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Contestation and Transformation. Final Thoughts on the Liberal International Order


The liberal international order, the inseparable mix of US geopolitical power and ideational project of organising international relations along normative frameworks such as internationalism, institutionalism and democracy, is reeling under the pressure of profound systemic changes such as greater interconnectedness and multipolarity. Predictions abound that increasing great power competition, most visibly at play in geographical areas of contested orders, will eventually tear it down. However, even if major actors – the US included – display a selective, irregular and often instrumental commitment to the liberal order, they are still repositioning themselves in that order and not outside of it. In addition, conflict is not the default outcome of order contestation, as hybrid forms of governance are possible even in troubled regions. No doubt, the world of tomorrow will be less American-shaped and less liberal, but transformation is a more plausible future than collapse for the liberal order.
Keywords: Liberal international order, multipolarity, global governance, regional governance