Contestations Of Liberal Order: The West In Crisis? 3030220583, 9783030220587

This volume explores the Western-led liberal order that is claimed to be in crisis. Currently, the West appears less as

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Contestations Of Liberal Order: The West In Crisis?
 3030220583,  9783030220587

Table of contents :
Acknowledgements......Page 5
Contents......Page 7
List of Contributors......Page 9
List of Tables......Page 10
Chapter 1: Introduction......Page 11
References......Page 23
Chapter 2: Beyond Liberal Empire and Peace: Declining Hegemony of the West?......Page 26
Consensual Hegemony, Consensual Legitimacy......Page 30
Liberal Principles of International Order......Page 38
The West as a Liberal Empire......Page 43
Resistance, Contestation, and Resilience......Page 50
The Metamorphoses of Liberal Hegemony and Crisis of Liberal Empire......Page 57
References......Page 62
Chapter 3: Crises of the West: Liberal Identities and Ontological (In)Security......Page 69
Past Crisis Narratives......Page 70
The West as a Civilization......Page 74
Three Current Crisis Narratives......Page 80
The Constituting Power of Crisis......Page 89
The Crises of Liberal......Page 96
References......Page 100
Chapter 4: From Identification to Division: Contesting the Unity of the West from Within......Page 106
Debating the Idea of the West......Page 108
The ‘Two Wests’ Debate: A Geographical Division......Page 112
The Divided West in the Age of Trump: Towards an Ideological Division......Page 115
The Self-ironic West......Page 119
A Common Western Ground in the Making?......Page 122
Conclusion......Page 124
References......Page 125
Chapter 5: The West: Divided in Freedom and Fear?......Page 129
The Rationalism of a Consensual Community of Values......Page 130
Freedom: A Core Value of the Transatlantic Community......Page 134
Turning to the Inside: Emphasis on Sovereignty......Page 139
The World Outside: Real-Political Resilience and Strategic Competition......Page 144
Conclusion......Page 149
References......Page 151
Chapter 6: They Hate Our Freedoms: Homosexuality and Islam in the Tolerant West......Page 157
Liberalism, Tolerance and Western Modernity......Page 161
Gay Men and Islam: The Creation of a Binary......Page 162
Homonationalism in Western Europe......Page 165
Homosexuality and Islam......Page 168
Homosexuality and the West......Page 172
The Future of the Liberal Project......Page 175
References......Page 177
Chapter 7: Who Owns the West?  German Political Establishment and the New Right......Page 181
An Attack Against “Us”: Statements by the Political Establishment......Page 183
The West as “Open Society”? Reactions of the Press......Page 189
Another West? Argumentative Structures Within Right-Wing Populist Circles......Page 193
Conclusion......Page 200
References......Page 202
Chapter 8: Imagining the West in the Era of America First......Page 206
Crisis of Western Values......Page 208
Crisis of the Liberal International Order......Page 216
Crisis of Leadership......Page 221
The Rhetoric of the West, Crisis, and “America First”......Page 227
References......Page 230
Chapter 9: Resilience of the Humanitarian Narrative in US Foreign Policy......Page 238
Humanitarian World Politics and Narrative Framing......Page 242
The Trump and Obama National Security Strategies: A Break with or Reframing of the Humanitarian Narrative?......Page 248
The Humanitarian Narrative Frames of the 2017 Shayrat Strike and the Response to the 2013 Ghouta Attack......Page 255
Will the Liberal Humanitarian Frame in US Foreign Policy Maintain Its Resilience?......Page 259
References......Page 262
Chapter 10: Confrontational Civilizational Identity in the Making? The New Turkey and the West......Page 267
Detecting the Affinity Between Liberalism and Nationalism......Page 269
Outlining the Competing Meanings of the West and the National in Turkey......Page 271
The AKP and Turkey’s Domestic Restoration Project as a Civilizational Identity Narrative......Page 274
The AKP and Turkey’s New Foreign Policy: Emotional Revisionism and Civilizational Identity......Page 281
Turkey’s New Civilizational Identity and the Fate of the Liberal West......Page 286
References......Page 289
Chapter 11: A Russian Radical Conservative Challenge to the Liberal Global Order: Aleksandr Dugin......Page 293
Dugin on the Russian Post-Soviet Political Scene......Page 295
Dugin and the International New Right......Page 298
Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism......Page 301
Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory: Radical Conservatism......Page 303
Dugin’s Heideggerian Model of the Conservative Revolution......Page 307
Dugin, Schmitt, and Huntington: From Liberal Global Hegemony to the Multipolarity of Civilizations......Page 309
Conclusion......Page 312
References......Page 314
Chapter 12: A Non-world: Chinese Perceptions of the Western International Order......Page 319
In Search of a Chinese Worldview......Page 321
The Return of Tianxia......Page 326
Tianxia and the Western International Order......Page 332
Toward a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind......Page 339
References......Page 342
Chapter 13: Balancing Between Narratives of the West and Hindu Nationalism in Emerging India......Page 346
The West in Crisis, Asia Rising......Page 348
The Hindu Nationalist India as a Model......Page 355
India Will Not Change the Liberal World Order......Page 362
References......Page 366
Index......Page 375

Citation preview

Contestations of Liberal Order The West in Crisis? Edited by Marko Lehti · Henna-Riikka Pennanen Jukka Jouhki

Contestations of Liberal Order

Marko Lehti  •  Henna-Riikka Pennanen Jukka Jouhki Editors

Contestations of Liberal Order The West in Crisis?

Editors Marko Lehti Tampere Peace Research Institute Tampere University Tampere, Finland

Henna-Riikka Pennanen Turku Institute for Advanced Studies University of Turku Turku, Finland

Jukka Jouhki Department of History and Ethnology University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland

ISBN 978-3-030-22058-7    ISBN 978-3-030-22059-4 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


The original idea for the book was conceived at a conference titled “The West: Concept, Narrative, and Politics,” at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, in December 2016. The conference was organized by The West Network (, an international, multidisciplinary research network focusing on “the West,” and coordinated from the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä. During the past decade, the theme of our book, “crises of the liberal West,” has become more topical year by year, although the understanding of these crises has somewhat transformed after 2016. This book project can be regarded as a continuation, or “volume two,” to the book The Struggle for the West. A divided and contested legacy (Routledge, 2010), jointly edited by Marko Lehti and Christopher Browning. This project is also a logical continuation to the edited volume in Finnish, Länsi: käsite, kertomus, ja maailmankuva (The West: Concept, Narrative and Worldview, SKS, 2016), edited by Jukka Jouhki and Henna-­ Riikka Pennanen, to which Marko Lehti contributed as an author. We have presented our work on this volume at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, European International Studies Association Conference, and smaller workshops at our own institutions. We wish to thank The Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), The John Morton Center for North American Studies (JMC), The Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS), and the Department of History and Ethnology at University of Jyväskylä for generous collegial support for the project. We also wish to thank a number of excellent scholars, who have found the time to comment on our work and engage in valuable v



discussion and debates on the main themes of the book. We are especially indebted to Torbjørn Knutsen, Christopher Browning, Viatcheslav Morozov, Pertti Joenniemi, Tarja Väyrynen, Robert Imre, Élise Féron, Benita Heiskanen, and the whole JMC team. Tampere, Turku, and JyväskyläMarko Lehti, Henna-Riikka Pennanen, April 24, 2019 and Jukka Jouhki


1 Introduction  1 Marko Lehti, Henna-Riikka Pennanen, and Jukka Jouhki 2 Beyond Liberal Empire and Peace: Declining Hegemony of the West? 17 Marko Lehti and Henna-Riikka Pennanen 3 Crises of the West: Liberal Identities and Ontological (In)Security 61 Marko Lehti and Henna-Riikka Pennanen 4 From Identification to Division: Contesting the Unity of the West from Within 99 Johanna Vuorelma 5 The West: Divided in Freedom and Fear?123 Ville Sinkkonen and Henri Vogt 6 They Hate Our Freedoms: Homosexuality and Islam in the Tolerant West151 Roderick McGlynn




7 Who Owns the West? German Political Establishment and the New Right175 Ann-Judith Rabenschlag 8 Imagining the West in the Era of America First201 Henna-Riikka Pennanen and Anna Kronlund 9 Resilience of the Humanitarian Narrative in US Foreign Policy233 Noora Kotilainen 10 Confrontational Civilizational Identity in the Making? The New Turkey and the West263 Toni Alaranta 11 A Russian Radical Conservative Challenge to the Liberal Global Order: Aleksandr Dugin289 Jussi Backman 12 A Non-world: Chinese Perceptions of the Western International Order315 Matti Puranen 13 Balancing Between Narratives of the West and Hindu Nationalism in Emerging India343 Jukka Jouhki Index373

List of Contributors

Toni  Alaranta  The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland Jussi Backman  University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland Jukka Jouhki  University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland Noora Kotilainen  University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland Anna Kronlund  University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland Marko  Lehti Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), Tampere University, Tampere, Finland Roderick McGlynn  University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK Henna-Riikka  Pennanen Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland Matti Puranen  University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland Ann-Judith Rabenschlag  Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden Ville Sinkkonen  The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland Henri Vogt  University of Turku, Turku, Finland Johanna  Vuorelma Institute for Advanced Social Research, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland ix

List of Tables

Table 3.1 Table 5.1

Three crisis narratives 89 A sketch of categorisations of freedom for analysing foreignpolicy discourse 130



Introduction Marko Lehti, Henna-Riikka Pennanen, and Jukka Jouhki

The most serious crisis of modern times is the weakening, if not the breakdown, of faith in the durability and purpose of traditional values, which are a foundation of the European Union and, more broadly, of the whole political community of the West. The West in civilizational, not geographical terms. These are the values which bind all the main ideological currents in Europe: liberalism, conservatism and socialism. Human rights, civil liberties, including the freedom of speech and religion, free market and a competitive economy based on private property, reasonable and fair redistribution of goods, restrictions on power resulting from rules and tra-

M. Lehti (*) Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), Tampere University, Tampere, Finland e-mail: [email protected] H.-R. Pennanen Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland e-mail: [email protected] J. Jouhki University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




dition, tolerance and political pluralism; my generation knows this catalogue by heart.1 —Donald Tusk (2016) The fundamentals of the world order are fraying, and some of its ideological foundations are being challenged in a way that is seriously worrying. The liberal global order, which has been astonishingly successful and whose widening and deepening has produced a golden quarter-century, was built on strong security relationships and a commitment to an open global economy. Now, those security relationships are under pressure as isolationist sentiments grow in key countries and revisionist powers become more assertive.2 —Carl Bildt (2017) We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.3 —Donald Trump (2018) We have replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy, which guarantees people’s freedom, security. —Victor Orbán (2018)4 We categorically reject the allegations of those who accuse Russia and the new centres of global influence of attempting to undermine the so-called ‘liberal world order’. […] It is clear that such a system could not last forever. Leaders with a sense of responsibility must now make their choice. I hope that this choice will be made in favour of building a democratic and fair world order, a post-West world order, if you will, in which each country develops its own sovereignty within the framework of international law, and will strive to balance their own national interests with those of their partners, with respect for each country’s cultural, historical and civilisational identity.5 —Sergey Lavrov (2017)

Crisis of the liberal order abounds everywhere. Indeed, it has in various forms become a part of Western self-experience since the beginning of the  Tusk (2016).  “Judy Asks: Is the Crisis of the Liberal Order Exaggerated?” 2017. 3  Trump (2018). 4  Quoted in Janjevic (2018). 5  Lavrov (2017). 1 2



twenty-first century. The first wave of crisis was experienced in the early 2000s during the Iraq War when the trans-Atlantic divide was declared. The next wave hit the shore with the 2008 financial crisis, which crumbled trust in the ability of the West to steer the global economic order, and eroded Western claims to supremacy in the order. The current third wave of crisis-talk has perhaps been the strongest and most broadly propagated one. Not only European and US politicians, but politicians from around the globe have been vocal in proclaiming that the liberal order is in crisis. At the heart of this discussion has been the rise of illiberal tendencies and populism within the West. The experience of crisis is widely shared among civil society actors, too. Furthermore, crisis of the liberal order has (again) become a phenomenon that attracts the attention of international relations (IR) scholars. Just look at the themes discussed in recent ISA and other international relations conferences, the themes of Munich Security Conference Reports,6 or the special issues7 and books8 published after 2016. Contestations of liberal values, norms, and principles; financial and economic stumbling; increasing populism, nationalism, and tribalism; global power shifts—all these phenomena have been turned into crisis narratives: into signifiers of the frailty of the trans-Atlantic partnership between the United States and Europe; erosion of liberalism among previously liberal countries and peoples; or the weakness and failures of the liberal ­international order. In this volume, we turn our attention to these narratives of crisis. Effectively, this makes the recent crisis narratives rendered in discussions on international relations the objects of our analysis. We reflect on questions such as: What is perceived to be in crisis and by whom? What these crisis narratives argue for, and what do they aim to defend or contest? We expand our inquiry into the current crisis narratives by introducing the questions: Why do these narratives willfully revolve around the notion 6  Munich Security Report 2017: Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?; Munich Security Report 2018: To the Brink—and Back?; and Munich Security Report 2019: International Order on the Brink? 7  See for example the Foreign Affairs theme issue “Out of Order: The Future of the International System” 96 (1), 2017; and International Affairs issue “Ordering the world? Liberal internationalism in theory and practice,” 94 (1), 2018. 8  See for example Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the 21st Century. 2018. Edited by R. Jervis, F. Gavin, J. Rovner, and D. Labrosse. New  York: Columbia University Press; Kagan, Robert. 2018. The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.



