Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy

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Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy

By Peter Trubowitz
University of Chicago Press, 1998
353 pp. $55.00
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This intellectually exciting study, by a political scientist at the University of Texas, takes an original look at the influence of sectionalism on American foreign policy. Trubowitz analyzes three decades (the 1890s, 1930s, and 1980s) marked by profound clashes over America's role in the world, and in each case he finds the differing interests of Northeast, South, and West (due mainly to their unequal participation in the world economy) to be decisive in determining the outlook of political leaders. Along the way he wages an intrepid fight against realist explanations that emphasize external forces, cultural explanations that emphasize political ideology, and institutional explanations that emphasize the structure of the state in their respective accounts of conflict and change. Whether so much explanatory punch can be provided by sectional interests defined almost entirely in material terms will undoubtedly be questioned. But the freshness of view and vigor of analysis displayed in this work entitle it to wide attention.