Stuenkel argues that conventional understandings of international order and global change are distorted by deep-seated, Western-centric biases, revealed in narratives that cast Westerners as the sole agents of modernity and the only carriers of progressive ideas. Stuenkel pokes holes in those accounts, showing that concepts such as religious freedom, human rights, and sovereignty have never been exclusively Western inventions; they were hammered out over centuries with contributions from African, Asian, and Middle Eastern societies. He argues that scholars should challenge Western-centric interpretations because they make the United States and European countries more suspicious of rising non-Western states and reluctant to share power with them, which Stuenkel thinks is unwise. If modernity is seen not as a Western gift to the world but as a global project with many sources of inspiration, the struggle between the West and “the rest” will be seen for what it really is: not a contest between deep values and philosophies of order but rather an organic evolution of world politics in which power, authority, status, and privilege are redistributed to make the existing order more fair and functional.
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