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.
After liberal world order
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