, Volume 94, Number 1

Constance Duncombe and Tim Dunne
In recent years claims about the end times of the liberal world order have gathered force, with the talk of order giving way to disruption. While there are different accounts of these disruptive dynamics and their causes, it is nevertheless a rare moment in International Relations when all mainstream theories concur that the hegemony of the liberal world order is over and that there is considerable uncertainty about the global architecture that will take its place. Yet claiming that the liberal world order is in trouble is just a starting-point—a deeper account is needed to show how each interrelated element ‘hangs together’. We examine two interrelated patterns to liberal world ordering—internationalism and imperialism. After unpacking each of these interrelated ideas which constitute liberal world order, the narrative will focus on the politics and practice of humanitarianism. Humanitarianism is, of course, deeply intertwined with liberal assumptions about an ethic of care for peoples who are either at risk of, or worse still suffering from, large-scale natural disasters and politically-induced atrocities. Our inference is that the condition of humanitarianism provides a good indication of the state of the liberal world order—its limits and possibilities.

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