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That's problematic because determining "national interest" is a subjective exercise.  The British ran their colonial empire through a native colonial elite who could see the national interest as their own class interest. Even for an imperial power it's difficult to determine a true national interest except as the outcome of an internal political contest of who gets what, when, and how.  National interest is therefore an unobservable variable.

An alternative would be Karl Schmitt's solution to the problem of determining who is actually the sovereign power. (In his framework there is only one truly sovereign power in a given international system, so it is comparable to the use of "hegemon" in this discussion.) The sovereign power is the one that can break its own rules that it expects of everyone else in the system without actually undermining the institutional framework of the system for everyone else.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:45:31 PM EST
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