The Crisis of World Order and the Constitutive Regime of the International System
72 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018 Last revised: 27 Aug 2019
Date Written: September 11, 2018
Statespersons, scholars, and commentators of every political persuasion agree that we are currently witnessing a crisis of world order. It is widely assumed that the co-called ‘Liberal World Order’ that the United States constructed in the post-World War II years is collapsing. This Article interrogates and challenges this claim. This Article examines what it means to speak of ‘world order’. It argues that to understand the notion of ‘world order’, it is necessary to investigate the normative foundations of the international system. Therefore, this Article develops a theoretical construct that I call the Constitutive Regime of the International System to conceptualize the notion of world order. It argues that the international system is predicated on and governed by a Constitutive Regime that embodies a grand worldview – i.e. a theory of world order – that prescribes policies, practices, and rules of international law that are considered necessary for maintaining global order and stability. This regime, which is designed by the Great Powers of each historical epoch, shapes international and domestic politics. It determines the criteria and preconditions of statehood, thereby affecting how societies are organized and governed. It promotes certain methods for the conduct of world politics, and it establishes mechanisms for international lawmaking, thus providing the constitutive foundation of international law. A crisis of world order occurs when these basic normative assumptions about the nature of the international system and the processes of global governance are challenged.
Having provided a conceptual framework for understanding the notion of ‘world order’, this Article then challenges the claim that the post-World War II ‘Liberal World Order’ is currently in a period of crisis. It argues that, beginning in the 1970s, the Liberal World Order of the post-World War II era was replaced by a neoliberal world order – in other words, a neoliberal Constitutive Regime. This Article shows how this neoliberal Constitutive Regime shaped virtually every aspect of world politics and provided the normative foundation of globalization during the closing decades of the twentieth century. The Article concludes with a discussion of the origins of the current crisis of world order and a reflection on the future of world order in an era of increased Great Power competition.
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