of “the West”? How the crisis narratives turn into the “Two Wests” debate, the “Internal Division of the West over liberal values,” and the crisis of the “Western-led International Order”? How the concept and idea of the West is utilized and understood in these narratives? How the crisis narratives, or experience of living in the era of crisis, condition our understanding of global order and the West—and perhaps, how our understanding of the West conditions the crisis narratives? Naturally, we can take a variable, such as democracy, and turn to data like the Democracy Index for Europe and North America showing a slight decrease in pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture,9 or the surveys suggesting that “the gloomy discourse on democracy dominating today is exaggerated,”10 in order to assess whether the liberal West actually is in crisis. However, statistics do not provide exhaustive answers to pertinent philosophical, political, ideological, and theoretical questions relating to the crises of the liberal West. Thus, our objective is not to verify or measure the depth of the crises, which in many terms is not possible as crisis is primarily about experiences, and the term introduces overarching interpretations for otherwise disconnected phenomena and events. Rather, we consider crisis as something perceived, interpreted, and narrated. We hold that these experiences are various and contingent, with diverse consequences to (self-)identification, norms, and ordering practices. Thus, what we aim to do is to analytically elaborate these relationships, multiple truths, parallel perspectives, and realities. In this book, we use crisis narratives as our entry point to scrutinize how the “Western liberal order,” and its cherished norms and practices, are alternately embraced, accepted, and contested. By combining discussions on the liberal (order) and the West, we distance ourselves from such real political debates as the role of the United States as a hegemon of the liberal order, and instead, consider the global order from the perspective of the notion of the West as the (sole) bestower of ordering principles and liberal values. We also elaborate on the normative contestations of the international order from a broader perspective and emphasize that there are various simultaneous processes of contestation going on at the moment—processes that are only loosely connected.

 Democracy Index 2018 (2019).  Despite concerns about global democracy, nearly six-in-ten countries are now democratic (2017); Jiménez (2017); The Global States of Democracy. 9




By focusing on the idea of the West we are better able to contextualize the current crisis discussion and reflect on its significance for the principles and ideals of regional and global liberal orders. The notion of the West has been incessantly conjoined with the modern world order. The West has been invoked in creations of hierarchies, in introductions of ordering principles, and in claims to the ability to be the sole actor to envision and uphold global peace. Here, the West becomes closely associated with “liberal,” as for the past decades, the Western-led global order has been legitimized with the ideas and practices of liberal internationalism and liberal peace. Liberal also has its connotations for domestic political, economic, and cultural order, and what should be noted about the usage of liberal in both the domestic and international frameworks, is that the meaning of the word changes from one time, place, and speaker to another.11 As the chapters of this book demonstrate, the concepts of the West and liberal are contingent and multiform. The West has multiple voices implicated in its construction and like all concepts, it requires contextualization to be understood. “The concept of the West does not refer to some empirical reality,” as Viatcheslav Morozov notes; yet, it is neither an arbitrary concept, open to all possible interpretations.12 The West is primarily a narrative concept, since it exists and assumes meaning when it is invoked in stories about the world. For Christopher Coker, the West is a social imaginary that enables societies and nations to share particular narratives, myths, and stories on “how they fit together with others,” and to imagine “the deep normative notions and images that underlie” common expectations. These narratives create a sense of global agency and set up a moral background for building and maintaining global order.13 As a narrative concept, the West has taken three main forms (civilizational, modern, and political) but these should be regarded more as ideal types, for in particular narratives they are always mixed and overlapping. Civilizational narratives depict the West as a unique civilizational community possessing historical unity and common identity. The civilizational discourse implies that the West has been only minimally influenced by its outside. The emphasis is on asserting the West’s organic purity and its cultural originality and distinctiveness. The classical approach to the civili11  For excellent definitions of liberal and liberalism, see Jahn (2013); Owen (2017); Rosenblatt (2018); Schwarzer (2017), 24. 12  Morozov (2010). 13  Coker (2010), 73–74.



zational narrative locates the Western origins in ancient Greece and Rome.14 The claim is that this ancient civilization, and various cultural practices associated with it (e.g. the art of reasoning, democracy etc.), have been passed down from generation to generation, from Greece to Rome, to Christendom, to Europe, to the West, so that today, the “Westerners” can understand who they are by appealing to this unique civilizational heritage. Moreover, the claim of its cultural and historical organic nature implies that little space is available for reconciliation with those outside the West. The difference of the “Others” is inscribed through various binary oppositions (e.g. individualism-collectivism, rational-­mystical, Christian-pagan, democratic-autocratic). The “Other,” as such, exists only as a mirror enabling the West to flaunt its own uniqueness and radical distinction from other cultures.15 In contrast, the modern West narratives locate the West’s essence in the legacy of the Enlightenment, industrialization, capitalism, and colonialism, and typically invoke these to assert the West’s superiority over other cultures, not least by tying the concept to processes of globalization and “Westernization.”16 Interestingly, these narratives also eliminate any fundamental distinctiveness to “the West,” beyond being temporally ahead. The modern West narrative is therefore based on a dichotomy between the developed and undeveloped world, a dichotomy which, while legitimizing a sense of Western superiority, also introduces a potentially more dynamic relationship with the outside by opening up the possibility for mutual rapprochement insofar as “the Other” transforms to become like “us.”17 The political narrative usually refers “to the Cold War transatlantic community and in particular its institutional grounding in the NATO security community.” In this narrative, both the importance of shared values, such as democracy, and the ideological opposition to the Communist East have been underlined. During the three decades after the Cold War, the NATO as the core symbol of political communion has preserved the narrative, but after the disappearance of the political “Other,” this narra-

 See Bernal (1995); Gress (1998).  Said (1978). 16  Ifversen (2008), 240. 17  Browning and Lehti (2010). 14 15



tive has merged with narratives of the liberal West and the Western-led liberal order.18 “Drawing a boundary between the West and ‘Us’ is often a constitutive exercise for non-Western communities, and is deeply embedded in their historical narratives,” Morozov states, but continues that “the boundary between the West and any other of the non-Wests is seldom absolute. This is particularly evident in the case of the current global debate on the significance of democracy and human rights.”19 How the boundary between the West and the non-Wests is narrated has constituted a nodal point for legitimization of the Western-led global order and this relationship is (again) contested. Following Coker “the Western social imaginary was unique because it was inclusive, not exclusive, which is why of course it was so compelling,” and indeed successful. Yet, according to Coker, this ability “is now breaking down. When societies crack under stress, they crack down pre-determined fault lines, but the cracks can be exacerbated by attempts to theorise social imaginaries, especially when the theories fail to describe an existing reality.”20 How the West is regarded by those defining themselves as Westerners or non-Westerners has been in continuous change, and the paradox of the West comes from the mix of exclusive civilization narratives with inclusive modernization narratives. This idea that the West is primus inter paras (first among equals) is well established. As Sophie Bessis argues, this is the paradox of the ‘West’, where the Western societies see the West as, on the one hand, exceptional, but on the other as grounded in values of liberty, democracy and equality it sees as universal (cited in O’Hagan 2006). It is this which easily leads to the arrogance of believing the West somehow owns, or at least has been granted special guardianship over, those values…. These tendencies and conflations obviously create problems (not least in the form of antagonism towards the West) and raises the question of whether a way out of these discursive traps might be found.21

Although the universalist narration of the superior West has been historically prevalent, for many commentators (including both ardent sup Browning and Lehti (2010).  Morozov (2010), 187–188. 20  Coker (2010), 35, 75. 21  Browning (2010), 222–223. 18 19



porters and critics), the West often appears fragile, weak, and on the verge of disappearing. Indeed, from the coining of the West as a political concept in the nineteenth century, the notion of “crisis” has been central to many of its understandings.22 In this respect, the West has never been “a particularly self-confident social actor… and has been in a condition of perpetual crisis basically from the moment that the notion of ‘Western Civilisation’ was initially formulated.”23 Decline, tragedy, even the possibility of imminent death, is therefore one of the defining tropes of the narratives of the West, which stands at odds with the modern West narrative of the West leading the world’s drive to modernity and perpetual progress. Tropes of Western victory and decline are usually depicted as opposites of each other, highlighting a conceptual problem that needs to be resolved through empirical analyses proving either one or the other position correct. In particular, since the days of Enlightenment, modernity has been associated with the idea of eternal progress, and thus degeneration and deterministic decline contradicts this nodal point of modern West. However, crisis-thinking may just express a need for reorientation of direction of progress. Indeed, the very idea of a decaying West contains within itself assumptions of a prior superiority that the West is now losing. Thus, crisis-talk constitutes an essential part of constructing Western superiority. More than this, though, depictions of decay often work so as to confirm or re-inscribe Western self-esteem and the West’s role as a key civilizational actor in world politics, although today the West is increasingly appearing in such depictions in changed form. In this volume, the crises narratives offer one entry point to try to catch up and conceptualize a multifaceted question of the change in normative basis of the global order. The experience of crisis offers a moment for renewal, but just as well, a chance to escape to exclusionist narratives. It is a task of this volume to examine empirically how the experiences of crisis contribute to social imaginaries, narratives, and “liberal” and “Western” identities, and how they affect normative principles of the global order. Today, it appears that the triumphalist narratives are quite muted and the declinist narratives more vocal. We find that some narratives are sounding alarm over the decline of Western liberal hegemony, although various indexes and rankings—for example, in human development, empower See for example Heller (2006).  Jackson (2010), 58.

22 23



ment, human rights, individual freedoms, GDP per capita24—point toward the conclusion that there has not been a drastic change. It is, indeed, as if “crisis” is central to some understandings of the West,25 and that in these understandings, the West is anything but the self-confident global actor from the triumphalist narratives.26 Many of the past crisis narratives have had conservative overtones, and liberal values have been presented more as a cause of decay and weakness than a source of pride and self-esteem. In this regard, a shift has taken place with the Trump presidency, Brexit, and rise of anti-liberal populism. Now, a number of crisis narratives come in the form of anguished defense of liberal norms and liberal internationalism. After Trump and Brexit, commentators have warned that the most serious contest for liberal order is coming from within—propagated by some quarters of the conservative movement, by populists, and the radical right. It has been declared that “the liberal status quo of the West is in crisis,”27 and scholars have warned, like Jeff D. Colgan and Robert O. Keohane, that the liberal West is on the edge, and thus “the time has come to acknowledge this reality and push for policies that can save the liberal order before it is too late.”28 We take this moment as an opportunity to pause and once more raise the persistent and intricate question of the relations between the West, world order, and liberal values and norms. What do liberalism and liberal international order mean today? How to deal with the simultaneous Western claims to universality and particularity? Should the West declare ownership over “liberal” and guard these values and norms at home? Or, should “liberal” be considered as universal and promoted everywhere in the world, even if these values and norms are severely contested at the receiving end? Or, from the perspective of those who identify themselves as non-Western and liberal, should the notions of the West and liberal be detached once and for all? The present crisis narratives introduce a yet another intriguing question: how the West can declare the universal applicability of liberal values and ordering principles, if Western peoples themselves are losing trust in, and rejecting, them? 24  GDP per Capita (2017); Human Development Data (1990–2017) (2018); Vásquez and Porčnik (2018). 25  See for example Heller (2006). 26  Jackson (2010), 58. 27  Tharoor (2017). 28  Colgan and Keohane (2017).



