The International Spectator, Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2018

Numero speciale: The Liberal Order and its Contestations
Guest editor: Riccardo Alcaro

Free Contestation and Transformation. Final Thoughts on the Liberal International Order View this article online

Pubblicato anche: Riccardo Alcaro (ed.), The Liberal Order and its Contestations. Great powers and regions transiting in a multipolar era, London and New York, Routledge, August 2018, 174 p. ISBN 978-1-138-61771-1

Data pubblicazione: 

Special Issue: The Liberal Order and its Contestations

The Liberal Order and its Contestations. A Conceptual Framework
Riccardo Alcaro
Academics, experts and practitioners know that the liberal order has come out on top of the many challenges it faced in the past. Yet, a pervading sense that the liberal order is waning persists, as if the challenges the order is confronted with today are of a different and ultimately more damaging nature. This Special Issue of The International Spectator identifies and dissects this new set of challenges. It looks at the internal fissures and examines the external pressure points that are making the liberal order edifice reel, with a view to providing some more conclusive arguments about what we may expect in the future.
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Diversity Management: Regionalism and the Future of the International Order
Giovanni Grevi
The ongoing redistribution of power on the international stage points to a more decentred international system featuring a multiplication of governance arrangements. A larger range of pivotal countries have the capacity and the confidence to pursue different priorities, a development that questions the prevalent post-Cold War expectation that the liberal international order would grow both wider and deeper. The central challenge for the future of the international order is managing diversity in ways that minimise conflict and leverage the benefits of interdependence. The evolution of regionalism and regional orders will be a critical dimension of the realignment of power, interests and normative agendas at the global level. Both more competition and more cooperation are likely to take place at the regional level, with the mix changing in different parts of the world. Provided that it is not merely a cover for coercive hegemonic aspirations and that it is designed to complement other levels of cooperation, regionalism can play an important role in preventing a more polycentric world from becoming a more fragmented and unstable one.
Keywords: Liberal order, US foreign policy, global governance, multipolarity, multilateralism, regionalism
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Present at the Destruction? The Liberal Order in the Trump Era
John Peterson
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 sent shock waves across political classes globally and prompted debates about whether his ‘America first’ agenda threatened the liberal international order. During his first year in office, Trump seemed determined to undermine the hallmarks of the liberal international order: democracy, liberal economics and international cooperation. So, are we witnessing the emergence of a “post-liberal” and “post-American” era? Four sources of evidence help frame – if not answer – the question: history, the crisis of liberal democracy, Trump’s world view, and the power of civil society (globally and nationally) to constrain any US President. They yield three main judgements. First, continuity often trumps change in US foreign policy. Second, the liberal international order may have been more fragile pre-Trump than was widely realised. Third, American power must be put at the service of its own democracy if the US is to become the example to the world it used to be.
Keywords: US foreign policy, US politics, liberal order, multipolarity
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The EU and the Global Order: Contingent Liberalism
Michael H. Smith and Richard Youngs
Politicians, diplomats and analysts commonly assume that commitment to multilateralism and liberal norms is part of the EU’s very DNA. Increasingly, however, the EU’s commitment to the liberal global order is more selective. We demonstrate the shift to a more contingent liberalism by examining the EU’s recent record in relation to four different challenges: international trade; US leadership; Russian actions in the eastern neighbourhood; and security in the Middle East. We speculate on what this may portend for the EU’s self-identity, European interests and the integrity of the prevailing global order.
Keywords: EU foreign policy, EU trade policy, European security, liberal order, global governance
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Global Reordering and China's Rise: Adoption, Adaptation and Reform
Shaun Breslin
While much of the debate over the implications of China’s rise tends to dichotomise around either status quo or revisionist predictions, the reality seems to lie somewhere in between. In broad terms, China has embraced multilateral forms of cooperation and governance. This does not mean, however, that it is satisfied with the distribution of power in many international institutions, or some of the norms and principles that underpin them. This has resulted in a reformist position, with China increasingly willing to offer its own supplementary alternatives. China’s rise has also provided an important economic alternative to dealing with the West, and considerably undermined the ability of others to establish their preferences and world views. China’s lack of commitment to democracy and the external promotion of human rights remains a key reason why some analysts remain unconvinced about the long-term ambitions of an illiberal actor in a global liberal order.
Keywords: China, global governance, norms, China model, rising powers, liberalism
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Russia's Neorevisionist Challenge to the Liberal International Order
Tatiana Romanova
