We live in a period of great uncertainty about the fate of America's global leadership.
Many believe that Donald Trump's presidency marks the end of liberal international order: the very system of global institutions, rules, and values that shaped the American international system since the end of World War II.
Trump's repeated rejection of liberal order, criticisms of long-term allies of the US, and affinity for authoritarian leaders certainly undermines theAmerican international system, but the truth is that liberal international order has been quietly eroding for at least 15 years. In Exit from Hegemony, Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon develop a new, integrated approach to understanding the rise and decline of hegemonic orders.
Their approach identifies three distinct ways in which the liberal international order is undergoing fundamental transformation.
First, Russia and China have targeted the order, positioning themselves as revisionist powers by establishing alternative regional institutions and pushing counter-norms.
Second, weaker states are hollowing outthe order by seeking patronage and security partnership from nations outside of the order, such as Saudi Arabia and China.
Even though they do not always seek to disrupt American hegemony, these new patron-client relationships lack the same liberal political and economic conditions as those involving theUnited States and its democratic allies.
Third, a new series of transnational networks emphasizing illiberalism, nationalism, and right-wing values increasing challenges the anti-authoritarian, progressive transnational networks of the 1990s.
These three pathways erode the primacy of the liberal international order from above, laterally, and from below.
The Trump administration, with its "America First" doctrine, accelerates all three processes, critically lessening America's position as aworld power.