The “implosion” of the liberal international order? The future of democracy and multilateralism in times of crisis


  • Francesco Petrone



ILO; World order; Democracy; Global Governance; Civil Society


The arguments pointing to a decline of the current liberal international order (LIO) are becoming more and more insistent. The LIO, which emerged after the Second World War, has proved itself to be incapable of facing many challenges that affect the world today. Furthermore, the presence of new emerging powers (such as China) have given a severe blow to the leadership of Western countries, especially the US, which have represented the soul of the LIO. However, this decline is not only attributable to external/international factors such as, for example, the emergence of these new international powers. In our view, the crisis related to the LIO is above all a crisis that concerns its essential structural and internal component: liberal democracy. More specifically, it is within the liberal democratic system that this crisis has shown itself the most. We identify some specific areas - belonging to the economic, political and socio-cultural scopes - that are paradigmatic in describing the emergence of this crisis. Closely interconnected to one another, these issues are the mirror of the malaise of an entire world-system - precisely that of the LIO - and of its key component (democracy). Is this system “imploding” (as it happened for the Soviet Union)? Our argument is the following: in order to avoid this implosion, which seems underway, civil society should play a major role in the future international order, which should have a greater capacity to respond to human needs. Civil society, which thus far has not had a key role in decision-making processes, represents a pivotal hinge between people and institutions. Thus, it should represent a key means by which to revitalize a more participatory democracy (which is “the sovereignty of the people”, at least in its original meaning) and enhance multilateralism.