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

Princeton University Press
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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.

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About the author

G. John Ikenberry is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. His books include After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 21, 2011
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Pages
392
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ISBN
9781400838196
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / International Relations / Diplomacy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The end of the Cold War was a "big bang" reminiscent of earlier moments after major wars, such as the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the end of the World Wars in 1919 and 1945. Here John Ikenberry asks the question, what do states that win wars do with their newfound power and how do they use it to build order? In examining the postwar settlements in modern history, he argues that powerful countries do seek to build stable and cooperative relations, but the type of order that emerges hinges on their ability to make commitments and restrain power.

The author explains that only with the spread of democracy in the twentieth century and the innovative use of international institutions--both linked to the emergence of the United States as a world power--has order been created that goes beyond balance of power politics to exhibit "constitutional" characteristics. The open character of the American polity and a web of multilateral institutions allow the United States to exercise strategic restraint and establish stable relations among the industrial democracies despite rapid shifts and extreme disparities in power.

Blending comparative politics with international relations, and history with theory, After Victory will be of interest to anyone concerned with the organization of world order, the role of institutions in world politics, and the lessons of past postwar settlements for today. It also speaks to today's debate over the ability of the United States to lead in an era of unipolar power.

World Out of Balance is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the constraints on the United States' use of power in pursuit of its security interests. Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth overturn conventional wisdom by showing that in a unipolar system, where the United States is dominant in the scales of world power, the constraints featured in international relations theory are generally inapplicable. In fact, the authors argue that the U.S. will not soon lose its leadership position; rather, it stands before a twenty-year window of opportunity for reshaping the international system.

Although American primacy in the world is unprecedented, analysts routinely stress the limited utility of such preeminence. The authors examine arguments from each of the main international relations theories--realism, institutionalism, constructivism, and liberalism. They also cover the four established external constraints on U.S. security policy--international institutions, economic interdependence, legitimacy, and balancing. The prevailing view is that these external constraints conspire to undermine the value of U.S. primacy, greatly restricting the range of security policies the country can pursue. Brooks and Wohlforth show that, in actuality, the international environment does not tightly constrain U.S. security policy. World Out of Balance underscores the need for an entirely new research agenda to better understand the contours of international politics and the United States' place in the world order.

By 1991, following the disintegration first of the Soviet bloc and then of the Soviet Union itself, the United States was left standing tall as the only global super-power. Not only the 20th but even the 21st century seemed destined to be the American centuries. But that super-optimism did not last long. During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, the stock market bubble and the costly foreign unilateralism of the younger Bush presidency, as well as the financial catastrophe of 2008 jolted America - and much of the West - into a sudden recognition of its systemic vulnerability to unregulated greed. Moreover, the East was demonstrating a surprising capacity for economic growth and technological innovation. That prompted new anxiety about the future, including even about America's status as the leading world power. This book is a response to a challenge. It argues that without an America that is economically vital, socially appealing, responsibly powerful, and capable of sustaining an intelligent foreign engagement, the geopolitical prospects for the West could become increasingly grave. The ongoing changes in the distribution of global power and mounting global strife make it all the more essential that America does not retreat into an ignorant garrison-state mentality or wallow in cultural hedonism but rather becomes more strategically deliberate and historically enlightened in its global engagement with the new East. This book seeks to answer four major questions:1. What are the implications of the changing distribution of global power from West to East, and how is it being affected by the new reality of a politically awakened humanity?
2. Why is America's global appeal waning, how ominous are the symptoms of America's domestic and international decline, and how did America waste the unique global opportunity offered by the peaceful end of the Cold War?
3. What would be the likely geopolitical consequences if America did decline by 2025, and could China then assume America's central role in world affairs?
4. What ought to be a resurgent America's major long-term geopolitical goals in order to shape a more vital and larger West and to engage cooperatively the emerging and dynamic new East?

America, Brzezinski argues, must define and pursue a comprehensive and long-term a geopolitical vision, a vision that is responsive to the challenges of the changing historical context. This book seeks to provide the strategic blueprint for that vision.

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