The National Interest and Global Justice: Contradictory Terms, Incomparable and Non-commensurable Goods, Yet Compatible?

  • Ariel ColonomosEmail author
Original Paper


Prima facie, the pursuit of national interest stands in contradiction with the rules of global justice. Indeed, the former relies upon selfishness and the maximization of national utility, while the latter presupposes distributive measures at the global level that exercise some constrain on state behavior. However, these two notions are open to interpretation and, sometimes, even lack clarity. This paper will look for clarification and will ask whether it is possible to go beyond the radical difference between those two logics. I will start by underlining the reasons why the national interest and global justice are in contradiction with each other. Although they are not commensurable, the paper will then argue the two can be compatible in specific equilibriums of international politics, I will refer to as the “rationalist” and the “revolutionist” modes. Finally, the paper will discuss whether, in the best of all possible worlds, we should strive for this compatibility.


International politics International relations theory Global justice National interest Commensurability Realism 


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Copyright information

© Fudan University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS-CERI, Sciences PoParisFrance

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