The most concerning issue within modern international politics has been the totalitarian nature of Western-universalism. This may appear controversial, but upon further scrutiny the most impactful event has been the rejection of global-liberalism and the resurgence of nationalistic-realism.
In order to explain this occurrence, this paper will be separated into three sections: Firstly, in order to understand why the current rejection of liberalism, its ethos and how it came to dominate must be understood. Secondly, the alternative of realism will show why liberalism is being rejected. And finally, I show how the recent Brexit result exemplifies the authoritarianism of liberalism and the nationalistic reaction.
The Liberal Utopia
The notion of idealism has been championed under many different authors and banners throughout history. The intellectual architecture can be found in the works of Dante’s De Monarchia: humanity can only fulfil its rational urges by working towards a single government, therefore the concept of national sovereignty must be forgotten (Wight 1987, 226). It was 20th century Wilsonianism that gave idealism another political identity in the form of American liberalism. It was this ideological blueprint that saw the eventual implementation of interdependence, international law, democratic peace theory and the establishment of transnational/global organizations such as the IMF, WTO, EU, ICC, NATO, International law and the UN (Ikenberry 2009). However, it was not until the end of the Cold War that America achieved the unipolar moment and declared the ‘End of History’, that saw liberalism enforced via globalization (Fukuyama 2006). Essentially, globalization is the utopia goal of World Revolution, given a Western guise.
This was a perplexing position to take, as Western notions condemned such a worldview. But being that the US had also envisioned a standardized world of their own, as championed under President Wilson, it was unsurprising that a globalized world was believed inevitable. For instance, Alexander Wendt points out that the number of nations has already decreased from 600,000 to only 200 political units, the existence of the European Union as a prototype for globalism and the growing trend of countries now seek authorization of the United Nations to use force (Wendt 2015). This echoes the work of Kenichi Ohmae, which states the modern nation state, is out-dated to understand the threats and opportunities of a globalized world (Ohmae 1995, 59-60). In order to enter the liberal world order, national economies must adapt to the new circumstances, just as it had done from advancing from 19th century labour, to 20th century production it must enter the 21st century of information services (Ohmae 1995, 135). In regards to society, globalization will see the homogenization of cultures and thus the elimination of differences between nationalities or civilizations (Drezner 2010, 212). Furthermore, a world of nation states cannot fight transnational threats, as they possess obsolete tools, inadequate laws, inefficient bureaucratic arrangements and ineffective strategies (Naím 2003, 30). By creating such a unified world, certain transnational threats can finally be fought such as terrorism, climate change, global economics as well as drugs, arms trafficking intellectual property, people smuggling and money laundering (Naím 2003, 29).
Despite the humanitarianism of liberalism, the dismissal of nationalism and the declaration of the End-State have proven to carry the underpinnings of authoritarianism. Thus the world populace have instinctively recognized this fact and has drifted towards realism once again.
It was E.H.Carr who recognized idealistic nature within liberalism, and condemned it as utopian, as it misunderstood the existence of the nation state itself (Carr1945,). According to Carr, nationalism allowed the Hobbesian notion of sovereignty to flourish; therefore liberalism dismisses reality (Carr1945). I propose that due to this fundamental ideological flaw, liberalism is susceptible to the tendencies of enlightened tyranny.
The parallels between globalization and World Revolution were not been lost on scholars. Even Fukuyma conceded this by stating his declaration was ‘a kind of Marxist interpretation of history that leads to completely non-Marxist conclusion’ (Drezner 2010, 211). As Daniel Drezner points out, the end result of the withering away of the state, albeit through neoliberalism, has eroded nationalism as it weakens the independence of state institutions and the democratic principle (Drezner 2010, 212). It has established a plutocratic global class and thus seeks to destroy the idea of ‘society’ (Gilman 2014).
It is these reasons that spurred the current geopolitical re-alignment of rejecting liberalism and re-embraced realism. However, it would be mistaken to view the national resurgence as a return to power politics. I submit that the world population are not seeking a return to classical realism, but are demanding the vision of a world society based on the English School of International Relations. This outlook acknowledges the anarchical world and the various cultures, laws, history, government and national sovereignty (Bull 1977, 8). However, it is open to the liberal goal of international order and accepts common interests, rules and institutions yet repudiate an interdependent world (Bull 1977, 65).
It was the EU that sought to enact liberalism and provide a regional model for globalism. It created a cosmopolitan-Europe; national cultures were assimilated into a monoculture, know as the ‘Europeanism’. This was achieved by usurping all the symbols of statehood: money, economic system, national flags, rule of law (Ford 2014). In order to maintain political integrity all dissention was crushed. For example, when Greek PM Papandreou proposed a referendum, the EU responded by removing him from power (Roberts 2013, 161).
The reaction to the ever-increasing powers of the EU, member states have come to the same conclusion of Susan Strange: that international liberalism has forced the surrender of sovereignty and redistributed the power across the European Union and other transnational institutions (Strange 1996,45). There has now been a political revolt against the Eurozone via the ballot-box in support of Euroscepticism. The most notable example has been Britain’s UKIP successfully spearheading the vote to leave the European Union to reaffirm themselves as an independent, self-governing and outward-looking Britain (Green 2016).
The impact of the liberal totalitarian nature of globalization has been the most pressing issue since the end of the Cold War. Instead of ushering in a new era of peace, it has perpetuated tension and rebellion. In doing so, liberalism has ironically proved that not only are the reports leviathan’s death are greatly exaggerated, but also seems to be stumbling back onto its feet.
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