The Future of International Order (compl.)

Today, international order is undergoing a process of erosion and fundamental change. Scientific and technological innovations restructure the world economy and world society; China and other powers from the Global South gain in economic and political importance.

More than other countries of its size and importance, Germany depends on a functioning international order. To protect its interest, German foreign policy therefore early on will have to recognize change that might affect international order in order to be able to shape developments. However, although shifts in the international order recently have received considerable attention, our concepts to understand what is happening have hardly changed. Mental constructs like “hegemonic power transition” or “global governance” dominate discourses on international order in theory and practice. New constellations in world politics risk thus being misinterpreted, and we may suffer from normative biases such as Euro-centrism. Consequently, decision makers risk taking inadequate and inconsistent foreign policy decisions, missing opportunities and suffering avoidable damage.

In this project, SWP is working on new perspectives on the current state of world order. Since mid-2014, an interdisciplinary research group has been analyzing the causes and possible implications of present twists and ruptures in international order. To this end, the project systematically compares regional and functional partial orders and the interplay between them. On that basis, the project explores new perspectives for analysis and ideas for action. For instance, what can we learn for international environmental policy from the global fight against pandemics? How does the conflict in the Ukraine influence economic relations between Russia and China? What does the shale gas revolution imply for U.S. security policy in the Middle East? Finally, how can we use our knowledge on the interplay of partial orders in efforts to shape a more successful, sustainable and non-violent international order?

To answer these questions, SWP organized an international conference from November 29 until December 1, 2015 in Berlin. Approximately 30 internationally recognized experts from different regions and with diverse expertise on partial orders shared their knowledge and explored new policy ideas.

Sponsored by: Fritz Thyssen Foundation

With support from: Federal Foreign Office, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Project manager: Prof. Hanns W. Maull (SWP), in co-operation with Prof. Sook Jong Lee (President, East Asia Institute, Seoul), Charles Morrison (President, East-West Center, Hawaii), Prof. Umma Salma Bava (Jawaharlar Nehru University, New Delhi).

Project duration: September 2015 until December 2018


Hanns Maull

The Once and Future Liberal Order

The erosion of the international order seems rooted in a decline in the resilience of states.

in: Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, March 2019, Vol. 61, Ed. 2, IISS, pp. 7-32.
Hanns Maull (ed.)

The Rise and Decline of the Post-Cold War Order

Oxford University Press, Oxford, November 2018, 386 pages