Currently, there co-exist crisis narratives that are each depicting a different West and imagining the fate of the West according to different metahistorical frameworks. These narratives struggle over what the West means, which suggests that the West is still needed in order to imagine one’s own group and identity, world order, and that it continues to be challenged and contested. We do not want to introduce a new, overarching perspective to tackle these questions, but instead the chapters of this volume showcase the diversity of the current crisis narratives, and indicate how crisis can be approached from various thematic, theoretical, and methodological perspectives. A broader geographical perspective is significant, too, for crisis narratives about the West and Western-led order are not floated around only within the imagined Western community. Countries like Turkey, Russia, China, and India are particularly interesting in this regard, since in the heat of the 1990s optimism it was not uncommon among liberals to think that if only these countries were engaged, they would become fully integrated into the liberal international order, and adopt liberal values and norms also in their domestic politics. The leap from the sanguinity and confidence of the earlier decades to the uncertainty and confusion of the 2010s seems vast. The threat of the rising non-Western powers and postcolonial critique used to be one of the main crisis narratives in the Western nations, but lately this has been partly sidelined. The experiences of the internal crisis in the United States and EU have provided an opportunity for “nonWestern” powers to shape and redefine the discussions on the role of the West in the world and on the form of the world order. Western economic and military hegemony is one of the main points of contestation outside the West, but so is the ideational hegemony of the West. The norms and practices of the “liberal internationalist project” are vocally challenged in areas like human rights, trade, R2P, and nuclear proliferation. However, this does not mean that the current international order is outright rejected. On the contrary, the principles of institutionalism, cooperative security, democratic ­community, and collective problem solving continue to be consented to and considered as legitimate ordering principles.29 Instead of making an inside/outside division between the West and non-West, or liberal and non-liberal, we would like to introduce two main themes covering all our chapters and approaches. The division is not absolute but gives us a direction. The first theme focuses on the crises of the  Stuenkel (2016), 184.




Western-led Liberal International Order: its ordering principles, underlying values, hegemony, and contestations. Marko Lehti and Henna-­ Riikka Pennanen elaborate the current crisis narratives attached to the US/Western-led liberal international order in the “Beyond Liberal Empire and Peace: Declining Hegemony of the West?”. They argue that Western hegemony is embedded not only in material power but also in ideational and cultural power and consensual legitimacy. The chapter introduces the paradox between the assertions that liberal peace is the main ordering principle and practice of the world order, and the assertion that liberal peace requires liberal empire and liberal hegemony as its guardian. Furthermore, the chapter shows that the Western liberal order has evinced remarkable hegemonic resilience and the capability to transform its ordering principles and considers the possibility that these abilities might be fading away. Noora Kotilainen problematizes humanitarianism as the pivotal aspect of the liberal international order and reflects on the resilience of the humanitarian narrative in legitimizations of US interventionist foreign policy in the era of Trump. The crisis narratives weighing the impact of Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy to the liberal international order are considered by Henna-Riikka Pennanen and Anna Kronlund, according to whom crisis narratives, such as the declinist America First-narrative, open up the possibility to redefine and reconceptualize foreign policy—an opportunity that the Trump administration has seized upon, prompting the critics to put forward their own crisis narratives of declining US leadership and universal values. China and Russia, too, covet more say in the world order, although they have adopted different tactics to achieve their objective. Their contestation and criticism on Western material and normative hegemony has attracted a lot of scholarly attention. Moreover, the Chinese and Russians have not only settled for critiquing the system, but also have presented alternative models to challenge and substitute the Western-led liberal international order. Matti Puranen introduces the potential alternative ideal for world order derived from the Chinese Tianxia-theory, and analyzes the academic discussion surrounding this order-building. Puranen argues that the Tianxia ideal is constructed partly against the perceptibly failing Western liberal order and partly against the narrations of the historical East Asian Sinocentric system. Jussi Backman, on the other hand, examines the Russian political theorist Aleksandr Dugin’s challenge to the liberal order and Western hegemony. Backman presents Dugin’s radical



conservative theory as a part of Russian aim to profile itself as a regional, if not global, power and construe a distinct identity in contrast to the liberal West. The second theme focuses on the Internally Divided West, or the crisis of “liberal” and Western identities. The question is then about how liberal is attached to the (self-)identification of various societies and how liberal as an epithet of identification is resilient and protean. This broad theme encompasses the current “Two Wests” debate, but the main emphasis is on the division over cosmopolitan liberalism and the growing appeal of nationalism, conservatism, and illiberal ideas in Europe and the United States. This internal division is explored in more detail in the chapter “Crises of the West: Liberal Identities and Ontological (In)Security” by Marko Lehti and Henna-Riikka Pennanen. Lehti and Pennanen identify three crisis narratives of the West—the liberal internationalist, conservative, and right-wing populist—prevalent in many European countries and the United States, and analyze how the narratives contest, confirm, or envision anew existing liberal identities. Johanna Vuorelma compares the current “Two Wests” narratives with the narratives of transatlantic rift that emerged in the early 2000s. Vuorelma concludes that today the narrative is less about a simple geographical and political split between different approaches to security and foreign policies on the two sides of the ocean, and more about economic policies, identification, and forging of a critical and ironic self-image. Ville Sinkkonen and Henri Vogt elaborate on the discussion by outlining European and US political and theoretical understandings of freedom and security in order to gauge the ways in which the foreign policies, and especially the value structures underlying those policies, either divide or bring closer the transatlantic allies. Roderick McGlynn explores paradoxes in the internal Western debate on liberalism by focusing on tolerance. McGlynn explores how in the European and US discourses of tolerance toward homosexuality ­distinctions are drawn between the East/Islam and the West, and how these distinctions are utilized by nationalist political movements to further illiberal objectives. Ann-Judith Rabenschlag examines the rhetoric of nationalist New Right regarding Islam. Rabenschlag contrasts nationalist rhetoric with the rhetoric of German political establishment in the context of terror attacks in Germany and focuses especially on the notion of open society as a site of contestation.



Liberal identities have become an important site of struggle over identities also in the margins of the West (e.g. Turkey) as well as among rising powers that are habitually regarded as “non-Western,” but that cherish democracy and the liberal order (e.g. India). Toni Alaranta analyzes the complicated and shifting relationship between Turkey and Western modernity. Alaranta depicts the nationalist state transformation project initiated by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and contemplates the process of constructing Islamic-conservative Turkish identity in opposition to the liberal-­democratic West. During its history, also India has negotiated its identity between Western modernity and Indian traditions and ideals. As Jukka Jouhki demonstrates, the rise of political Hindu nationalism and India’s geopolitical situation has made this negotiation all the more strenuous. The domestic identity politics are somewhat disassociated from discussions on India’s international role, and while India seeks more weight in the world order, it largely does so within the confines of the liberal international order.

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M. LEHTI ET AL. GDP per Capita. 2017. Washington, DC: World Bank. Gress, David. 1998. From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents. New York: Free Press. Heller, K. M. 2006. The Dawning of the West: On the Genesis of a Concept. PhD Dissertation, University of Kings College Halifax, Canada. Human Development Data (1990–2017). 2018. UNDP: New York. http://hdr. Ifversen, Jan. 2008. Who Are the Westerners? International Politics 45 (3): 236–254. Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. 2010. The Perpetual Decline of the West. In The Struggle for the West. A Divided and Contested Legacy, ed. C.S. Browning and M. Lehti, 53–70. London and New York: Routledge. Jahn, Beate. 2013. Liberal Internationalism: Theory, History, Practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Janjevic, Darko. 2018. Viktor Orban: Era of ‘Liberal Democracy’ Is Over. Deutsche Welle, May 10. Jiménez, Mélinda. 2017. Is Democracy in a Worldwide Decline? Nope. Here’s Our Data. The Washington Post, November 15. https://www.washingtonpost. com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/15/is-democracy-in-a-worldwidedecline-we-measured-it-heres-what-we-found/?utm_term=.c72732c919c9. Judy Asks: Is the Crisis of the Liberal Order Exaggerated? 2017. Carnegie Europe, February 18. Lavrov, Sergey. 2017. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Address and Answers to Questions at the 53rd Munich Security Conference, Munich, February 18, 2017. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, February 18. http://www.mid.r u/en/press_ser vice/minister_speeches/-/asset_ publisher/7OvQR5KJWVmR/content/id/2648249. Morozov, Viatcheslav. 2010. Western Hegemony, Global Democracy and the Russian Challenge. In The Struggle for the West. A Divided and Contested Legacy, ed. Christopher S. Browning and Marko Lehti, 185–200. London and New York: Routledge. Owen, John. 2017. Anti-liberalism Pushes Back. Global Policy 8 (Suppl 4): 73–84. Rosenblatt, Helena. 2018. The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century. ProQuest Ebook Central. Princeton University Press. Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism: Western Representations of the Orient. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Schwarzer, Daniela. 2017. Europe, the End of the West and Global Power Shifts. Global Policy 8 (Suppl 4): 18–26. Stuenkel, Oliver. 2016. Post-Western World. How Emerging Powers Are Remaking Global Order. Cambridge: Polity Press.



Tharoor, Ishaan. 2017. The West’s Anti-liberal Backlash Can’t Escape Its Racism. Washington Post, August 1. The Global States of Democracy. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Trump, Donald. 2018. Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The White House, September 25. https:// Tusk, Donald. 2016. Speech by President Donald Tusk at the European Policy Centre Conference. Council of the European Union, October 13. https:// Vásquez, Ian, and Tanja Porčnik. 2018. The Human Freedom Index 2018. A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil, and Economic Freedom. Washington, DC: Cato Institute; Vancouver, BC: Fraser Institute; Berlin: Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.


Beyond Liberal Empire and Peace: Declining Hegemony of the West? Marko Lehti and Henna-Riikka Pennanen

“The American-led liberal world order was never a natural phenomenon,” Robert Kagan opens his book The Jungle Grows Back (2018). It has not been the consequence of technological advances and spread of commerce, and least of all, a culmination of some evolutionary process of universal human nature or the nature of the international society. Quite the contrary, according to Kagan, the liberal international order is a historical anomaly. It is the outcome of a specific set of events, circumstances, and global power configurations. Kagan likens the order to a garden: an artificial, fragile, and transient creation, constantly “under siege from the natural forces of history.” A garden needs incessant tending, a gardener or gardeners, who cut the vines and weeds threatening the orderly planted trees, bushes, and flower beds. For Kagan, since 1945, this head gardener of the order has been the United States. The United States has shaped and defended the order, and it has managed to do so especially for two reasons: M. Lehti (*) Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), Tampere University, Tampere, Finland e-mail: [email protected] H.-R. Pennanen Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




first, because of its preponderant military, economic, and moral power; and second, because of the liberal values and norms it has inculcated into the order.1 In this chapter, we tour this Garden of Eden. We critically assess the idea of the necessity to have a superior gardener and the United States as the sole suitable candidate for this position. If the preponderance, or even survival, of the liberal international order is understood to require a hegemon to maintain stability, as Kagan among many others argues, then the decline of US power would necessarily generate a crisis of the order. Recent debates on the crisis of the liberal order have largely been entrenched in this kind of approach. However, instead of focusing only on US leadership, we place this order and hegemony into a larger context of “the West” and “Western” hegemony. Here, hegemony refers less to military and economic dominance, and more to social and cultural dominance of ideas and constitutive normative principles. We aim to cross-read prevailing Hegemonic Stability Theories (HST) with Gramscian ideas on hegemony and cultural hegemony in order to understand better the complexity of global hegemonic power and how it is constituted not only through material, but also through ideational power. We can detect certain ideas and narratives that build and support aspirations to hegemony. We argue that the prime examples of such ideas are “liberal”—in the senses of liberal order, liberal peace, and liberal empire— and the West. In particular, this is the case when these ideas are portrayed and utilized as (universal) ordering principles, as basis of construing hierarchies, and as foundations for norms, institutions, and practices. Liberal and the West are separate ideas. They do not necessitate each other, however they are often discursively conjoined. The liberal order with its norms and practices is habitually treated as a synonym to the West, even though in the next breath it is depicted as universal and commonsensical. Moreover, liberal serves as a narrative legitimation of the superiority and leadership of the West in the world order. While our discussion is focused on the abstract level of these two ideas and their workings in the world order, we acknowledge that such a focus runs the risk of perpetuating the Eurocentrism in international relations (IR) literature and discourse. Also, much of our discussion reverts to the level of states and interstate relations. Therefore, even though we aim for openness and broadness in our approach, we admit that our focus is still narrow, and overlooks, for 1

 Kagan (2018), 3–4, 8–10, 25, 35–36, 57, 152.



