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John J. Mearsheimer — Bound To Fail: The Rise And Fall Of The Liberal International Order

Summary:
I came across this fantastic article by John J. Mearsheimer, from earlier this year, on how the liberal international order is failing. It’s written more from a political perspective (and mainstream too) than from a heterodox political economy perspective but it’s worth a read.From the introduction:AbstractThe liberal international order, erected after the Cold War, was crumbling by 2019. It was flawed from the start and thus destined to fail. The spread of liberal democracy around the globe—essential for building that order—faced strong resistance because of nationalism, which emphasizes self-determination. Some targeted states also resisted U.S. efforts to promote liberal democracy for security-related reasons. Additionally, problems arose because a liberal order calls for states to

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I came across this fantastic article by John J. Mearsheimer, from earlier this year, on how the liberal international order is failing. It’s written more from a political perspective (and mainstream too) than from a heterodox political economy perspective but it’s worth a read.

John J. Mearsheimer — Bound To Fail: The Rise And Fall Of The Liberal International Order

From the introduction:

Abstract

The liberal international order, erected after the Cold War, was crumbling by 2019. It was flawed from the start and thus destined to fail. The spread of liberal democracy around the globe—essential for building that order—faced strong resistance because of nationalism, which emphasizes self-determination. Some targeted states also resisted U.S. efforts to promote liberal democracy for security-related reasons. Additionally, problems arose because a liberal order calls for states to delegate substantial decisionmaking authority to international institutions and to allow refugees and immigrants to move easily across borders. Modern nation-states privilege sovereignty and national identity, however, which guarantees trouble when institutions become powerful and borders porous. Furthermore, the hyperglobalization that is integral to the liberal order creates economic problems among the lower and middle classes within the liberal democracies, fueling a backlash against that order. Finally, the liberal order accelerated China’s rise, which helped transform the system from unipolar to multipolar. A liberal international order is possible only in unipolarity. The new multipolar world will feature three realist orders: a thin international order that facilitates cooperation, and two bounded orders—one dominated by China, the other by the United States—poised for waging security competition between them.

Introduction

By 2019, it was clear that the liberal international order was in deep trouble. The tectonic plates that underpin it are shifting, and little can be done to repair and rescue it. Indeed, that order was destined to fail from the start, as it contained the seeds of its own destruction.

The fall of the liberal international order horrifies the Western elites who built it and who have benefited from it in many ways. These elites fervently believe that this order was and remains an important force for promoting peace and prosperity around the globe. Many of them blame President Donald Trump for its demise. After all, he expressed contempt for the liberal order when campaigning for president in 2016; and since taking office, he has pursued policies that seem designed to tear it down.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that the liberal international order is in trouble solely because of Trump’s rhetoric or policies. In fact, more fundamental problems are at play, which account for why Trump has been able to successfully challenge an order that enjoys almost universal support among the foreign policy elites in the West. The aim of this article is to determine why the liberal world order is in big trouble and to identify the kind of international order that will replace it.

For a Post-Keynesian take, see Thomas Palley’s paper Globalization Checkmated? Political And Geopolitical Contradictions Coming Home To Roost, from RWER, last year.

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