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The US-led liberal order: imperialism by another name?

Parmar, I. (2018). The US-led liberal order: imperialism by another name?. International Affairs, 94(1), pp. 151-172. doi: 10.1093/ia/iix240


This article argues that the biggest challenges facing the post-1945 liberal international order are to genuinely embrace ethno-racial diversity and strategies to reduce class-based inequalities. However, this is problematic because the LIO’s core foundational principles, and principal underpinning “theory” (liberal internationalism), are Eurocentric, elitist, and resistant to change. Those core principles are subliminally racialized, elitist, and imperial, and embedded in post-1945 international institutions, elite mindsets, and in American foreign policy establishment institutions seeking to incorporate emerging powers’ elites, willingly, into the US-led order. As illustration, this article considers examples that bookend the US-led system: wartime elite planning for global leadership, and the role of the UN in Korea, 1945-53, which served as the primary instrument for the creation and incorporation of (South) Korea into the US-led order; and the role of several US-state-linked initiatives in China over the past several decades, including the Ford Foundation. The article compares the contemporary and historical evidence to liberal internationalists’ claims, and those implied by the work on “ultra-imperialism” by Karl Kautsky and Antonio Gramsci’s ideas of hegemony. The article concludes that elite incorporation – by a combination of coercion, attraction, and socialisation – is the principal goal of the US-led order, not embracing diversity and moving towards genuine change felt at a mass level. Hence, we should expect domestic and international political crises to deepen.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in International Affairs following peer review. The version of record Parmar, I. (2018). The US-led liberal order: imperialism by another name?. International Affairs, 94(1), pp. 151-172. is available online at:
Subjects: J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
SWORD Depositor:
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