Abstract

The article seeks to analyse the current state of the ‘international community’ in the light of different traditions of thought. It finds the distinctive element of ‘community’ in the prioritization of community interests as against the egoistic interests of individual states. Whereas factual interdependence undeniably exists in the contemporary state system, several traditions of thought shed a different light on the existence of common values and institutions. Modifying a classification coined by Hedley Bull, the article distinguishes four views of the international system: a ‘Hobbesian’ or ‘realist’ tradition, a ‘Vatteltan’ or internationalist tradition, a ‘Grotian’ or ‘communitarian’ tradition, and a ‘Kantian’ or universalist tradition. In an analysis of the current state of affairs, the article claims that the classical ‘Lotus principle’ is giving way to a more communitarian, more highly institutionalized international law, in which states ‘channel’ the pursuit of most of their individual interests through multilateral institutions. Nevertheless, the authors do not deny the aspirational element of the ‘community’ concept.