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Making Sense of the “International Community”

An IIGG Working Paper

Author: Tod Lindberg, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Making Sense of the  “International Community” - making-sense-of-the-international-community

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date January 2014

24 pages


When discourse on global affairs refers to the international community, it often refers to different groupings of international actors. In this International Institutions and Global Governance program Working Paper, Tod Lindberg explores theoretical underpinnings and the historical development of international institutions to define the concept of "international community." Examining the term through legal, sociological, and critical perspectives, Lindberg argues that the international community represents an intersection of morality and politics in the form of liberal normative ideals played out in global affairs. In practice, the term can and should be used when there is clear consensus on an issue; however, when division exists, the international community risks becoming a polemical phrase.

More About This Publication

Tod Lindberg is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the editor of Beyond Paradise and Power: Europe, America and the Future of a Troubled Partnership (Routledge, 2005). He is coauthor with Lee Feinstein of Means to an End: U.S. Interest in the International Criminal Court (Brookings Press, 2009) and coeditor with Derek Chollet and David Shorr of Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide (Routledge, 2007). He is the author of The Political Teachings of Jesus, a philosophical study of Gospel teaching about worldly affairs (HarperCollins, 2007; paperback edition, HarperOne, 2008). He is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, writes frequently for the New Republic, and is a member of the adjunct faculty at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he teaches ethics in international politics. Ben Atlas provided research assistance on this paper.

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