As the nineteenth century became the twentieth and the dangers of rampant nationalism became more evident, people throughout the world embraced the idea that a new spirit of internationalism might be fostered by better communication and understanding among nations. Cultural internationalism came into its own after the end of World War I, when intellectuals and artists realized that one way of forging a stable and lasting international peace was to encourage international cultural exchange and cooperation.
In "Cultural Internationalism and World Order, " noted historian Akira Iriye shows how widespread and serious a following this idea had. He describes a surprising array of efforts to foster cooperation, from the creation of an international language to student exchange programs, international lecture circuits, and other cultural activities. But he does not overlook the tensions the movement encountered with the real politics of the day, including the militarism that led up to the World War I, the rise of extreme strains of nationalism in Germany and Japan before World War II, and the bipolar rivalries of the Cold War.
Iriye concludes that the effort of cultural internationalism can only be appreciated only in the context of world politics. A lasting and stable world order, he argues, cannot rely just on governments and power politics; it also depends upon the open exchange of cultures among peoples in pursuing common intellectual and cultural interests.