In This Review

World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era
World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era
By Stanley Hoffmann
Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, 356 pp

This collection of remarkable essays addresses the great complexities of post-Cold War world politics, from the clash between realist and liberal thinkers to the uncertain leadership role of the United States to nationalism and ethnic conflict. The emerging portrait is of a multipolar and conflictual world order that increasingly eludes the governance of traditional sovereign states. As Hoffmann points out, prevailing principles such as sovereignty, self-determination, and universal human rights are too internally contradictory and insufficient to meet the geopolitical demands of the new era, from growing economic equality to ethnic conflict. Realist theories based on balance-of-power politics are intellectually inadequate in grappling with the new realities, but so too are liberal alternatives that blithely believe that all good things come together. New principles are needed that enshrine self-determination and democracy while allowing the world community to protect universal human rights and global public goods. If liberal internationalism is to guide the world order in the next century, Hoffmann argues, it must reconstruct itself. What precisely he means remains elusive, however. He is at his best in illuminating the shaky foundations of modern world politics and underscoring the limitations of the theoretical and policy constructs in vogue today. He is more tentative, however, in suggesting a path forward. The essays make the case for an ambitious agenda: to focus statecraft on the problems of governance for the future. But the debate over principles and policies is left wide open.