These are not happy times for liberal internationalists. No one can be sure how
deep the crisis of liberal internationalism runs. However, in what follows, I argue
that despite its troubles, liberal internationalism still has a future. The nature
of the crisis is surprising. The threats to liberal internationalism were expected
to come from rising non-western states seeking to undermine or overturn the
postwar order. In the face of hostile, revisionist states, the United States and
Europe were expected to stand shoulder to shoulder to protect the gains from 70
years of cooperation. But, in fact, liberal internationalism is more deeply threatened
by developments within the West itself. The centrist and progressive coalitions
that lay behind the postwar liberal order have weakened. Liberal democracy
itself appears fragile and polarized, vulnerable to far right populism and backlash
politics. In recent decades, the working and middle classes in advanced industrial
democracies—the original constituencies and beneficiaries of an open and cooperative
international order—have faced rising economic inequality and stagnation.
Within the West, liberal internationalism is increasingly seen, not as a source of
stability and solidarity among like-minded states, but as a global playing field for
the wealthy and influential. Liberal internationalism has lost its connection to the
pursuit of social and economic advancement within western countries.
The end of liberal international order?
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