example, much excellent theoretical and empirical scholarship on global asymmetries of power and how these hierarchies and domination are structured through intersections of race, gender, and class.2 Since its Greek origins, hegemony has been a two-sided coin, one of its faces denoting to consensual leadership over an alliance, and the other to coerced use of imperial power.3 The questions of authority, consent, and legitimacy are inescapably entwined with questions of unequal power, coercive force, hierarchy, and empire4; they also keep the latter more or less invisible. For G. John Ikenberry, a legitimate order is an order “within which states cooperate willingly,”5 and in the liberal international order, Kagan argues, this willingness has emanated from the relative benignity of US hegemony.6 Thus, we need to include in our inquiry on US/Western/ liberal hegemony the discussions on consent and legitimacy, and also the instances of the opposite: contestation, critique, and challenges. Deep down, the central theme in Kagan’s “Jungle Book” is the merciless constancy of change in which change represents a threat to the hegemonic system. The jungle is ever attempting to grow back, ever attempting to seize and suffocate the garden—a symbol of order in the midst of disorder. Struggle for power, beliefs, and ideas is eternal. Struggle to shape the order is eternal. And in these struggles, world orders erode, collapse, and get destroyed. Perhaps, you will not even notice it before the order is already gone.7 Among the present-day international relations scholars and observers, there appears to prevail a heightened sense that something is about to profoundly change: a window of opportunity opening for some, and a prognosis of looming crisis for others. For Kagan, this change portends a crisis for the liberal international order. History is returning and nations are reverting to their old habits and traditions: authoritarianism, illiberalism, great power competition, geopolitics, territorial aggression, 2  See for example Hobson, John. 2012. The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics: Western International Theory, 1760–2010. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Hooper, Charlotte. Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics. New York: Columbia University Press; Power, Postcolonialism and International Relations: Reading Race, Gender and Class. 2002. Edited by G.  Chowdhry and S.  Nair. London: Routledge. 3  Anderson (2017), Origins I. 4  Hurrell (2007), 78–79. 5  Ikenberry (2011a), 116. 6  Kagan (2018), 56. 7  Kagan (2018), 24, 162, 143.



nationalism, and tribalism—all of which, historically speaking, manifest themselves as something more “natural” than the tended garden of the liberal order. These are the vines and weeds of the jungle, and the main representatives of the jungle are nations such as China and Russia.8 Indeed, China and Russia have become increasingly vocal in their questioning of the legitimacy of the liberal order, on the one hand, and US/ Western hegemony, on the other. However, in Kagan’s account, the crisis does not stem from either Chinese or Russian conservative Counter-­ Enlightenment critique of globalized liberalism. Rather, the crisis brews within the head gardener and the garden. The vines of the jungle are slowly returning and re-rooting “even in the heart of the West.” There is a pervasive feeling of skepticism about the viability and value of the liberal order. And most ominously, the will and ability of the United States to take on the responsibility to care for, and defend, the order has been on the decrease for years. The order is not beyond saving, but it is unclear whether the United States feels it is worth salvaging. If the liberal order is not actively preserved, Kagan claims, the possible outcome is the creation of a new order, or more likely, a descend into multipolar great power competition updated to the age of nuclear weapons, and eventually, chaos and disorder.9 Like for Kagan, the theme of change is our nodal point. Instead of interpreting change as a threat or hegemony as constant, we are elaborating an alternative, more flexible and open, approach that can better reflect on and accommodate change. We show that, during the past two centuries, both Western hegemony and liberal order have gone through remarkable historical changes in which one hegemon of the order has been substituted with another and the basic ordering principles have gone through transformations and reinterpretations. This points toward a proposition that the resilience of Western hegemony and the liberal order through ebb and flow of US or British dominance, in fact, trumps the crisis narratives. It might be that the current anxiety over US hegemonic decline or over the retreat of liberal principles turns out to be a false alarm. But if not, then we need to ask the questions: Are there viable alternatives that could either replace US hegemony or the cultural hegemony of the West? Or, is the liberal order capable of once again metamorphosing itself?

8 9

 Kagan (2018), 10–11, 105, 121, 150.  Kagan (2018), 11, 106, 121, 149–150, 153–154, 160–163.



Consensual Hegemony, Consensual Legitimacy The West is a ubiquitous notion in International Relations literature. In its simplest expression it is portrayed as a political community of like-minded nations, geographically located in two—or three, depending on who you ask—continents. It is an architect of several influential international institutions and organizations, and a mover and shaker in the global order. In all these characterizations, the West is conceived as an actor in world politics with compelling economic, military, and political power resources.10 In other words, a hegemonic actor. However, the notion of the West can also be regarded as a core organizing and legitimizing principle of modern global order, at least since the late nineteenth century. It is a principle that defines and legitimates hierarchies and supremacy, a Western-led world order. Even more, it furnishes a normative basis for international peace as well as for measures needed for maintaining that peace, including the right to intervene. Legitimization of this order has revolved around particular narratives: the nineteenth-century “standard of civilization,” the Cold War “free world,” and for the past couple of decades, liberal internationalism and the idea of liberal peace. Hegemony is a “multifaceted and complex concept” that is interpreted differently by different theories of international relations.11 To contextualize the recent debates on crisis of the West (or the United States) as a hegemon of the global liberal order, it is essential to understand the differences among the various theoretical approaches to hegemony, and how they form the backbone for popular arguments in crisis-talk. One can distinguish between the theoretical schools of Realism, Neo-Realism, Neo-­ Liberal, Neo-Gramscian, and Constructivism, even if none of them is a uniform bloc, and in some instances, they are overlapping. The main differences concern the role and significance of a single hegemon (a state), the emphasis on material (coercive) power versus normative power, the representation of hegemony either as domination or leadership, and the question of legitimacy. It has been argued that, in essence, Realists and Liberals are “predominantly materialist in orientation,” while it is the neo-­ Gramscian and Constructivist approaches that “combine material power, ideas, and institutions in a comprehensive theory of hegemony.”12  O’Hagan (2002), 1–2, 8–9.  Schmidt (2018). 12  Hopf (2013). 10 11



In the classical realist perspective, hegemony is understood as “overwhelming power” of a state and “the ability to use this power to dominate others.”13 Neoclassical realists remind, on the other hand, that hegemony is less “an attribute of a single state and more property of what is termed the international system.”14 Robert Gilpin, for example, envisions an “imperial or hegemonic” structure in which “a single powerful state controls or dominates the lesser states in the system.”15 Drawing from Thucydides, Gilpin portrays an international system based on power distribution and hierarchies. This system remains stable and capable of shouldering economic, political, strategic, and technological changes as long as the power of the dominant, hegemonic power is not eroding or challenged.16 A systemic emphasis on hegemony implies the theory of hegemonic stability. Susan Strange distinguishes between a “strong” and “weak” version of this Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST), the former stating that a hegemon produces order and stability in the world order, while the latter version states that hegemonic power is necessary, but not always enough, to uphold order.17 The underlying idea of an anarchic world introduces this need for hegemonic power, as only a hegemon “can establish the international rules that facilitate orderly exchanges amongst countries and should punish transgressors with predictable penalties.”18 Neo-liberal theorists have expanded the debate to “the mechanisms and processes through which hegemony is exercised.” While neoliberalism may be regarded as materialist, there is a visible tendency to emphasize consent rather than domination. Robert Keohane, for example, argues that hegemony is not about material superiority per se, but more about the will and ability to use that material power “to maintain the essential rules governing interstate relations.”19 Thus, hegemony is “less about domination and more about consent” as the common rules cannot be maintained “without a certain degree of consent from other states” even though “hegemons construct international regimes to accord with their material interests.”20  Schmidt (2018).  Schmidt (2018). 15  Gilpin (1981), 29; Schmidt (2018). 16  Gilpin (1988), 594–596. 17  Strange (1987), 554–555. 18  Yazid (2015). 19  Keohane (1984), 34–35. 20  Hopf (2013); Schmidt (2018). 13 14



When it comes to hegemonic behavior, hegemons come in all varieties. David Rapkin and Dan Braaten argue that hegemonic behavior “can be located along a continuum between coercive and exploitative, at one extreme, and benevolent, or at least benign, at the other.”21 In addition, one can distinguish a structurally advantaged hegemon, of which the United States is a prime example. As Carla Norrlof and Doug Stokes explain, the United States has molded the liberal international order into a shape in which the system ensures structural advantages and privileges for the United States.22 To complicate matters further, the question is not only about the form of hegemonic behavior, but also about how that behavior is experienced. An act intended as benevolent can be judged as coercive. Indeed, for example, critical peace-building literature has emphasized how a principally benevolent act, such as intervention in support for peace and human rights, can be—and often is—interpreted as coercive, as it undermines local ownership to process and objectives of peace process.23 HST has introduced also the assumption that hegemonic powers are “liberal by inclination,” and consequently, they persuade the others to become more liberal, too, especially in the realm of economy and trade.24 Scholars of international politics often refer to two successful examples of liberal hegemonic orders: the late nineteenth-century British Empire and the late twentieth-century US-led liberal international order—the Pax Britannica and Pax Americana. And it is especially in the latter, in which the ideas of consent and liberal have coalesced. Immediately after the Second World War, global power balance was first decidedly in favor of the United States. According to HST, this unequal division of power and US hegemony were conducive for the stability of the postwar-order. Being the dominant power in the order, the United States had an unparalleled array of means in its disposal to steer the order and cooperation within it.25 The United States took on the main responsibilities, such as the provision of global public goods, as well as the main privileges ensuing from  Rapkin and Braaten (2009), 119.  Norrlof (2010), 3, 11–12, 15, 17; Norrlof (2018), 76; Stokes (2018), 134, 141. 23  See for example Cubitt, Christine. 2013. “Responsible Reconstruction After War: Meeting Local Needs for Building Peace.” Review of International Studies 1 (39): 91–112; Mitchell, Audra. 2011. “Quality/Control: International Peace Interventions And ‘the Everyday.’” Review of International Studies 4 (37): 1623–1645. 24  Strange (1987), 559. 25  Hurrell (2007), 71. 21 22



building and leading the order. As a result, the order had a distinctly ­hierarchical character.26 Ideally, the order rested on consent, openness, and capitalism. It was structured around the notions of internationalism, multilateralism, institutionalism, regionalism, interdependence, and democracy.27 US alliances, national interests, military power, liberal-democratic political system, free-market capitalism, and currency were coalesced into an order of a very unique kind—an order G. John Ikenberry terms as “a liberal hegemonic order.” In essence, US hegemony and the order became mutually dependent.28 A liberal hegemonic order is akin to an empire in the sense that both embody unequal power relationships and hierarchy. Yet, what distinguishes the two, Ikenberry claims, is that liberal hegemony is a “bargained order”—it is ideally based on consent and persuasion, not coercion. In the post-Second World War US-led order, states remained formally sovereign and joined the order out of conviction that their interests were best served within the order. Moreover, the United States bound itself to the rules and multilateral institutions established for cooperation, thus channeling and toning down its power. And it exercised self-restraint, but only to an extent.29 John Krige, on the other hand, defines the US-led order as an “empire by consent,” as it has been founded on consensual hegemony, that is, “a hegemony that was coproduced.”30 Now, Ikenberry and Doug Stokes consider relative lack of coercion, voluntary membership, and the institutionalized “voice opportunities” for weaker states to be the main factors legitimizing US liberal hegemony.31 While Thomas Wright, on the other hand, claims that it is the “liberal”— in its traditional sense as democracy, open economy, multilateralism—that makes US liberal hegemony legitimate and appealing to a wider set of states. After all, without liberal, it would be only hegemony.32 In these accounts, the entity obtaining consent varies. Alternately it is the leadership and dominance of the United States that is being consented to, and alternately it is the liberal principles.  Ikenberry (2011b), 60–61; Nye (2017), 11.  Alcaro (2018b), 2–4. 28  Alcaro (2018b), 6; Ikenberry (2011a), xi, 2; Stokes (2018), 138. 29  Alcaro (2018b), 6; Hurrell (2007), 73; Ikenberry (2011a), 18, 67, 70, 116; Peterson (2018), 31. 30  Krige (2006), 5. 31  Ikenberry (2011a), 7, 116; Stokes (2018), 140. 32  Wright (2017), 192–193. 26 27



The concern over the declining power of the United States dates back at least to 1980s and Paul Kennedy’s book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, and it has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Much of this discussion is premised on the assumption that the global order is built and maintained by a single powerful state. From this perspective, “the hegemon is identified as the state that possesses vastly superior material capabilities including military, economic and, sometimes, diplomatic and soft power.”33 Thus, if the power of this single hegemon depletes, the whole global order is perceived to plunge into a deep crisis. Many systemic theorists, like Gilpin, understand the material decline of the hegemon as inevitable in the longer term, which then leads to a search for a new hegemon, and potentially, to “hegemonic war.”34 This is one facet of the current crisis-talk: if the global power of the United States, entrenched in its (material) resources, is in relative decline due to emerging multipolarity, this leads to the decline of the US-led world order. As Ikenberry has noted, as the global competition “over the distribution of roles, rights, and authority within liberal international order” has begun, the United States has faced a “crisis of authority.”35 But there is another facet, and it concerns the way a hegemon uses its power. In this perspective, the US-led order is declining, because under President Trump, the hegemon is not only unable and unwilling to maintain the order, but it is fast losing its legitimacy to do so. When it comes to the legitimacy of American power and leadership, Trump’s United States may soon find itself suffering from a similar shortage of international legitimacy as George W. Bush’s United States in the early 2000s.36 These discussions regarding the hegemony of the United States, in particular, have habitually been extended to cover also the abstract agent and community of the West, in general. Arguably, much of this is a carryover from the Cold War. One can comfortably refer to the Cold War era United States and its (European) allies as constituting the West and the regional Western-led liberal order. Curiously, the rhetoric did not change after the Berlin Wall crumbled. The only difference was that now the “Western liberal democratic world,” or the “Western system,” was

