whole in the maintenance of peace. Throughout the interwar years American internationalism, despite its persistent effort to engage the United States in world affairs, remained essentially an effort to sustain the status quo without accepting the price, either in military preparations or in concessions, that international peace demanded.

The attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed the illusion that the United States could have the world of its choice without cost. That event not only diminished the power of isolationism in Congress and the nation but also reinvented American internationalism. The realization that war had come unexpectedly and over vast distances recommended, at least to the country's military leaders, that the United States never again entrust its peace to world opinion or the oceans. Rather, its continuing interest in international stability required a military structure of sufficient magnitude to discourage aggression everywhere. The wartime decisions designed to engage the nation heavily in the post‐war world included commitments to the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other postwar international institutions. These decisions to assure postwar peace and stability received the support of an overwhelming national consensus. Internationalism emerged from the war firmly in the saddle.

What ultimately converted internationalism into an unprecedented body of worldwide economic and security commitments was the assumption that Soviet expansionism, rendered global and unlimited by the Kremlin's alleged control of international communism, endangered American and world security. Such fears led to a system of global military containment, including NATO and eventually treaties of alliance with dozens of countries throughout the world. More limited, yet more pervading, internationalists embraced the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economies of Europe. Acting through inter national agencies of trade and monetary stabilization, the plan contributed heavily to the world's unprecedented prosperity. Through forty years of Cold War, the USSR, as a perceived global danger, enabled the United States, with its abundance of economic and military power, to maintain a worldwide influence without precedent in modern history.

After 1990, the passing of the Cold War, in denying the United States its special role as the world's self‐appointed defender against communism, again compelled the country to redefine the meaning of its internationalism. Internationalists quickly detected new foreign challenges in the form of resurgent nationalism, ethnic strife, border disputes, economic chaos, and civil war. Confronting them in their demands for national action, moderates cited the potentially heavy costs of involvement in the world's domestic turmoil, especially when contrasted to the minimal U.S. interests at risk. Internationalism, as the past had demonstrated, was never an absolute good in itself; its utility hinged on its success in advancing the interests of the nation and its citizens.
[See also Isolationism.]


Edward Hallett Carr , The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1939.
Akira Iriye , From Nationalism to Internationalism: United States Foreign Policy to 1914, 1977.
Michael S. Sherry , Preparing for the Next War: American Plans for Postwar Defense, 1941–45, 1977.
Norman A. Graebner , America as a World Power: A Realist Appraisal from Wilson to Reagan, 1984.
Robert D. Schulzinger , The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs: The History of the Council on Foreign Relations, 1984.
Lloyd E. Ambrosius , Wilson's Statecraft: Theory and Practice of Liberal Internationalism During World War I, 1991.
Jeremy Aynsley , Nationalism and Internationalism, 1993.
Kjell Goldmann , The Logic of Internationalism: Coercion and Accommodation, 1994.

Norman A. Graebner

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Cosmopolitanism is a term derived from the Greek word kosmopolite (citizen of the world). It emerged as a philosophical and ultimately cultural worldview during the Hellenistic period, when thinkers traced the conceptual evolution of the peoples mentalité from that of the citizen of the city-state to that of the citizen of the entire ecumene (or extended Hellenic world). After a long eclipse, the concept reemerged in the writings of Kant, where the future evolution of the world into a cosmopolitan society was originally contemplated. Adam Smith should also receive credit, however, for his endorsement of free trade as a cosmopolitan stance. In the nineteenth century, the word gained a negative connotation through its juxtaposition with the popular idea of nationalism, a trend that reached its peak in the words employment as a derogatory term by the Nazis.

Although cosmopolitanism reemerged as a potentially powerful concept in the late 1990s, it is important to note that the concept continues to lack a universally shared definition. It has been applied to philosophical and normative orientations as well as to political and cultural attributes, and its employment in the discourse of different disciplines is far from uniform. Moreover, cosmopolitanism has been related both to efforts to construct forms of transnational solidarity, and to the various urban cultures of past and present metropolitan centers. Perhaps the most important contributions to the literature on cosmopolitanism can be found in the writings of Ulrich Beck, and in work inquiring into the possibility of cosmopolitanism providing the foundation for a future European identity.

Generally speaking, contributors to the growing literature on cosmopolitanism interpret the term in a threefold manner. Some authors advocate thin cosmopolitanism, whereby cosmopolitanism is conceived as a form of detachment from local ties, whereas others argue in favor of rooted or context-specific or vernacular cosmopolitanism, whereby cosmopolitanism is conceived as congruent with locality. Finally, some suggest the existence of glocalized cosmopolitanism, whereby global detachment and local attachment coexist in a symbiotic relationship. Thus, depending upon the particular definition employed, specific groups of people can be conceived either as carriers of cosmopolitanism or as excluded from it altogether. For example, immigrant groups have been viewed as carriers of vernacular cosmopolitanism, but they are almost by definition excluded from some versions of thin cosmopolitanism.

In contrast to the growing body of theoretical work on cosmopolitanism, there is to date only a limited amount of empirical research in the literature. Ultimately, only empirical research will be in a position to determine which one of the different theoretical strands of cosmopolitanism might be the most promising one for sociology. Such work might also help to evaluate whether the world is indeed experiencing a trend toward cosmopolitanism, and might identify which attributes are observable among the public and the extent to which these are related to other trendssuch as the growth of transnational connections or a revived sense of religiosity.

