In This Review

The Wrecking of the Liberal World Order
The Wrecking of the Liberal World Order
By Vittorio Emanuele Parsi. Translated by Malvina Parsi.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, 325 pp.

Parsi, one of Italy’s leading scholars of international relations, delivers a sweeping account of the rise and decline of the liberal world order. He argues that the Western-led postwar order was a great accomplishment, built around a compromise between political realism and the transformative aspirations of liberalism, balancing the interests of capital and labor through the institutions of the welfare state and the regulation of economic interdependence. But beginning in the 1980s, these complex balances and compromises all started to unravel. The Western liberal order was slowly replaced by a “neoliberal global order.” The decline of American leadership, reflected in the foreign policy of former U.S. President Donald Trump, compounded the problem, as has the rise of China and Russia as revisionist great powers seeking to roll back the frontiers of the liberal international order. For Parsi, however, the greatest danger lies in the fraying social fabric of Western liberal societies. The tableau of discontent is familiar: rampant economic inequality and technologically driven social dislocation have fueled a politics of nationalist and populist backlash. Parsi hopes that a new generation of liberal-minded thinkers will reimagine and rebuild the liberal order, beginning with a new social pact around fairer and more inclusive democratic systems.