 Norrlof (2015); Schmidt (2018).  Gilpin (1988); Hopf (2013). 35  Ikenberry (2011a), xii. 36  See Kagan (2004), 108. 33 34



no longer c­ onsidered as regional, but as expanding and globalizing.37 Thus, the West today, is understood effectively to be entwined with both the liberal international order and US leadership,38 but not necessarily vice versa. Nonetheless, we argue that hegemony of the West cannot solely be reverted to the power or leadership of the United States, and moreover, that the HST does not fully explain the hegemony of the West. Indeed, the West has been more resilient and had a longer life than the US global hegemony. Therefore, our understanding of the hegemony of the West should be elaborated before we can come to terms with the current crisis narratives, and also with the remarkable resilience of the liberal order. Rather than treating the West as a classical hegemon in materialistic sense, we propose that it is more fruitful to understand it as an ordering principle and legitimizing narrative of global order. The narrative of the West constitutes global hierarchies and sets the West as a self-appointed bestower of the global order. In this respect, invocations of the West (also when the term West is not explicitly mentioned) entail a considerable amount of “legitimizing power,” as they are central to broader claims about the “legitimate” nature of the international order, and about ordering practices. Thus, the crisis narrative of the US hegemony and legitimacy, translated into the crisis narrative of Western hegemony and legitimacy, becomes a useful entry point for thinking about the changes in the normative basis of this order. On the other hand, drawing from Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of “symbolic power,” the effectiveness of invoking the West is dependent on the extent to which “the West” is accepted as a legitimate organizing concept. This is where the symbolic power steps in, for this acceptance can be a largely unconscious process (at least for self-­ identifying Westerners), because it is owing to people’s general socialization into a world inhabited by such concepts when speaking and thinking about the international order.39 For further scrutiny along these lines, we first need to grasp what legitimacy is—not only as a property that can be gained and lost, but also as a  Ikenberry (1996), 79, 81, 89, 91; (2011a), 8.  Stokes (2018), 135. 39  Bourdieu (1991), 163–70. In Bourdieu’s terms this is a “tautegorical” argument, a myth which refers to nothing outside itself for its legitimization. Hence, the West performs a legitimizing function simply because people have come to accept it as a positive concept that does just that. 37 38



process. S. P. Mulligan notes that “legitimacy is virtually indistinguishable from order.” Furthermore, legitimacy “connotes a degree of justice (law, right) in that order.”40 Thus, while legitimacy may be conjoined with international order, in IR literature it is more traditionally associated with particular states and actions rather than with the totality of an international order. As Rapkin and Braaten argue, international legitimacy is “a relevant property for states that, either collectively or singly, claim for themselves an extraordinary systematic role,” that is, it is a property of actors who maintain systemic stability in an order. But in conjunction with hegemony, it is also a process. Rapkin and Braaten continue that hegemony is a contested political process consisting of “legitimation efforts by hegemonic actors claiming legitimacy for their activities.”41 “Hegemonic legitimacy” may be sought from various sources. “Substantive legitimacy derives from the normative substance of the principle, rule, action or policy in question,” that is, from shared values and norms. Procedural legitimacy stems from adherence to the “correct” decision-­making procedures and constitutionalism. Outcome legitimacy, on the other hand, flows from successive and effective outcomes of the use of hegemonic power.42 Ultimately, upholding hegemonic legitimacy requires that key actors continually seek and claim legitimacy for certain ideas, norms, and policies upon which the hegemonic order is founded. Such claims must then be accepted (consciously or unconsciously) by a relevant audience.43 However, the question then emerges: who is that relevant audience giving or withholding legitimacy? Moreover, how do you verify the consent of a domestic, transnational, or international audience? How do you know when that consent is lost? And lastly, what is being consented to? Material hegemony, or perhaps the hegemony of ideals, such as liberal peace, that underlies a system aimed to mitigate conflicts and maintain peace? Or, alternatively, a set of principles that are not considered as ideologically unsurpassed, but as ones that hold symbolic value? In other words, principles that ensure wealth and relative stability, and thus provide purely utilitarian reasons for accepting them and engaging in the order they constitute.

 Mulligan (2006), 364–365.  Rapkin and Braaten (2009), 118, 120. 42  Rapkin and Braaten (2009), 115, 122–124. 43  Rapkin and Braaten (2009), 114, 117, 119, 120. 40 41



Hegemonic legitimacy is a conceptual frame that turns our analytical gaze from statistical comparisons of a hegemon’s material power to the norms, values, and practices of order as well as to the various processes of their often simultaneous and symbolic confirmation and contestation. It allows us to understand hegemonic positions primarily as socially constructed relationships rather than absolute and relative global power positions. Within this frame it would also be possible to discuss the contingency and resilience of hegemony. HST often downplays the possibility of gradual transformation and depicts change as something drastic. Yet, the empirical observation of two centuries of “Western” dominance pinpoints to the resilience of Western hegemony and liberal order. However, this resilience of Western hegemony has been too often explained from a state-­centric, and also Eurocentric, perspective, while ignoring the non-state actors as well as non-Western actors. All this points us toward the idea of “cultural hegemony” and Robert Cox’s “internationalization” of Antonio Gramsci’s thoughts on hegemony44; to the notion that “hegemony is not only coercion, but subscription to a shared and legitimized ideology,” and therefore it “cannot be reduced to pure material domination.”45 Gramscian hegemonic theories depart from purely state-centric approach and instead emphasize the importance of popular acceptance of normative principles for global hegemony. There is an unconscious element in here, too, namely the “taken-­ for-­granted” or “common-sense” truths about the world order and norms that people assume without questioning. These truths include “hegemonic ideas” that are couched in the rhetoric of universal interests, but that, in fact, serve particular interests.46 Indeed, Viacheslav Morozov argues that hegemony itself “is best understood as an operation through which a particular, contingent representation of the reality is universalised, i.e. comes to be accepted as true and natural by most members of the community.”47 Following these propositions, we posit first that at the core of hegemonic legitimacy there is the ability to create normative principles, ideals 44  See Cox (1993); Cox, Robert. 1981. “Social Forces, States, and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory.” Millennium 10(2): 126–155. 45  Hopf (2013); Schmidt (2018). 46  Hopf (2017), 203–205. 47  Morozov, manuscript.



of global peace for example, and also the capability to devise and maintain institutions for mitigating and mediating violent conflicts. Second, we claim that hegemonic legitimacy is not gained or lost only in relations between states. Rather, the popular acceptance or rejection of the global community is crucial for the legitimacy of world order. These ideas become eminently useful for our examination of whether the idea of a Western liberal international order can be claimed to possess varying degrees of consensual hegemony and consensual legitimacy. And in conjunction, whether it is the lack of those attributes that contributes to the current crisis narratives. The problem is that we unavoidably need to set off from the premise that empirical verification of consent and legitimacy is elusive, just as measuring hegemony is elusive, since these phenomena are never uniformly revealed, omnipresent, or uncontested. Below, we first focus on liberal internationalism—the cluster of ideas and practices that is utilized to define the liberal international order—and on liberal peace—the ordering principle of that order. Liberal internationalism could be approached from the point of view of hegemonic stability theories. For example, we can discuss the significance of a hegemonic state (or group of hegemonic states) as the guarantor of this liberal internationalist system. Liberal peace, on the other hand, could be approached from the Gramscian hegemonic perspective. From this perspective, consensual hegemonic legitimacy manifests itself in taken-for-granted principles and seemingly self-evident practices—or, the universalization of the particular. These are invoked to legitimize the everyday practices of global ordering. We demonstrate how the legitimizing narratives and practices gradually evolve and change, and rather than signaling a crisis, this continual transformation is a sign of hegemonic resilience. Consent for an order is never universal, on the contrary, contestation and criticism are ever-present. And yet, contestation of the order does not automatically mark a crisis or decline. At least, not for as long as the popular acceptance does not shift to an alternative vision for order and hegemony.

Liberal Principles of International Order Since the late nineteenth century, the West has been associated with the liberal tradition and liberal values—this is the narrative of the liberal West.48 Yet, the meaning of “liberal” is shifting and unstable. As Helena Rosenblatt  Ifversen (2008), 239.




notes, “people use the term [liberal] in all sorts of different ways, often unwittingly, sometimes intentionally.” In the early twentieth century, “liberalism, democracy, and Western civilization” were merged together, and the United States, because of its growing strength, was cast as the main defender of this conceptual ensemble. Therefore, adherents of interwar authoritarian ideologies in Europe defined themselves against liberalism, democracy, and Western civilization. The Second World War cemented the view of the United States as the prime representative and guardian of “liberalism, democracy, and Western civilization, which by now in many people’s minds were virtually the same thing.” Today, liberalism is considered “the dominant political doctrine of the West,” and yet, Rosenblatt argues, it is steeped in coexisting narratives of triumph and pessimism. While for others liberalism is “Western civilization’s gift to mankind,” other see it as the reason for Western decline.49 According to John Owen, the history of the liberal ideal can be divided in three phases. First, the earliest concept of “liberal” was identical with the concept of “libertarian,” in the sense that state control was perceived as the primary threat to the autonomy of economic actors and to individual freedom more broadly. This interrelation has proved to be a persistent one, especially in the United States, where both self-identified libertarians and liberals have emphasized their commitment to individual rights and freedom. In the second phase, liberals somewhat reversed their position, and called for the state to protect the autonomy of societal actors from the threat of open markets and capitalism. In the last phase, liberalism has come to connote the toleration of diversity and difference, and “liberal society is marked by diversity in terms of beliefs, ethnicities, and styles of life.”50 Rather than constructing clear-cut chronological phases of liberalism, Rosenblatt depicts the history of liberalism as one of persistent debates over the meaning of being liberal. She especially stresses the back-and-­ forth shifts between humanitarian liberalism and laissez-faire liberalism: At heart, most liberals were moralists. Their liberalism had nothing to do with the atomistic individualism we hear of today. They never spoke about rights without stressing duties. Most liberals believed that people had rights

 Rosenblatt (2018), 1, 258–259.  Owen (2017), 75; Rosenblatt (2018), 264–266.

49 50



because they had duties, and most were deeply interested in questions of social justice.51

However, after the Second World War and especially in the context of the Cold War, US liberals with a progressive agenda—the ones who stressed morality, equality, public good, and the responsibility of the state to guarantee those—ended up under siege. In the climate of fear of totalitarianism, they had to redefine their stance, and accentuate their dedication to individual rights. Rosenblatt claims that this Cold War era redefinition of liberalism came to eclipse all previous history, so that today we tend to view liberalism mainly as an Anglo-American tradition of individualism and individual rights.52 In the current political divisions within Europe and the United States, Liberals are often associated with one political bloc, as an opposition to Conservatives. But from a broader perspective, for example, both US Democrats and Republicans stand behind norms and institutions having a strong liberal heritage, and indeed, it is only the populist right that antagonizes many liberal norms. Nevertheless, the distinction that should be made is that between libertarian liberalism and humanitarian liberalism, as it is the latter that has constituted the basis for Western-led liberal world order since the nineteenth century. “Liberal” has had shifting meanings in domestic political debates, and the same applies also to the framework of international order. As Michael Lind reminds us, there has never been “just one fixed liberal world order.”53 Lind’s proposition is supported by a quick survey of the archives of two leading international relations studies journals, the Foreign Affairs and International Affairs. A search for terms liberal (international/ world/global) order not only discloses the multitude of meanings attached to this word compound, but also that the usage of the term has been relatively rare before the 1990s. In the 1980s issues of these journals, scholars tended to understand the liberal order narrowly, as essentially an economic and trading regime.54 References to the liberal international order in the broader sense of post-Second World War US-led order were sporadic. Michael Vlahos, for example, analyzed the US post-war drive to create “a true,” universal liberal world order—an achievement that eluded Woodrow  Rosenblatt (2018), 4.  Rosenblatt (2018), 4, 7, 260–261, 271–272. 53  Lind (2017). 54  See Bailey (1972), 651; Currie and Vines (1992), 586; Russett (1981/1982), 44. 51 52



