In recent years the term ‘liberal international order’ has become widely used – generally to refer to the international system that developed in the years after the end of the Cold War in 1989, or even to the whole period since the end of the Second World War in 1945. Although the term itself is relatively new, the ideas and practices that comprise it are not. They include multi-party democracy, the growth of international law and institutions, recognition of human rights, freedom of religious belief, the removal of barriers to international trade. For centuries, all of these ideas and practices have been advocated as means of reducing the incidence of war between states. They have had profound influence, but have also repeatedly run into difficulties – not least because of their connections with colonialism. This is not an elegy for a liberal international order that is now under threat, but rather a call for understanding and re-thinking the concept, especially in light of its long, rich, diverse and troubled history
Adam Roberts is Senior Research Fellow in International Relations at Oxford University and a Fellow of Balliol College. In 2009–13 he was President of the British Academy, the UK national academy for the humanities and social sciences. His numerous books include the widely praised Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters, Oxford University Press, 2016. He is currently working on a book on the history of the idea of liberal international order.
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C966 : Department of Politics and Public Administration,
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The University of Hong Kong.