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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchRace And Racism in the Founding of the Modern World Order

Race And Racism in the Founding of the Modern World Order

Author: Amitav Acharya

Affiliation: American University (Washington, D.C.)

Organization/Publisher: International Affairs

Date/Place: Jan, 2022 / the UK 

Type of Literature: Academic Journal article

Number of Pages: 21 



Keywords: International History, International Governance, Law, and Ethics


The author cogently argues that by ignoring the issue of race and colonialism at the foundation of the liberal international order, the United States was complicit in creating international institutions that upheld the imperialist world order before its ascendancy. The author argues that since the formation of the Westphalian world order, slavery and racism were hardwired into the modern state system. The unique contribution of Europe was the use of slavery as a source of economic development. Subsequently, Europeans also used scientific racism to racialize slavery. The author points to fundamental thinkers such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant, J.S. Mill and others who formed the backbone of the liberal internationalism as committed to scientific racism. The United States was the primary beneficiary of the new system of racism and imperialism. It used these ideas to justify its settler colonial occupation of native lands and also the proliferation of the transatlantic slave trade. Theodore Roosevelt was an expansionist bigot who on many occasions professed that white occupation of savage lands was a gift to humanity. Woodrow Wilson, another American president often accredited with establishing liberal internationalism through his work on the League of Nations, was openly opposed to racial equality. In contradistinction to the San Francisco Conference of 1945 which was the forerunner to the establishment of the UN, the Bandung Conference of 1955 highlighted the issue of racism and colonialism in the current world order. The United States and its allies not only benefitted from the interconnection between racism, slavery and imperialism but worked to prevent Afro-Asian countries from keeping these issues at the forefront of international affairs.

By: Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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