Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order

Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order

Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order

Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order

Synopsis

In the second half of the twentieth century, the United States engaged in the most ambitious and far-reaching liberal order building the world had yet seen. This liberal international order has been one of the most successful in history in providing security and prosperity to more people. But in the last decade, the American-led order has been troubled. Some argue that the Bush administration, with its war on terror, invasion of Iraq, and unilateral orientation, undermined this liberal order. Others argue that we are witnessing the end of the American era. Liberal Leviathan engages these debates.


G. John Ikenberry argues that the crisis that besets the American-led order is a crisis of authority. A political struggle has been ignited over the distribution of roles, rights, and authority within the liberal international order. But the deeper logic of liberal order remains alive and well. The forces that have triggered this crisis--the rise of non-Western states such as China, contested norms of sovereignty, and the deepening of economic and security interdependence--have resulted from the successful functioning and expansion of the postwar liberal order, not its breakdown. The liberal international order has encountered crises in the past and evolved as a result. It will do so again.


Ikenberry provides the most systematic statement yet about the theory and practice of the liberal international order, and a forceful message for policymakers, scholars, and general readers about why America must renegotiate its relationship with the rest of the world and pursue a more enlightened strategy--that of the liberal leviathan.

Excerpt

This book is an inquiry into the logic and changing character of liberal international order. Over the last two hundred years, Western democratic states have made repeated efforts to build international order around open and rule-based relations among states—that is, they have engaged in liberal order building. This “liberal project” has unfolded amidst other great forces and events that have shaped the modern world—imperialism, revolution, world war, economic boom and bust, nation-building, and globalization. In the second half of the twentieth century, the United States engaged in the most ambitious and far-reaching liberal order building the world had yet seen. The result was a particular type of liberal international order—a liberal hegemonic order. The United States took on the duties of building and running an international order, organizing it around multilateral institutions, alliances, special relationships, and client states. It was a hierarchical political order with liberal characteristics. Defined in terms of the provision of security, wealth creation, and social advancement, this liberal hegemonic order has been, arguably at least, the most successful order in world history. This book offers an account of the origins and inner workings of this far-flung political order.

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