SEE ALSO Cooperation; Globalization, Anthropological Aspects of; Globalization, Social and Economic Aspects of; Internationalism; Trade; Trust


Beck, Ulrich. 2005. Cosmopolitan Vision. Oxford, U.K.: Polity.

Cheah, Pheng, and Bruce Robbins, eds.1998. Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Robertson, Roland, and David Inglis. 2004. The Global Animus : In the Tracks of World Consciousness. Globalizations (1) 1: 3849.

Roudometof, Victor. 2005. Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Glocalization. Current Sociology 53 (1): 113135.

Rumford, Chris, ed. 2007. Cosmopolitanism and Europe. Liverpool, U.K.: Liverpool University Press.

Szerszynski, Bronislaw, and John Urry. 2002. Cultures of Cosmopolitanism. Sociological Review 50 (4): 461481.

Theory, Culture, and Society 19 (1-2). 2002. (Special issue on cosmopolitanism.)

Vertovec, Steven, and Robin Cohen, eds. 2002. Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

Victor Roudometof

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Although in English "cosmopolitan" means a citizen of the world or a person who has no permanent home, "cosmopolitanism" in the Soviet Union meant a rejection of Russian and Soviet values. However, after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, "cosmopolitanism" became a code word for "Jewish" and marked a period of lethal state anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union designed to eliminate Yiddish culture, Jewish intellectuals, "nationalists," and Zionists. After permitting greater freedoms during the war, the Soviet regime in 1945 tried to reimpose control in face of a new Cold War. "Cosmopolitanism" became a "reactionary bourgeois ideology" more akin to capitalism than communism. Artists and intellectuals came under attack for subservience to the West and for not expressing adequate Soviet/Russian patriotism.

During the 1920s "cosmopolitanism" had been synonymous with "internationalism," one of the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. However, in the 1930s the regime turned toward Russian nationalism, and cosmopolitanism became more closely associated with capitalismthe antithesis of communism. Before 1948, culture chief Andrei Zhdanov led condemnation of many intellectuals for favorable portrayals of Western culture without mentioning the grand achievements of the Soviet experiment. In literature, architecture, biology, philosophy, and many other disciplines, the regime singled out people for "kowtowing" to the West and not showing adequate patriotism. In biology, for example, this led to the rejection of modern genetics, and reaction in many other disciplines was likewise destructive. Apart from enforcing intellectual conformity, "cosmopolitanism" engulfed internationalists and Jews charged with bourgeois nationalism, such as members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), who raised money, awareness, and support abroad during World War II.

In early 1949, a Pravda article railed against an "unpatriotic group of theater critics," signaling the first attempt to assign collective, rather than individual, guilt for not sufficiently glorifying the Soviet system. Because most of the critics named were Jewish, this is often noted as the beginning of the anti Semitic stage of the anticosmopolitan campaign. Articles soon followed about "rootless cosmopolitans" and "passportless wanderers," which clearly referred to the Jewish diaspora outside the new state of Israel. Jews and other cosmopolitans, according to these press attacks, were isolated and/or hostile to Russian and Soviet culture and traditions. The unspoken assumption was that cosmopolitans, because they were allegedly unpatriotic, would not be loyal when the Cold War turned into an armed conflict.

The anticosmopolitan campaign destroyed the careers and lives of many of the Soviet Union's intellectual elites and separated Soviet culture and learning from much of the rest of the world. When combined with the campaign against "bourgeois nationalists," both assimilated Jewish intellectuals and Yiddish culture suffered irreparable harm. For example, when the JAC collected information on wartime atrocities against the Jews, it led to charges of nationalism. Moreover, contact with Jewish groups abroad and calls for a Jewish homeland in Crimea and contact with foreigners were "unpatriotic" and brought charges of treason. In short, doing the regime's bidding in World War II led to the imprisonment, execution, and silencing of many of the Soviet Union's leading Jewish artists and intellectuals between 1949 and 1953 after the JAC was closed in 1948. Moreover, many JAC members were executed in August 1952 in what has been called the Night of the Murdered Poets. The investigation into the activities of these JAC members seems to have been the prelude to the Doctor's Plot, which aimed at the execution of many Jews and physicians in 1953. The trials and executions were aborted after Josef Stalin's death in March 1953.

See also: slavophiles; westernizers; zhdanov, andrei alexandrovich


Dunmore, Timothy. (1984). Soviet Politics, 19451953. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Hahn, Werner. (1982). Postwar Soviet Politics: The Fall of Zhdanov and the Defeat of Moderation, 19461953. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Pinkus, Benjamin, and Frankel, Jonathan. (1984). The Soviet Government and the Jews, 19481967: A Documented Study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Rubenstein, Joshua, and Naumov, V. P., eds. (2001). Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, tr. Laura E. Wolfson. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Vaksberg, Arkadii. (1994). Stalin Against the Jews. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Karl D. Qualls

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in·ter·na·tion·al·ism / ˌintərˈnashənlˌizəm/ • n. 1. the state or process of being international: the internationalism of popular music. ∎  the advocacy of cooperation and understanding between nations. 2. (Internationalism) the principles of any of the four Internationals. DERIVATIVES: in·ter·na·tion·al·ist n.