Critical Perspectives on the Concept of the ‘National Interest’: American Imperialism, British Foreign Policy and the Middle East

David Wearing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


According to critical historical materialist perspectives, government policy tends to serve the interests of the state, the ruling class, and other concentrations of social and economic power, rather than the broader interests of the nation or the public. Under this theoretical account, the “national interest” is conceptualised in the dominant discourse in such a way as to legitimise policies that, in practice, serve narrower class and state interests.

Since the financial crash of 2008, these themes have found increased expression in public debate, with the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London protestors identifying a divergence of interests between “the 1 per cent” and “the 99 per cent” of the population. They also appear in the work of Adam Smith, who identified vested commercial interests as a distorting influence on policy.

This chapter sets out how these critical perspectives can be applied to contemporary debates around British foreign policy, particular in respect of the Middle East and North Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Foreign Policy and the National Interest
Subtitle of host publicationIdentity, Strategy and Security
EditorsJamie Gaskarth, Timothy Edmunds, Robin Porter
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-39235-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-48331-0
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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