International Affairs
5 January 2018 , Volume 94, Number 1

Authors

Harald Edinger

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Order needs an ideational foundation that provides it with legitimacy. Most scholars writing on international order, though they employ fundamentally different approaches and intellectual histories, appear to agree on this. This book review essay contrasts some of these different perspectives. It reviews Francis Fukuyama’s eminent The end of history and the last man and asks what it can tell us about the ideational and psychological conditions underlying change in the international order. This discussion is integrated with a review of three more recent works on order formation and change: Richard Haass focuses on the distribution of material power, Barry Buzan and George Lawson discuss the transformational impact of the nineteenth century on international relations and Andrew Phillips and J. C. Sharman look at the relationship between divergence of polity forms and order. I argue that the post-Second World War order, which rests on liberal democracy as the consensually agreed on ideational foundation, remains firmly in place—despite challenges from nationalism, authoritarianism or religious fanaticism. However, there are three ways in which a new order could be brought about: power shifts leading to hegemonic war, wild cards or the emergence of a new ideational foundation that poses a feasible alternative to liberal democracy.

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