Definition & Introduction

Internationalism is a principle that espouses increased cooperation between nations across political, economic, and cultural exchanges. Proponents of internationalist policies typically endorse the idea that people around the world are best served by multilateral collaboration between countries and the promotion of global comity.

Joel Rosenthal, president of Carnegie Council, identified two distinct visions that are gaining momentum which are in opposition to what he calls “responsible internationalism.” The first is ethnonationalism: a vision promoting “blood and soil allegiances, closed borders, strongman politics, and the use of state power to promote traditional values on family and sexuality.” The second is a libertarian worldview as expressed by Western oligarchs such as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel who advocate for decreased regulation and skepticism towards the effectiveness of international institutions.

Explore the resources below for continued analysis of internationalism and its role in world affairs.

A Moment of Crisis for Responsible Internationalism

Carnegie Council President Joel Rosenthal argues for the idea that “self-interests are always bound to the interests of others.”

Global-scale challenges like climate change, food and energy shortages, and nuclear crises demonstrate the need for a new era of internationalism. Will our leaders step up?

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Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relations, with Christopher McKnight Nichols

In this Doorstep podcast Book Talk, co-hosts Tatiana Serafin and Nikolas Gvosdev speak with Ohio State's Professor Christopher Nichols about how the ideological landscape of the United States has impacted foreign policy from the American Revolution up to the war in Ukraine.

Watch the event

More on Internationalism from Carnegie Council’s Archive

NOV 1, 2018 Article

Sanders' "Selective Engagement" versus Transactional Internationalism

How did the Trump administration's "America First" foreign policy differ from traditional Republican approaches? What is "transactional internationalism" and does it reflect U.S. foreign policy during this time?

MAY 22, 2012 Article

What We Talk About When We Talk About Isolationism

Pulling from Christopher McKnight Nichols' book "Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age," Dorfman analyzes the development of isolationism and argues that "much could be gained from reinvigorating the idea of a non-entangled . . . America in contemporary progressive politics."

Additional Internationalism Resources

The United States: A Cautious Return to Internationalism

Can the U.S. deliver economic security to Americans while supporting an open world order?


The Nineteenth-Century Origin of Internationalism

How did liberal internationalism become a distinct agenda for organizing international relations?


The Internationalist: A Council on Foreign Relations blog

"Stewart M. Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.”


A World Safe for Democracy

Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order