Conclusion: Where Does This Lead Us for the Future?

John Wright

Examining the history of the past 70 years – less than the average Canadians’ lifespan – reveals that significant changes in the international system and changes in ideological influence have occurred. The general trajectory of the change has been away from a system of competition between two competing 19th-century ideologies based on the Industrial Revolution to one that has multiple loci of influence that are dependent on participation in a globalized economy and a greater awareness of shared concerns.

Paradoxically, the liberal international ideal of a rules-based, global, capitalist order has become, if anything, more greatly entrenched while at the same time the liberal political values on which it was predicated seem to have become more attenuated. That attenuation can be directly correlated with the relative decline of American power abroad and the decline in ideological homogeneity within core western states (notably again within the United States). Global political stability and trade – not democracy, nor military might – has become the most valued norm for the states-based system. Co-operation on existential threats, be they the escalation of regional conflicts or systemic threats like climate change, will only further the desire to maintain a sustainable order of states.

The current international system has the potential to long outlast the superpower that instituted it in 1945. This is a significant departure from the ideological underpinnings that formed the international system in 1945 and even from those proposed in “The End of History” in 1991.

Absent any real threat to, or inability to manage, global international capitalism of some form or another, states will continue to derive legitimacy from the international system through their ability to effectively cooperate internationally to create wealth and the economic resources to support sovereignty and state and/or citizen ambitions. However, the exact character of the system will depend on the key states – the large powers – within the system. And to some extent it will depend on some non-state actors’ abilities to affect state forms and decision making. The rise of illiberal ideologies, such as populist authoritarianism or state nationalism, as perceived solutions to intractable problems is not only likely but expected given that international cooperation seems to be effectively divorced from international liberalism. However, such ideologies as yet make no global claims to political domination or revolutionary systemic change; rather, ideological settlement for now seems to reside within the purview of the state.

Based on this trajectory then, a guessing person would say that ideological challenges to the globalized world order will remain secondary as long as it is in the vested interests of states and their key economic stakeholders.

Discussion Questions

  1. Given that North America comprises federal states that are increasingly integrated across national boundaries, could regional affiliations between sub-state actors such as Canadian Provinces and American States create new interests and identities that could overcome national identities and ideologies in America and Canada?
  2. The author has asserted that the most reasonable assumption is that ideological challenges to the globalized world order will remain secondary to states interest in keeping the current system.  Do you agree?  If not, why?
  3. This article has cited 2 examples of unforeseen changes to international politics that have occurred since the current system came to be. Can you think of potential changes that might occur that would challenge the current system?  What kinds of changes of events might they be?
  4. The UK has left the European Union in a decision known as “Brexit.”  This contravenes the general trend of states engaging in a deeper and broader web of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
    •  Do you think the UK’s quest for sovereignty on its own terms will succeed?
    • Do you think the UKs Brexit is the precursor to other states abandoning the current form of globalization?
  5. The current global system was broadly established by American economic and military power and based on an American interpretation of liberalism? If the Unites States declines sufficiently in power, or if the United States becomes and illiberal state, will that change the nature of globalization and the international system?  How might it affect future ideological developments?


Share This Book