A Liberal World Order in Crisis

A Liberal World Order in Crisis: Choosing between Imposition and Restraint

Georg Sørensen
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    A Liberal World Order in Crisis
    Book Description:

    The collapse of the bipolar international system near the end of the twentieth century changed political liberalism from a regional system with aspirations of universality to global ideological dominance as the basic vision of how international life should be organized. Yet in the last two decades liberal democracies have not been able to create an effective and legitimate liberal world order. In A Liberal World Order in Crisis, Georg Sorensen suggests that this is connected to major tensions between two strains of liberalism: a "liberalism of imposition" affirms the universal validity of liberal values and is ready to use any means to secure the worldwide expansion of liberal principles. A "liberalism of restraint" emphasizes nonintervention, moderation, and respect for others.

    This book is the first comprehensive discussion of how tensions in liberalism create problems for the establishment of a liberal world order. The book is also the first skeptical liberal statement to appear since the era of liberal optimism-based in anticipation of the end of history-in the 1990s. Sorensen identifies major competing analyses of world order and explains why their focus on balance-of-power competition, civilizational conflict, international terrorism, and fragile states is insufficient.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6329-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Argument
    (pp. 1-6)

    The current world order is more liberal than any previous order in history: it is dominated by free, democratic states, there is almost universal support for a state-market arrangement based on private property and free market exchange, and a vast network of international institutions articulate and support liberal doctrines. At the same time, progress is much less secure in many areas than it might seem at first glance; for example, democracy is not making significant progress in a large number of countries, and any global commitment to liberal principles and values remains thin and uncertain. In contrast to early “end...

  5. Chapter 1 The Debate on World Order
    (pp. 7-27)

    The lack of a general consensus on the major characteristics of world order has led to a considerable amount of confusion among scholars as well as among policymakers. What kind of order is emerging now? Is it the “liberal moment” (Fukuyama 1992); a multipolar balance of power and a new round of potentially hostile competition between states (Waltz 1993, 2002); a “clash of civilizations” (Huntington 1996); “Jihad vs. McWorld” (Barber 1995); “the coming anarchy” (Kaplan 2000); the “return of history” (Kagan 2007); or some combination of all this, or perhaps something entirely different, even a really “New World Order” (Slaughter...

  6. Chapter 2 Tensions in Liberalism: Universal Values for All or a Pluralist World?
    (pp. 28-65)

    It is a core argument of this book that the liberal values that make up the foundation for a liberal world order are fraught with tensions and possible contradictions. The liberal difficulties are connected to the very core of the liberal creed: the complex entity of liberty. This chapter will demonstrate how the concept of liberty can be interpreted in very different ways. It also illuminates liberal tensions in the international sphere and the diverging opinions among liberal states about the best ways of promoting freedom.

    World order was defined earlier as a governing arrangement among states. A liberal world...

  7. Chapter 3 Values and Liberal World Order
    (pp. 66-87)

    The support for liberal values was identified earlier as a central element of liberal world order. At the same time, any endorsement of liberal values must confront the tension between a Liberalism of Restraint and a Liberalism of Imposition, as clarified in chapter 2. What does that mean for the promotion and status of liberal values in the world? The Liberalism of Imposition was accompanied by a strong optimism concerning the prospects for liberal progress: if evolutionary change for the better is secure, why not give history a helping hand and accelerate the tempo of an already predestined evolution?¹ I...

  8. Chapter 4 A Different Security Dilemma: Liberals Facing Weak and Failed States
    (pp. 88-116)

    This chapter will demonstrate how the difficulties for liberal states of responding appropriately to the challenges of weak and failed states are intimately connected to the tension between Liberal Restraint and Liberal Imposition. A policy of Restraint was embarked upon in the context of decolonization; a policy of Imposition has dominated the agenda in the new millennium. Neither the Liberalism of Restraint nor the Liberalism of Imposition promises to successfully confront the problems of weak and failed states, and there are no facile compromises between the two. Therefore, liberal democracies will continue to be, not merely uneasy and insecure about...

  9. Chapter 5 Free Markets for All: The Difficulties of Maintaining a Stable Liberal World Economy
    (pp. 117-140)

    We now turn to the economic dimension of liberal world order. A stable global economy based on liberal principles of free markets and private property is a cornerstone of liberal world order. Some will see the economy as the easy part of the liberal project; there is, after all, almost universal support today for a liberal-capitalist free market arrangement. Even classic, diehard opponents of a liberal economy, such as North Korea and Cuba, are slowly moving in that direction. But the economy directly affects the well-being of citizens around the world, including people (and voters) in liberal states. Therefore, economic...

  10. Chapter 6 Institutions and Liberal World Order
    (pp. 141-166)

    Institutions, international as well as domestic, play a significant role in any liberal order. Institutions were defined in chapter 2 as sets of rules, formal and informal, that states and other actors play by. According to liberals, a rule-based order is much to be preferred to the alternative, an order without rules. That is because even powerful actors such as great powers would face very high costs if they were to use only force in order to influence events (Keohane 1998). Furthermore, a purely power-based order is thin and shaky because it lacks legitimacy, the lawfulness that follows from being...

  11. Conclusion: Prospects for Liberal World Order
    (pp. 167-188)

    Fifteen years ago, in 1996, one observer of Eastern Europe confirmed the rising popularity of liberal democracy: “to live under autocracy, or even to be an autocrat, seems backward, uncivilized, distasteful, not quite comme il faut —in a word, ‘uncool’ ” (Nadia 1996: 15). In 2007, a mere eleven years later, Time Magazine celebrated Vladimir Putin as “Person of the Year”; a man with “steely confidence and strength,” he had allegedly moved Russia away from the “rudderless mess” that prevailed under Boris Yeltsin toward order, stability, and economic prosperity. In the following year, 2008, the WorldPublicOpinion survey, managed by the...

  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 189-190)
  13. References
    (pp. 191-212)
  14. Index
    (pp. 213-218)