A conventional opinion is that Russia is trying to destroy the liberal international order. Russia indeed defies it, but also justifies its foreign policy with the liberal order’s normative frameworks and reproaches the West for not standing up to these norms. Moreover, Moscow does not present any alternative vision. Russia complains about the internal contradictions of the liberal order: sovereignty vs. intervention, pluralism vs. universality, US hegemony vs. equality and democracy, although it also exploits these contradictions. In fact Russia demands an adjustment of the liberal order rather than its eradication and should, therefore, be classified as a neorevisionist power. Two elements underlie Russia’s at times aggressive foreign policy conduct. The first one, its feeling of being ill-accommodated in the present order, predefines the direction of the policy. The second, the prioritisation of foreign policy over domestic reforms, explains the intensity of Russian discontent and its occasional aggressive manifestations. Russia’s domestic consensus regarding its foreign policy, including views on the liberal international order, facilitates this aggressiveness. Three policy conclusions can be drawn: acknowledging that Russia uses the inherent contradictions of the liberal international order opens up possibilities for dialogue and an eventual overcoming of the crisis; the survival and strengthening of the liberal order depends on its embrace of all major players, including Russia, and hence, the need for some adjustments to the order itself; and finally such adjustments presuppose Russia’s readiness to shoulder responsibility for the (reformed) liberal international order.
Keywords: Liberal international order, Russia, Russian foreign policy, multipolarity, neorevisionism, neoclassical realism
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India's Role in a Liberal Post-Western World
Samir Saran
After a period of significant gains, achieved largely through the establishment of institutions that promoted international liberalism, the global order today finds itself at a crucial juncture. Rising inequality, the proliferation of nationalist politics, technology-induced disruptions and the resurgence of zero-sum geopolitics, are all beginning to shake the foundations of the global governance architecture built assiduously over the past 70 years. It is clear that the liberal order, as it is frequently referred to, will not be able to sustain its influence in the 21st century unless it finds new torchbearers in Asia, where politics and economics are scripting a story very different from that of post-war Europe. To some, it is evident that India, which has successfully combined economic growth with its own liberal traditions, will indeed be the heir to and guarantor of this system as an emerging and leading power.
Keywords: India’s foreign policy, Asian security, liberal order, New Delhi Consensus, global governance, Asian century
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Lost in Transition: The Liberal International Order in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus
Laure Delcour
While espoused by the newly independent states after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberal order has not taken root in interstate relations and is now openly contested in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. However, the challenges presented (primarily by Russia) to the international order also trigger growing contestation, in several Eastern European and South Caucasus countries, of an existing regional order premised on Russian hegemony. Therefore, the picture that emerges from these multiple contestations is not an alternative regional order, but rather overlapping orders in a fragmented region.
Keywords: European security, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, EU-Russia relations, liberal order
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The Middle East's Troubled Relationship with the Liberal International Order
Paul Salem
The Middle East has had a complex relationship with the so-called liberal international order. Many peoples and elites of the region welcomed the promise, and promises, of the liberal order after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and sought to integrate into it; for other peoples and elites, there have been negative reactions and resistance to it. Today, a majority of countries are integrated, at least nominally, into the global order, while some are decidedly still in systemic challenge with it. The Middle East has also had difficulty in cohering as a region; the condition today is one of collapsed regional order and proxy conflict.
Keywords: Middle East, liberal order, regionalism, multipolarity
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Order and Contestation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Liberal vs Developmental/Non-interventionist Approaches
Richard Stubbs
The United States/European-inspired liberal international order has long been challenged in the Asia-Pacific. During the Cold War years, Washington sponsored a developmental, state-interventionist order to contain the threat from Asian communism. This developmental order persisted even as the end of the Cold War allowed the US to promote a liberal regional order. Moreover, after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98, the US was increasing constrained by its post-9/11 preoccupation with the Middle East, the rise of China, its responsibility for the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the infighting that consumed Washington. While elements of a liberal order can be found in the Asia-Pacific today, they must continue to contend with non-interventionist and developmental values still found in the region.
Keywords: Asia-Pacific, East Asia, Southeast Asia, liberal regional order, liberal values, developmental state, non-interventionist values
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Contestation and Transformation. Final Thoughts on the Liberal International Order
Riccardo Alcaro
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
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Book Reviews

Fragile Europe
Erik Jones
Review of: After Europe, by Ivan Krastev, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017
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Tales from a Post-Dollar World. How America's Growing Deficit and a Euro-Renminbi Axis Could Accelerate the Demise of the Greenback
Nicola Casarini
Review of:
-- How global currencies work : past, present, and future, by Barry Eichengreen, Arnaud Mehl and Livia Chitu, Princeton University Press, 2017
-- Gaining currency : the rise of the renminbi, by Eswar S. Prasad, Oxford University Press, 2017
-- The Mandibles : a family, 2029-2047, by Lionel Shriver, HarperCollins, 2016
-- The Euro, the dollar and the global financial crisis, by Miguel Otero-Iglesias, Routledge, 2014
-- La guerre des monnaies : la Chine et le nouvel ordre mondial, by Hongbing Song, Scribedit-le Retour aux sources, 2013
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(Pubblicazione) The Liberal Order and its Contestations - 14/08/2018