This article argues that the biggest challenges facing the post-1945 liberal international
order are the need to genuinely embrace ethno-racial diversity and to
reduce class-based inequalities. However, this is problematic because the liberal
international order’s core foundational principles, and principal underpinning
‘theory’ (liberal internationalism), are Eurocentric, elitist and resistant to change.
Those core principles are subliminally racialized, elitist and imperial. They are
embedded in post-1945 international institutions, elite mindsets, and in the institutions
of the US foreign policy establishment—which are seeking to incorporate
emerging power elites, willingly, into the US-led order. As illustration, this article
considers examples that bookend the US-led system: wartime elite planning for
global leadership; the role of the United Nations in Korea from 1945 to 1953,
where it served as the primary instrument for the creation and incorporation of
(South) Korea into the US-led order; and several US state-linked initiatives in
China over the past several decades, including the Ford Foundation. The article
compares the contemporary and historical evidence to liberal internationalist
claims, as well as to claims implied by work on ‘ultra-imperialism’, based on Karl
Kautsky’s and Antonio Gramsci’s ideas of hegemony. The article concludes that
elite incorporation—by a combination of coercion, attraction and socialization—
is the principal goal of the US-led order, as opposed to embracing diversity and
moving towards genuine change felt at a mass level. Hence, we should expect
domestic and international political crises to deepen.
The US-led liberal order: imperialism by another name?
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