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Morality and the national interest: towards a 'moral realist' research agenda


Brostrom, J, Morality and the national interest: towards a 'moral realist' research agenda, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 29, (4) pp. 1624-1639. ISSN 0955-7571 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 Centre of International Studies

DOI: doi:10.1080/09557571.2015.1015488


This article engages with recent scholarship on role of morality in classical realist conceptions of the national interest. It argues that for analytical purposes morality can be linked to notions of power, rather than being explicitly or solely normative. This stems from a re-examination of conversations between classical realists about absoluteness, where morality is treated as a categorical imperative; and about consequences, or the understanding that policy can have both moral and material outcomes. I then conduct a focused analysis of three common strands in the work of Morgenthau, Niebuhr and Kennan that facilitate the development of what might be termed a ‘moral realist’ framework. In doing so, I address the expectations, modes and results of foreign policy choices. This incorporates expectations of reciprocity in state relations, the importance of rational choice and the outcomes of ‘moral’ foreign policy choices. I conclude that moral realism shows some promise as an evaluative tool, and is worthy of further development.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Applied ethics
Research Field:Applied ethics not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
UTAS Author:Brostrom, J (Ms Jannika Brostrom)
ID Code:110373
Year Published:2016 (online first 2015)
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Arts, Law and Education
Deposited On:2016-07-25
Last Modified:2017-11-17

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