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Kant, Mill, and Illiberal Legacies in International Affairs

  • Beate Jahn (a1)
Abstract

While the revival of the concept of “imperialism” appears to be a reaction to recent political challenges, I argue that it has always been at the core of liberal thought in international relations. While liberal internationalism enlists the authority of Immanuel Kant, at its heart one finds the security dilemma between liberal and nonliberal states as well as the propagation of particularist law under a universal guise. This un-Kantian liberal thought, however, has a classical precedent in John Stuart Mill, with whom it shares the justification of imperialist policies. A historically sensitive reading of Mill and Kant, however, can explain the striking failures of liberal internationalism in spreading liberal institutions as well as reducing international conflicts.I am profoundly grateful for the encouraging and exceptionally constructive comments of the two anonymous reviewers as well as the editor of International Organization, which triggered a substantial further development of the initial argument. I would also like to thank Barry Hindess for his comments as well as for his articles on liberalism pointing out the parallels between domestic and international liberalism. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Culture and International History Conference, 2002, in Wittenberg, and I would like to thank Jessica Gienow-Hecht and Frank Schumacher for the organization as well as the participants for inspiring discussions. Special thanks are due to David Boucher for inviting me to speak about John Stuart Mill at a research seminar in Cardiff that gave me the opportunity to try out my interpretation of Mill on Political Theorists. Students and faculty at Cardiff University provided very interesting and fruitful suggestions. Thanks are also due to Robbie Shilliam, whose work as a research assistant in connection with another project turned up some of the literature for this article. Finally, as always, I am grateful to Justin Rosenberg for generously devoting his time to improving my English in style and grammar.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
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