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Introduction: Debating Worlds


By the last decade of the twentieth century, the great questions of modernity seemed to be answered. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and global communism, the liberal democratic capitalist project seemed to be the only one left standing.1 The liberal narrative of 1989 was symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Leonard Bernstein and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” provided the soundtrack. The 1980s and 1990s were decades when the “liberal ideal” spread worldwide. China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and all the great powers—East and West—seemed to be converging and integrating as stakeholders into a single global liberal world order. After centuries of tumultuous conflicts and waves of globalization, it appeared that humanity was on the verge of achieving a worldwide shared understanding, a universal narrative, of how societies should operate—and a narrative of a jointly held brighter future. Today, this universalistic narrative clearly rings hollow. The tectonic plates of the global distribution of power have shifted and the preeminence of the West is clearly on the wane. As the West recedes, the Rest have surged in power, bringing with them new stories of the global past and new directions for world order. China is rapidly emerging as a peer competitor of the United States, bringing with it a powerful new global narrative, emphasizing grievance and revision. A decade ago, new narratives of the so-called emerging powers—the BRICS—provided a narrative of global transformation. Political Islam also burst onto the global scene as a multifaceted transnational movement reshaping regional political order and geopolitical alignments. Its narrative centers on a civilizational religion, rejecting secular and Western ways of life. With the rapid advance of climate change—and the advent of the Anthropocene Age—there have arisen new narratives of global endangerment and dystopia, as well as new narratives of science, technology, and the environment. Far from converging, fragmentation and contestation increasingly dominate debates over world order.
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hal-04082840 , version 1 (26-04-2023)



Daniel Deudney, G. John Ikenberry, Karoline Postel Vinay. Introduction: Debating Worlds. Daniel Deudney, G. John Ikenberry, Karoline Postel Vinay (eds). Debating Worlds. Contested Narratives of Global Modernity and World Order, 1, Oxford University Press, pp.1-27, 2023, 9780197679302. ⟨10.1093/oso/9780197679302.003.0001⟩. ⟨hal-04082840⟩
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