Liberal International Order and Global Disorders: Understanding the Past for Imagining Alternative Futures


International orders after the second world war were the dominant system of international relations, this system brought the idea of peace and prosperity to all. Although this hasn’t been the case, the proposition of peace in the liberal international order has been challenged at various stages. To discuss and to put more light upon the same topic, the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS)IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, hosted a special lecture under the #WebPolicyTalk series, The State of International Affairs – #DiplomacyDialogue with  Prof Meenal Shrivastava on Liberal International Order and Global Disorders: Understanding the Past for Imagining Alternative Futures.

Liberal International Order and Global Disorders: Understanding the Past for Imagining Alternative Futures
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The lecture started with an introduction of the topic by the moderator of the session, Dr. Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI, New Delhi. She gave a highlight about the issues faced by the international order, how the approach we have been taking is failing and how the western idea of global disorder or issues have created a dilemma in the implication and solution.

The Unequal Impact

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Prof Meenal Shrivastava, Professor and Coordinator, Political Economy and Global Studies, Athabasca University, Canada, started her lecture by highlighting the relation between the past for imaging alternative futures. She first explained how medical technologies and research have developed greatly and their capabilities have reached new spheres of expansion. However, various diseases, which are most prevalent in pre-mature deaths like Cancers, Cardiac and Neonatal diseases, remain unaddressed in the new developments.

The Internet has become an unprecedented part of our life, but the developments of ICT are unequal among the nations of the global north and the global south. Rather, the division of wealth was extremely unequal before, but the pandemic made the global south or people with less wealth most vulnerable, and the rich were extremely benefited from the same. The question lies in how to reconfigure this crisis.

The Liberal Order

Prof Shrivastava explained the basic description of liberal order which is a set of global rules-based structured relations on political and economic liberalism since the 1940s. It has been an essential part of foreign relations and alliance building by various nations. One of the key features in international relations is the sovereign state, which was established by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and eventually lead to the evolution of the Morden state. This treaty settled the disrupted violence in Europe and established boundaries between the nations.

The academic analyst believes that this order has been prevalent in the past for only a mere time, but in various places in the world where a multi-state system already existed. These areas were colonized by the Europeans and this led to colonial extraction which not only harmed their resources but also affected them in their culture and values and created a dilemma for them. But, why are these ignored in the current Morden international order? To examine this, we need to examine the history behind them.

Many international relations academies celebrated the collapse of the USSR since the rise of global liberal order will lead to wider peace and prosperity, but the major existing theories of international relation liberalism and realism have lacked in the unit of analysis and examination points. However, after the collapse, constructivism has helped to increase the focuses on its analysis.

The Contradiction in this System

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The idea of international order was based on peace and harmony, sovereign states, and a universal community. This gave birth to various theatrical institutions which have paved the braced for the liberal states. But, they often find contradictions in these values in the scope of profit like slavery, colonialism, and bordered marketization.

There were various treaties signed in the name of the indigenous people of the land like with the Dutch in Canada and the Mughals in India, which gave them an unofficial right over the indigenous people, and other strategical implications led to colonized territories that humiliated the states. Self-determination is important to rise in the colonized states but still, there is a hesitance among them about it.

Climate change and colonial oppression have been consequentially faced challenges by the states in the global south but the impact of the Covid pandemic has impacted all parts of the world and has resulted in many issues in the neo-liberal economic order.

Perspectives of the Discussants

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Prof Ashok Acharya, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi appreciated the presentation given by Prof. Shrivastav. He believes that this topic should be assessed in greater detail in a book for further scholarly evaluation of the same idea He then presented the similarities drawn between the history and the current liberal international order and how its contingencies and its contradictions. He stressed the lack of the big picture within the international scholars and their ignorance.

He stressed upon the idea of people and a cosmopolitan global order and focus parameters, which according to him would create a world that is more equitable to everyone and suitable for historically depressed communities. He talked about the basic elements of international order, for instance, how an organization like the UN helps to create these orders and other agreements between nations. But, its effects, he believes it is a mixed bag as many helped and other lead to the emergence of greater issues.

International Liberal norms are said to help and promote human rights and democracy. But do these help in reality and are implemented equally among the global south orders? Are these global inclusive norms as such, which should be unwritten by the existing states No, they are not. So, he stresses global inclusivity and how it might help to solve the pressing global issues like climate change and others that need to measure for the benefit of everyone. 

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Dr. Priya Mirza, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Zakir Husain College, University of Delhi, stressed the importance of international law and how it is made. However, the hegemony of international law supplements the unequal implementation of that across the history of injustice for the minority and depressed.

She stressed more on the importance of the role of corporations, which is dealing with a government and its manipulations, like in the modern world how these play a role of stakeholders which are an important part of the capitalist international order but are highly unaccountable in the world.  She also talked about the redistribution of social order in the feminist world order which should be talked and discussed about.

Prof. Shrivastava spoke about the lack of communication between the academics and the readers. She talked about how it is not only America that is getting benefits because most Americas are facing issues of the global south. So, the impact is not based on the nations individually, but the groups based on economic capabilities.

Prof. Ashok, answering a question on the need to make the world safe for democracy in the world where neo-conservatism is developing, which might lead to anarchism in the international liberal order, spoke about the changing nature of international relations and how there are divergences between various nations. He believes it might influence some nations as most of the time for some times but would retain its basic structure which helped establish it, he further explained this by the example of the Cold War and its impact.

Prof. Priya answered a question about the dissolving of American hegemony because of the growth of China. She stated that its role might change into a deep coalition, but she still believed that it will still play a crucial role in IR for a good amount of time. Prof. Shrivastava believed that China will play a bigger role, but still, it won’t impact much and certainly won’t change itself as the only leader or hegemon. After this everyone presented a summary of their viewpoints following the topic and the lecture was ended by a common vote of thanks.

Acknowledgment: Ayush Aggarwal is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

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