Wilson.55 Fouad Ajami, on the other hand, elucidated the Third World revolt against “the liberal world order maintained by the West,” because the US or the West were reluctant to militarily back up the order, but more significantly, because of the disillusionment of non-Western states with the ideals, values, and the “moral supremacy of the West.”56 Going further back in time, to year 1938, Arnold J. Toynbee, Robert Cecil, Philip Henry Kerr, and Richard Austen Butler discussed the future paths for British foreign policy. They noted that until the First World War, the steady spread of liberalism had provided “new common ideology for a Liberal world order.” However, the rise of anti-democratic ideals and totalitarianism had shattered the prospects for such an order and left the British wrestling with questions of the possibility of conducting international relations “on a non-moral footing,” the desirability to hold on to the Pax Britannica or a collective world order in an anarchic world, and the general outlook for political and social liberalism.57 While liberalism had been adopted as a political tradition and philosophy in Britain in the nineteenth century, in the United States it was consolidated as such only in the early twentieth century. In 1917, President Wilson made the connection between “liberal” and a specific foreign policy agenda.58 However, it would appear that the concept conjoining liberal with international order was not yet in wide circulation at the time. Today, “liberal” in the context of international order is often associated with the support of international law and multilateral institutions, with a certain type of market-orientated economic order (recently defended most fiercely by the Chinese president), and/or with the (universal) ideals of “democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and a (regulated) market economy.”59 According to Daniela Schwarzer, the liberal international order is based on three main principles. The first is a “three-fold principle of sovereignty, non-intervention, and a comprehensive prohibition on the use of force to alter borders;” the second is “maintaining an open, non-­ discriminatory world economy;” and the last building block is “the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy.”60  Vlahos (1987/1988), 1097–1099.  Ajami (1980/1981), 366, 375–376. 57  Toynbee et al. (1938), 329, 331. 58  Rosenblatt (2018), 3, 247, 259. 59  Owen (2017), 75. 60  Schwarzer (2017), 24. 55 56



Liberal tends to refer to internationalism as the core constitutive ordering or normative principle of the order. Then again, liberal internationalism is often presented as a synonym to rules-based system,61 or liberal institutionalism: a vision of an open, loosely rules-based, and progressively orientated international order. Beneath the institutions of the order, the force at work is liberal internationalism. Ikenberry argues that it provides “the organizational principles, institutions and capacities to negotiate the international contingencies and dislocations that threaten the domestic pursuit of liberal democracy,” and thus this prevailing international ordering principle is essential also for the survival of liberal as a national ordering principle.62 Also Riccardo Alcaro claims that the liberal international order is above all an ideational and normative project,63 and membership of all states in the international society, multilateralism, (economic) interdependence, and liberal democracy are its constituting normative frameworks. This order, according to Ikenberry and Kagan among others, is managed by the West, and it necessitates US global hegemony, for the United States acts as its ultimate guarantor or patron. Consequently, the decay and decline of relative US global predominance is portrayed as a threat to the order.64 However, according to Robert Cox, hegemony is not only about dominance, but also about leadership and skills to set up and regulate the international system. Cox particularly emphasizes two aspects of a hegemonic world order: the role of a “globally-conceived civil society” and the ability of the order to regulate interstate conflict.65 Thus, his hegemonic order includes a vision for global peace. Ikenberry underscores that mediation requires an open rules-based system, security cooperation, and the conviction that international society is corrigible—all of which form the bedrock of liberal internationalism when it comes to the theory and practice of organizing and ordering the world.66 Global peace warrants institutionalism and international institutions, while for Cox, international institutions and organizations are expressions of hegemony. These organizations are products of hegemonic world orders, they co-opt elites from peripheral states to support the order, “absorb counterhegemonic ideas,”  See for example Ikenberry et al. (2018).  Ikenberry (2018), 13. 63  Alcaro (2018a), 165. 64  Ikenberry (2018), 8. Also Kagan (2018). 65  Cox (1993), 50, 61. 66  Ikenberry (2018), 11–12. 61 62



and significantly, they “embody the rules which facilitate the expansion of hegemonic world orders” and “ideologically legitimate the norms of the world order.”67 From this perspective, it is the ideal of liberal peace and the institutions that legitimate it that constitute the nodal point of Western hegemony. In the end, we are going full circle over and over again: liberal internationalism, liberal institutionalism, liberal peace, liberal hegemony, and the liberal international order are so interwoven together that it is hard to disentangle them and consider them separately. For example, focusing solely on liberal institutionalism as an ordering principle, insofar as it is understood as a synonym for a rule-based global order and multilateralism, would not take us very far in contemplating the proposition that such an order needs to be liberal or that the West (or the United States) is required as the bestower of that principle. But if we shift our focus from liberal institutionalism to the idea of liberal peace, we find that it not only operates as an ordering principle, it is by its essence liberal, and in a sense, Western. It provides the main legitimizing narrative and a source of consensual legitimacy for Western/US hegemony and order. The paradox, however, is that liberal peace also creates fundamental dichotomies and hierarchies between the “civilized” and others, and thus, it stands for a liberal empire.

The West as a Liberal Empire Historical narratives in Europe and the United States tend to flaunt the idea of Western superiority over others. The narratives of the West—as they are woven around the binary dichotomy between the West and rest, or the West and the East—tend to reinforce hegemonic structures, as well as affirm and legitimize domination.68 Often in these narratives, modernity becomes the source of Western distinction from the Other; and yet at the same time, this modernity is also conceived as universal, and held out as a model for the non-Western peoples to emulate.69 The West has been actively engaged in fostering modernity beyond its shifting borders. Thus, the other has become a target of modernizing or westernizing

 Cox (1993), 62.  Conceison (2004), 58; Herborth and Hellmann (2017), 3. 69  Ifversen (2008), 240. 67 68



efforts, with the ultimate goal of transforming the other into something resembling “us.” In this regard, the West’s defining characteristics are not seen as inherent and fixed but as learned and universal. By adopting certain forms of governance and economics, all societies can become Western. Essentially, the distinction between the West and the other is temporal, not qualitative. The other is depicted as backward and as being late, but if they hurry, they may catch the train heading to modernity.70 Think of, for example, Francis Fukuyama’s claim that, at the end of history, there is only one, Western road to modernity. Or Walt W. Rostow’s much earlier theory of stages of economic growth, in which the United States and Western Europe (and to some extent, Japan) epitomized the last, most developed stage of “Age of High Mass Consumption.”71 The histories of Westernization and Western domination are more than just narratives or discourses. Arguably, the West has indeed shaped the world during the past couple of centuries.72 What is crucial, is that the Westerners have had the power to attract followers to their model and bend the will of those reluctant to adopt it. Since the late nineteenth century, the narratives of universal (Western) modernity and civilization have been entangled with the ideas of liberalism and empire. British liberals and US progressives of the time distinguished between imperialism, that was “brute force over others,” and “genuine colonialism.” Colonies and an empire were presented as consonant with a “truly liberal foreign policy.”73 Beate Jahn argues that liberalism, in effect, went hand in hand with the policies of colonialism. The nineteenth-­ century empire-building was a liberal enterprise, systematically supported by liberal international lawyers and political thinkers alike. In practice, liberalism constituted a dynamic interrelation between a domestic space of liberal freedoms and peace, and international space of colonialism and normative expansion.74 Establishing any type of hegemony is premised on a clear division between an inside and outside,75 and thus, the liberal  Ahiska (2003), 353–354.  See Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. London: Free Press; Rostow, Walt W. 1960. The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 72  Peterson (2018), 33. 73  Rosenblatt (2018), 247–252. 74  Jahn (2018), 54. 75  Morozov, manuscript. 70 71



hegemonic project called for a distinction between the “civilized” and “barbarians,” and the latter—the non-Western Other—was relegated to a sphere controlled by the consolidation, strengthening, and expansion of liberal principles. The prima facie example of the regulated and hierarchical relationship between the West and rest was the notion of the “standard of civilization,” developed by Western legal scholars and incorporated into international law in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Europe and the United States claimed the universality of their values, norms, and institutions, as well as their idea of an international order—the “family of civilized nations.” This order and the underlying standard of civilization was effectively a set of asymmetrical power relations. The world was expected to conform to the Western model, and yet the Eurocentric international order and its norms were applied only in very particular circumstances, that is, in relations between the “civilized” states. Thus, the system distinguished between civilized, barbarian (which included sovereign but “non-­civilized” realms like the Ottoman Empire), and savage states; or between those who had “developed further than others, and thus should enjoy more rights and a greater say in politics” and those who were not developed enough. The civilized were understood to have a moral obligation to disseminate and promote civilized norms among the undeveloped.76 Once the notion of the standard of civilization was established, invocations of it implicitly served to further reinscribe the legitimacy of the order to which it referred, and the superiority of the West within it. The “standard of civilization” aimed to regulate interstate relations and conflict, but the sphere outside the “civilized world,” was a world of colonial wars and violence, detached from the ideological debate on the ideal of perpetual peace. In this regard, liberalism was interwoven with the ontology of perpetual peace as it was introduced by Immanuel Kant, as well as with another intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment: the idea of universal rights of people. For Kant, a permanent state of peace required the establishment of a so-called league of peace, a vision, which greatly influenced the later creations of the League of Nations and the United 76  Buruma and Margalit (2004), 2; Den Boer (2005), 56; Gong (1984), Donnelly (1998), 3–7; Bowden & Seabrooke (2007). States that failed to conform to the standard of civilization were declared as legitimate sites of interference and intervention in the name of humanity and ultimately of colonial control. See Heraclides (2012); Neocleous (2011).



Nations. This league of peace would respect the equality of human beings and republican form of government, and it would offer a framework in which states could voluntarily mediate disputes before they escalated into war.77 These requirements have often been complemented by a belief that economic interdependence deters (armed) conflicts—one of the basic tenets of liberal internationalism.78 All these four principles were conjoined in a new way in the 1990s under the umbrella of liberal peace—a new, informal “standard of civilization.” Liberal peace formed the cornerstone of the refashioned, more global, Western-led liberal order. However, the first column of Kant’s vision, the league of peace itself, is largely ignored in the new liberal peace ontology, and instead, the belief in democracy, human rights, and liberal markets as peacemakers have strengthened. As David Chandler writes: “Today, governments and international institutions claim human rights as one of the essential pillars of the international system, and they are proclaimed in the same breath as peace, democracy and the rule of law as a universal value of the highest order.”79 Also the earlier Kantian emphasis on republican form of governance was replaced by the democratic peace theory introduced by Bruce Russett in 1993. Essentially, Russett claimed that democratic governments were less prone to conflict, which led to a conclusion that the more there are democracies, the more peaceful the world is.80 Reflecting the modernist narratives of the model for historical development, the idea of liberal peace is framed around the notion that all these norms are universal. In extreme cases, their universality is backed up and enforced with interventions, and when that happens, liberal peace and the related concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P) are usually invoked to legitimize Western-led interventions in the name of international society.81 To build and strengthen liberal peace, states and international organizations are licensed to intervene “to relieve humanitarian suffering, to defend and promote democracy, to degrade hostile transnational movements, to determine the outcomes of civil wars, and to build (and transform) the institutions and capacities of ‘fragile’ or ‘failing’ states.” Most recently, “the protection of populations against genocide or in the face of  Pojman (2005), 62–66.  See for example Schweller (2018), 23. 79  Chandler (2002), 1. 80  Russett (1993). 81  Donnelly (1998); Bowden and Seabrooke (2007). 77 78



egregious violation of their human rights,” was added to the list.82 The moral duty to intervene in order to build peace has become the glue that holds the liberal empire together. In traditional IR literature, non-intervention is regarded as the norm and intervention the exception. On the contrary, John MacMillan considers intervention “as an ordering practice through which states have coercively mediated the tensions that arouse between bounded territoriality and transnational social forces in the modern world.”83 As practice, intervention has been based on three partly overlapping hierarchies: first, the hierarchy of production, trade, and finance following the expansion of capitalism and industrialization; second, the hierarchy present in interstate relations and power politics; and third, the hierarchy of culture and civilization that is evident in such notions as the standard of civilization, race, and liberal peace.84 It is only the last that is liberal in essence, but not in the sense of tolerance and diversity, as “liberal” is currently understood in popular narratives. The declaration of human rights was included in the UN charter after the Second World War, but the idea of human rights as a universal normative goal toward global peace was fashioned as the corner stone of the liberal order only in the 1990s. Since then, Chandler claims, humanitarianism has become “an ambiguous concept” capable of justifying any form of external intervention.85 The peak in humanitarian interventionism began from Somalia (1992–1993) and Bosnia (1995) and came to its end in Libya (2011). All the while, the declared universalism of this normative basis has been widely contested from within and without of the West as an embarrassing renewal of colonial legacy. Chandler considers that humanitarianism has created around it an “empire in denial”, in which Western democracies wield hegemony over setting universal normative principles, and simultaneously seek to reject the responsibilities that come with the power they have gained.86 In effect, Chandler concludes, the humanitarians have “gone from being angels of mercy who can do no wrong to being seen as part of the problem.”87  MacMillan (2013), 1039–1040, 1044.  MacMillan (2013), 1041–1042. 84  MacMillan (2013), 1045–1047. 85  Chandler (2001), 698. 86  See Chandler, David. 2006. Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building. London: Pluto Press. 87  Chandler (2001), 696. 82 83



