Domestic and foreign isolationism in an interdependent world

Helga Turku, Florida International University


Since Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics established the basis for Western political thought almost 2500 years ago, the discipline of international relations has evolved substantially. However, most of the literature revolves around state interaction within the system, and there is little discussion of countries that opt out of the international states system and become isolationist. Given the interdependent nature of the modern international system, this study elaborates on domestic and foreign isolationism by expounding upon the reasons and consequences of states opting out of the international system. The empirical case studies utilized to explore isolationism are Albania, North Korea, and Burma. By empirically verifying the components, motivations, and consequences of isolationism in an interdependent world, this study provides insight into why and how states resist engagement with the global socioeconomic and political state system. Using historical, comparative, and inductive analysis, this study explains why states choose to isolate themselves both domestically and internationally. Specifically, comparative historical analysis highlights isolationism as a concept and practice. This study maintains that extreme forms of self-imposed isolation in an interdependent international system, while perhaps serving the immediate interests of a ruling regime, harms the long-term national interests of the state and the populace. Although the leadership in an isolationist state gains a significant amount of power and control over the people within its borders, the state as a whole experiences profound negative effects. In the long term, a state loses power, stability, prestige, and suffers a decline in overall economic prosperity. States that withdraw from the international system, therefore, provide insight into an unexplored area of international relations when considering notions of rationality, self-interest, power politics, cooperation, and alliances. In short, isolationism in an interdependent state system goes against the logic of the modern society/system of states, resulting in deleterious consequences to the wellbeing of the state.

Subject Area

International law

Recommended Citation

Turku, Helga, "Domestic and foreign isolationism in an interdependent world" (2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3353589.