Power Transitions, Global Justice, and the Virtues of Pluralism

| May 31, 2013

Broad comparisons of international relations across time—of the prospects for peace and of the possibilities for a new ethics for a connected world—typically focus on two dimensions: economic globalization and integration on the one hand, and the character of major interstate relations on the other. One of the most striking features of the pre-1914 world was precisely the coincidence of intensified globalization with a dramatic deterioration in major power relations, the downfall of concert-style approaches to international order, and the descent into total war and ideological confrontation—what T. S. Eliot termed “the panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” Today’s optimists stress the degree to which globalization appears much more firmly institutionalized than it was a hundred years ago, the rather striking success of global economic governance in responding to the financial crisis of 2007–2008 (compared to, say, the Great Depression), and the longer-term trend within international society to move away from major-power war. Pessimists are less sure. They worry that we have had to re-learn just how unstable global capitalism can be, both in terms of the wrenching societal changes produced by economic success and of the political strains produced by slowdown and recession. And they point to the abiding or resurgent power of nationalism in all of the core countries in the system, the return of balance-of-power thinking (above all in Asia), and the renewed salience of major power politics. This article focuses on a third dimension—the decline of Western dominance.

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Category: Article, Global Governance, Issue 27.2, Roundtable: Reflections on International Peace, The Ethics of War and Peace

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