Recently, for example in Syria, the humanitarian emphasis has already been relegated to a secondary role in the fight against Daesh, and political interests have become more explicit and even more acceptable as a source for public legitimation. Still, humanitarian reasoning and rhetoric remains widespread and utilized. Consider, for example, Russia, seeking to legitimize its actions in Syria by stating that it was protecting human rights. But human rights are also flatly rejected as a normative basis, as Chinese policies of peace-­ building show. Authoritarian governments have recently engaged in international conflict management with no reference to liberal norms, human rights, or democratic peace, but instead with an emphasis on state authority and preservation of sovereignty. David Lewis, John Heathershaw, and Nick Megoran contrast these “authoritarian modes of conflict management” with the “liberal model of compromise, negotiation and power-­sharing,” and propose that the authoritarian approach should be called “illiberal peace.” Notably, unlike liberal peace, illiberal peace does not contain universalizing principles.88 Historically speaking, liberal (and then liberal peace) as an organizing principle of the world order has required the existence of a clear distinction between democracies and non-democracies. It is overwhelmingly the states conceived as “Western” that have taken upon themselves the “moral duty” of spreading democracy to non-democracies by any means necessary. According to the Democratic Peace Theory, it is a legitimate act for building a more peaceful world. One case in point is President George W. Bush’s attempt to legitimize the continuance of US-led intervention in Iraq in 2008, five years after the intervention had begun, by arguing that “we know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability.”89 Interestingly, during his campaign and first two years of his presidency, Donald Trump has contested the universal applicability of democracy and the necessity of promoting democracy for global peace, defining the “idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy,” as “dangerous.” Moreover, Trump has denounced the spread of all “universal values” and interventions to those ends.90 This is a message he repeated, for example, during his first state visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, stating that “We are not here to  Lewis et al. (2018), 14–15.  Bush (2008). 90  Transcript: Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech (2016). 88 89



lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”91 While in practice the United States has still largely relied on the normative basis of liberal peace, this rhetorical rejection of (nearly) taken-for-granted truths can hardly be inconsequential. In the end, it is plainly visible that the Kantian perspective to global peace, and the liberal international order largely espousing that perspective, presents a paradox. On the one hand, liberal values and liberal institutionalism are identified with cosmopolitanism and the idea that all members of the international society are equal. On the other hand, it gives rise to the imagery of the West as the liberal core of this society and as the primary guarantor of global peace, stability, and wealth. Christopher Coker claims that the West sees itself in a state of “becoming” and the rest of the world in a state of merely “being.” He continues that this image of the West is a “strongly internationalist and expansionist,” in that it sees its values as universal, and aspires to export those values for the sake of world peace and prosperity through its “empire as liberation.”92 International hierarchies, as David Lake reminds, are pervasive and enduring features of world politics. Even if one views the state of nature in the international relations as anarchic, it is difficult to deny that states escape the state of nature by creating hierarchies through domination and subordination.93 Inderjeet Parmar argues that one of the prime vehicles through which the Western states have produced dichotomies and hierarchies, has been liberal internationalism. According to Parmar, liberal internationalism produces a normative world-view dictating what the world should look like, and based on that view, liberal internationalists have constructed a “a class-based, elitist hegemony”—namely, the liberal international order. Consequently, referring to Mark Mazower, Parmar characterizes liberal internationalism as “imperial internationalism,” intent on maintaining “a global hierarchy established by centuries of colonial and semi-colonial rule over what is now called the global South.”94 While Parmar conjoins “Liberal Empire” with coercive hegemony, in Ikenberry’s view, liberal empire and liberal hegemony are two entirely  Trump (2017). On Trump administration and universal values, see also Chap. 8.  Coker (2010), 75–78. 93  Lake (2017), 2–3. 94  Parmar (2018), 152, 154–155, 159. 91 92



different types of order. Although both are hierarchical orders, they differ in the manner in which power is exercised and in the degree to which sovereignty is considered inviolable. While a liberal empire is imposed, coerced, and often arranged as a hub-and-spokes system, a liberal hegemonic order—such as the US-led post-Second World War liberal order— is negotiated, multilateral, and most importantly, it is based on consent.95 Similarly, Lake envisions a social contract in which “the ruler provides a political order of value to the ruled, who in turn grant legitimacy to the ruler and comply with the restraints on their behavior necessary for the production of that order.”96. Western dominance has been real and concrete, but it has been shrouded in notions of the West as both particular and universal. One way to look at this is to frame the whole concept of the West as a hegemonic idea: as an umbrella term for particular interests couched in the rhetoric of universal interests. Consider, for example, the concepts associated with the West, such as the standard of civilization or liberal peace. They have universalist pretensions, but even universalist narratives are particular in the sense that they are always recounted from a specific location and from the viewpoint of specific actors.97 The situated particularity of universalist narratives cannot be avoided. From the perspective of those who are the objects, the legitimacy of universalist projects often appears questionable, and therefore such projects are challenged, rejected, and resisted.98 And as we will see next, it is the ideas and projects of liberal peace, liberal empire, and liberal hegemony—together and separately—that form the main points of contestation.

Resistance, Contestation, and Resilience Still in 2011, Ikenberry noted that the “deeper logic of open and loosely rule-­ based international order” remained intact and widely accepted. Although the US hegemonic bargain underlying the order was being challenged and power was fast becoming more equally distributed around the globe, there were grounds for optimism regarding the future of the liberal international order quite simply because there existed no viable  Ikenberry (2011a), 70–71.  Lake (2017), 3. 97  Hansen (2017), 292. 98  Hansen (2017), 292. 95 96



alternatives.99 This contention that there are no serious ideological contenders for liberalism, democracy, and capitalism persists. The liberal international order has been more successful than any other order to date. Or at any rate, it is the least bad alternative.100 However, increasingly in the 2010s, scholars are coming out and declaring the liberal international order as a myth. Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner, and Steven Weber, for example, have referred to the prevailing narrative of the liberal international order as “more or less a myth,” rather an aspiration than a description of state behavior in the world.101 Amitav Acharya denounces the myths of liberal hegemony and the American World Order, and calls attention to the historical baggage that is seriously damaging the legitimacy of the order.102 Also Graham Allison points to the “misconceptions about the liberal order’s causes and consequences,” and continues that the whole phrase “liberal international rules-based order” is so ambiguous that it is practically devoid of any meaning.103 Effectively, these “myths” are points of criticism and contestation, extending not only to the liberal international order, but to the whole intertwined bundle of phenomena associated with it, such as the hegemony of the West and the United States, and the legitimacy and illegitimacy of liberal empire. One source of contestation is the practices of the order, especially interventionism. Consider, for example, international peace-building interventions which are carried out despite the mixed record of these interventions, and despite the fact that in many instances, “the intervening party’s hopes for a swift and decisive action were soon disappointed,” as MacMillan notes.104 The typical peace-building missions generally prioritize liberal state-building through implementing internationally endorsed blueprints for liberal peace, rather than “the local politics of building peace.”105 For many observers, such interventions are impregnated with renewed notions of the Western civilizing mission, because they are premised on the idea of liberal peace as a universal truth.106  Ikenberry (2011a), xi–xii, 6–8.  Jervis (2017), 16; Peterson (2018), 32–33; Stokes (2018), 150. 101  Barma et al. (2013), 57. 102  Acharya (2018), 50–51. 103  Allison (2018), 125. 104  MacMillan (2013), 1039–1040. 105  Cubitt (2013), 94. 106  See Paris (2002). 99




During the past few years, there has been growing awareness among scholars that the intrinsic universality of (liberal) norms cannot be taken for granted, and consequently Jonas Wolff and Lisbeth Zimmerman note that “the debate has turned from a focus on norm diffusion to an interest in norm contestation and related discussion about norm localization, appropriation, and subsidiarity.” This is neither anti-liberal nor illiberal, but in a sense, post-liberal. Increasingly, such ideas as liberal ­peace-­building, for example, are presented from a critical perspective, and “contestation, thereby, becomes itself a normative concept.”107 The critique aimed at liberal norms can be viewed from the perspective of contestedness, which is a principle reflecting the agreement that, “the norms, rules and principles of governance are contested and that they therefore require regular contestation in order to work,” as Antje Wiener explains. Norms have a dual quality of being both structuring and constructed, and hence they must be contestable by all involved stakeholders, “so as to both indicate potential legitimacy gaps and to overcome them.”108 To contest the norms and practices of liberal peace, is to advocate for change: for example, the substitution of the universalist pretensions with relativism, or the rejection of the duty to promote global peace, as championed by various political actors from Trump to some conservatives and right-wing populists. The prevailing narrative holds that the decades leading up to the 2010s can be characterized as an era of optimism and triumph of liberal promises,109 or what Thomas Wright terms, the “era of convergence.” According to John Peterson, this was an era when “virtually all states sought to become members of the liberal order,” and were voluntarily accepting the rules and norms of the order, including economic liberalism and democracy, because of the promise the order held for prosperity and international stability.110 Wright adds that convergence did not mean that powers like China and Russia would become downright liberal or that ideological and geopolitical friction would end, rather, it entailed increasing cooperation and integration.111 This claim regarding the scope and acceptance of the order—its “inexorable magnetic attraction”—Barma et  al.  Wolff and Zimmermann (2016), 514–515.  Wiener (2014), 1–4. 109  Jahn (2013), 1–2. 110  Peterson (2018), 30–31. 111  Wright (2017), ix–x. 107 108



describe as the “founding myth” of the liberal order.112 Edward Luce writes how “remarkably arrogant” it has been to believe that the whole world craves to be “Western,” and thus would “passively adopt” the Western script.113 The conclusion of such critiques is that Europe and the United States form the core of the order, and alone share the feeling of ownership over it.114 In other words, liberal international order is, and has always been, particular, not universal. Another perceived myth is the claim that the liberal order has been erected and expanded through consent, not coercion, and that it has been benevolent. Acharya, Parmar, Richard Stubbs, and Paul Staniland, among others, emphasize that the order has been often enforced by using military, economic, and political power. While the people inside the “Western” core may be blind to this, people dwelling outside of it are quick to note the injustice, inequality, and abuse of power inherent in the system. The consequence is that the order is constantly contested, and the “crisis of authority” has become a permanent feature of the order.115 On one hand, the criticism points toward the general question elaborated by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, that “the problem with ‘actually existing’ liberal democracies is not with their constitutive values crystallized in the principles of liberty and equality for all, but with the system of power which redefines and limits the operation of those values.”116 On the other, it is often linked to particular US foreign policies, either taken on unilaterally or channeled through the institutions of the liberal order, rather than to the more abstract question about the nature of liberal hegemony or liberal empire. The main target is the dissonance between the actions of the United States—ignoring the struggles of decolonialization, engaging in military interventions, backing up authoritarian regimes, aggressive free-market capitalism, and allowing states with enough power to ignore rules when it suits them—and its claim that the order it is leading represents benevolence and moral superiority.117 From this, it has been a small step for skeptics to state that the liberal international order has only been

 Barma et al. (2013), 58.  Luce (2018), 9. 114  Acharya (2018), 50–51; Staniland (2018); Stubbs (2018), 138–139. 115  Acharya (2018), 51–52; Parmar (2018), 159; Staniland (2018). 116  Laclau and Mouffe (2001), xv. 117  Acharya (2018), 52–53; Alcaro (2018b), 6–7; Staniland (2018); Stokes (2018), 133. 112 113



“a thin veneer for American power,” and moreover, that it is this “truth” that the rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration have laid bare.118 The Trump administration’s attitude toward the liberal international order has been complex and ambiguous. The most interesting turn in this regard was the speech held by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the German Marshall Fund in late 2018, in which he rejected the old order and declared the creation of a new liberal international order through US leadership. The first part of the speech reflected the understanding the representatives of the administration have sounded often, that values and ideals, such as human rights and freedom, are “Western” and thus not universal. The following section of the speech put forward the administration’s claim that the institutions of the old liberal international order have corroded and failed.119 One gets the impression that the administration is not dispensing with the ideal of overwhelming US military and economic power combined with ascendancy in certain international institutions, in one word, hegemony. On the other hand, the administration seems very keen to change the way the United States exercises its power. If “multilateralism has been a key signaling mechanism for the United States since 1945,” as Lake states, it is not so anymore. Resorting to more unilateral decisions and actions, together with the reassertion of the primacy of US national interests and sovereignty, can effectively undermine the procedural legitimacy of US hegemony, if the global community judges that the hegemon no longer submits itself to open and accessible decision-making and exercises strategic restraint. This raises the question of whether the international community is still willing to give its consent to US hegemony or a “new” US-led liberal international order, especially if we consider the myth about the scope and acceptance of the old order. Parmar, for example, suggests that there is very little wholehearted acceptance of an order which was “conceived and developed as a system of the West and the rest,” and has become a tool to preserve the power of the Western core, and more precisely, the power of the transatlantic elites. He supports this proposition by quoting Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, who called for “Euro-Atlanticism,” meaning cooperation “to prevent post-West world order.”120

