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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchLiberal Modernity and the Classical Realist Critique of the (Present) International Order

Liberal Modernity and the Classical Realist Critique of the (Present) International Order

Author: Haro L. Karkour

Affiliation: Cardiff University 

Organization/Publisher: International Affairs

Date/Place: March 2022/ the UK

Type of Literature: Academic Journal Article

Number of Pages: 17 



Keywords:  Liberal Modernity, Classical Realism, International Order, and International Relations Theory


The author argues that in order for the present international order to be put on a more stable footing, the order must address the need of individuals in liberal modernity. The classical realist critique of liberal modernity argues that with the loss of traditional values, individuals experience heightened insecurity and powerlessness. For classical realists, liberalism is a form of ideology for the dominant class. Liberalism, based on rationalism and science, created a political ideology based on secularism. These ideologies freed power from any moral constraint and acted as false promises of absolute love in a contingent world. Modernity brought with it further insecurity and alienation which made individuals more susceptible to violence and the need for love in the form of nationalism. The primary example of this phenomenon was Nazi Germany. The nationalism in Germany was only different in degree but not in kind. In the United States after 1945, American elites such as McCarthy used the threat of communism in order to exacerbate the feelings of inadequacies endemic to liberal modernity. The post-1945 order never addressed the problems of liberal modernity but rather fed on them to achieve a foreign policy controlled by private interests. The author suggests that unless foreign policy is democratized and individuals empowered to participate in their own future, that individuals will always feel a sense of insecurity and alienation from their own fate. This will in turn give rise to extreme nationalism such as Trumpism. Elites must create more platforms and spaces where everyday citizens can discuss issues of the day. Without a more proactive role, liberal modernity is always susceptible to public manipulation and unsound emotional policies where “Appearance becomes a substitute for substance, and deception a substitute for democratic consent.” 

By: Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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