 Jervis et al. (2018), xi.  Pompeo (2018). 120  Parmar (2018), 157, 172. For more on EU reactions to US foreign policies, see Chap. 4. 118 119



President Trump and his administration have repeatedly talked about saving and preserving the “West,”121 but it is unclear whether the European audience still chooses to grant the United States the legitimacy to speak in the name of the West. There are already signs that Western European countries are unwilling to subordinate to US leadership.122 It is highly likely that any cracks in the transatlantic alliance and suggestions of a world order no longer dominated by the West are warmly welcomed in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In his address at the 2017 Munich Security Conference, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov took an aim at “the so-called ‘liberal world order,’” stating that it was “conceived primarily as an instrument for ensuring the growth of an elite club of countries and its domination over everyone else.” Essentially, Lavrov was putting forth the same claim as Parmar. Instead, he called for “a democratic and fair world order, a post-West world order, if you will.”123 Also, Russian foreign policy analysts seem to be animated with the idea that “the 500-year-long dominance of the West” is coming to an end, and we are entering a post-­ Western world. Much sounding like HST proponents, they posit that along with the downfall of Western power follows the downfall of the Western world order, the whole system of rules and norms.124 Russia seems determined to seize this moment of crisis, to return as a great power into a multipolar world, and influence the formation of a new order, in which all universal isms are left behind.125 This is the rhetoric, masking the possibility that rather than dispensing with universalism altogether, Russia might covet to replace one, “Western,” universalism with another, Russian, universalism. Russia is unlikely to wield enough power by itself to rewrite the order, but there has been a long-standing effort to rally the “non-Western” world to join Russia in challenging and resisting the liberal international order and US hegemony.126 There appears to be a hesitation that Russia cannot go it alone. It needs a country or countries like China. Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), argues that “unlike the divided and politically polarized Western societies,” China and Russia, with populations that are “politically  See for example Pence (2019); Pompeo (2018); Trump (2017).  Consider, for example, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 123  Lavrov (2017). 124  Karaganov and Suslov (2018). For more on proposed Russian alternatives to the present liberal international order, see Chap. 11. 125  Karaganov and Suslov (2018). 126  Wright (2017), 49. 121 122



consolidated and united,” are uniquely capable of crafting a new, multipolar world order.127 However, China has remained more of a question mark. Arguably, there is an ongoing redistribution of global power and economically, at least, the outcome is likely to turn out in China’s favor. China is not content with the United States dictating the rules and wielding disproportionate power within the institutions of the current order. Neither is China content with many of the “universal norms” underlying the order. It guards jealously the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and rejects liberal democracy.128 But none of this automatically means that the Chinese are poised to tear down the liberal international order if they get a chance. The popular belief is that China is not like Putin’s Russia—striving to do away with some of the basic principles of the current order with its definition of national sovereignty that applies only to the strongest of world’s nations.129 On the contrary, China appears to tread carefully, avoiding conflicts that might trigger a collective reaction from the United States and its allies, serious enough to harm its interests.130 In China, the speculation around the increasing Chinese power and its impact on the liberal international order has prompted a number of international relations scholars to contribute opinion-editorials to the tabloid Global Times. Yuanzhe Ren, for example, argues that China’s rise is “part of a bigger trend of the rise of Asia, shifting the world’s economic and geopolitical centers of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic world to Asia— which presages the end of the West’s five centuries of global dominance.” The future international order, Ren underlines, will not be “based on US leadership or Western values.” In other words, the United States is in relative decline, both regarding its power and international legitimacy, and China is ready to fill the vacuum. However, Ren assures that the Chinese are intent to only reform the system, not overturn it.131 China has economically bound itself to the liberal international order. Accordingly, the Chinese government White Papers state that China especially supports and is committed to the multilateral trading system and global economic governance. China is also willing to provide public goods and leadership  Ivanov (2018).  Allison (2017), 147; Breslin and Menegazzi (2017), 71–72; Cumings (2002), 166; Peterson (2018), 33, 35; Stokes (2018), 148. 129  Wright (2017), 43–45. 130  Breslin and Menegazzi (2017), 71; Wright (2017), 76. 131  Ren (2018). 127 128



in the battle against climate change.132 However, the Chinese emphasize that they are not engaged in wholesale propagation of a “Chinese model” or “Beijing Consensus” to contend with liberal internationalism. Ying Fu, chair of the foreign affairs committee of China’s National People’s Congress, wrote in 2016 Financial Times op-ed, that the Chinese “are dissatisfied and ready to criticise. Yet we are not ready to propose a new design.” Nevertheless, Fu implied that China might be forced to do so, since the “western-centred world order dominated by the US” is failing to adjust to rising powers.133 If China would come up with a coherent alternative model for international order, it would either need to elicit enough consent, or China would have to gain such preponderance over other states that it could coerce the order. But it seems doubtful that the Chinese are rejecting the liberal international order in its entirety, only the West as its ordering principle and some of its claims to universal values and norms. Consider, for example, Xinbo Wu’s assertion that China will not “establish a new hegemonic order,” for the Chinese vision for order is characterized by freedom, openness, partnership, and greater inclusion of “political, economic and cultural diversity” than in the current order “dominated by Western values and culture.”134 From this, it is difficult to discern how such a vision would translate into an international order, but the rhetoric of openness and freedom points rather toward the resilience of certain principles than drastic change. Both within and outside “the West,” much of the contestation seems to revolve around the notion of the West as a bestower of hegemonic ideas in the liberal order, and less around the notion of “liberal”— although the liberal in its varying meanings does get its share, too.

The Metamorphoses of Liberal Hegemony and Crisis of Liberal Empire The liberal international order remains in place, still largely untouched. But the perception of change is in the air. Relative global power positions are shifting, the international community is showing signs of  China and the World Trade Organization (2018); China’s Peaceful Development (2011). 133  Fu (2016). For more on proposed Chinese alternatives to the Western order, see Chap. 12. 134  Wu (2018). 132



discontentment with the order, and as Kagan asserts, the garden is decreasingly taken care of. If we contemplate change from the view of Hegemonic Stability Theory, decline in US global preponderance is causally linked to the collapse of the US-led order, and hence a change in the US hegemonic position constitutes a crisis. However, hegemony is a many-sided and complex abstraction that escapes easy empirical verification and exact readings. If applied alone, hegemonic stability theories direct your gaze to only one facet of hegemony and they condition your conclusions. Thus, to tease out the complexity of hegemony in relation to the liberal international order, we have complemented HST with Gramscian ideas of cultural hegemony and hegemonic ideas. Conjoining the two theories not only helps us to consider both the material and ideational/cultural aspects of hegemony, but also assists us in addressing the core question: how the theories of hegemony cope with systemic change? While HST accommodates the idea that an order may withstand small changes over time, it is premised on drastic, conflictual changes—hegemonic wars. Yet, we argue that in the longer-term perspective, the era of liberal empire has lasted for over two centuries, and during that period, not only has the leading hegemon of that order changed, but also the understanding of its core organizing principles. This implies the resilience of Western cultural and ideational hegemony, embedded in the liberal order, through periods of transformation in material power positions and some redefinitions and adaptations of the norms and practices of the order. In this regard, the liberal order appears resilient and capable of shouldering change. The choice of words reveals the theoretical and ideational perspective from which the current order is viewed. A US-led liberal order betrays the US hegemony within the order; the Western liberal order betrays Western cultural hegemony; and plain liberal international order suggests that the order is based on impartial and universal principles. In all these three formulations, the order has been contested and resisted throughout the past centuries and today the contestations are rather growing louder than subsiding. We may discern contestation of the multilateralism and liberal institutionalism of the order, of the existence of universal ideals and values, of the legitimacy of US hegemony, and contestations of Western cultural hegemony. Three major powers of the world, China, Russia, and the United States, in particular, appear to welcome a post-Western world in which the particularity of the West is affirmed and universalism rejected. However, it should be noted that contestation in itself does not trigger a



crisis. On the contrary, from Gramscian view, contestation or counter-­ hegemony is an inevitable consequence of hegemony, and from a systemic point of view, contestation is necessary for the maintenance of the system. Moreover, it is downright impossible to recognize which—if any—of these challenges pose a serious threat to the order and US/Western hegemony. Any answer to this would necessarily be uncertain and vague, and thus would merely add up to the narratives of crisis. The perspective of cultural hegemony lays visible the paradox in the liberal international order: the cosmopolitan emphasis of norms and rules— the liberal peace—continues to be attached to the idea of liberal as a particularistic heritage of Western civilization and to the need to create dichotomies between “us” and “them”. The very essence of being “Western” appears to entail the claim that the West is superior in comparison to the non-West. The West self-declares itself as a natural hegemon of world order, not just the hegemon of a liberal order, for this logic precedes liberal internationalism. The hegemonic power of the West has been based on the (coercive) ability to maintain global power hierarchies and reproducing them in new forms. Accordingly, the older legacy of Western superiority and its responsibility to modernize or civilize the rest of the world was carried over to the US-led post-Second World War liberal order, even though it contradicts the core normative values of liberal internationalism. This paradox is an obvious source of criticism and contestation, but interestingly, this contestation has largely taken place within the international system. Some principles and norms of liberal internationalism appear resilient despite ongoing contestation. Many members of the international community would probably not publicly balk at human rights, for example, even though they might criticize the failings in executing and promoting those rights. Quite the contrary, this criticism may have as its objective to show that it is not only the Western nations that share ownership over these principles, and that it is the lodestar of the West, the United States, that has failed in upholding them. For instance, at the 2018 United Nations General Assembly, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales criticized that “the United States could not care less about human rights or justice,” and admonished the government for promoting torture.135 The crucial idea here is consensual legitimacy, for on the one hand, the resilience of human rights rhetoric could signal that some aspects of Western cultural hegemony still retain legitimacy. On the other, it could signal  The Latest: Congo to boycott UN meetings about the country (2018).




that some principles are no longer perceived as flowing from Western hegemony, but instead, they have become self-evident and taken for granted. But there is also a third alternative: that despite appearances, the principle of universal human rights is increasingly not considered as legitimate nor is it taken for granted. The EU has noted with mounting concern the “aggressive attempts to undermine the universality of human rights,” and some are already referring to a “post-human rights world.” In this situation, the international community could be holding on to the “current human rights law, in the absence of any genuine alternatives.”136 The legitimacy of the principles and norms of the liberal international order are currently—perhaps most poignantly—contested inside the West. According to Beate Jahn, liberalism initially created a clear distinction between the domestic and international political spheres. The “dark side” of policies was reserved for the outside (non-liberal) international sphere, and that sphere was then expected to contribute to the wealth and peace inside the (liberal) domestic sphere. However, Jahn claims that the later application and spread of liberal principles (promise for global peace) also into the international sphere has broken down the barriers and weakened liberalism in the domestic sphere.137 If liberal principles lose legitimacy within the West, this would effectively also undermine Western cultural hegemony when it comes to these principles. This question of persuading consent and legitimacy for cultural hegemony would haunt also any other alternatives to the liberal international order that might emerge. Changing understandings of what constitutes a legitimate order and legitimate hegemony is a pathway to changes in the world order at large, but it is far from clear if such a radical change in these understandings has taken place. Even if a counter-hegemonic alternative ordering principle—entirely different from liberal internationalism, institutionalism, and peace—would now be declared, it would still have a long way to go until gaining consent and legitimacy from the international community. Western liberal order has shown adaptiveness, but this time it is unclear if there is willingness to respond to contestation and, as a response, to metamorphose. To counter the main criticisms, Western nations and elites would need to consider doing away with the incessant Western claim to ownership over, and primacy within, the order. They would need to consider whether it is possible to separate the liberal empire from the ordering  Foulkes (2016); Human Rights at UNGA! (2018).  Jahn (2018), 58–60.

136 137



principles of liberal peace, liberal institutionalism, and liberal internationalism. Would the West sacrifice the liberal empire or be prepared for a metamorphosed liberal order that would be truly universal? Then again, would discarding the empire be enough to save the liberal principles and the order built on them? In other words, do we in the end come down to that liberal empire and liberal ordering principles may be distinguished in theory, but not in practice? In HST, liberal hegemony and liberal ordering principles cannot be disentangled. The order rests on US dominance and leadership. According to these theories, if the United States desires to lead a liberal order, it needs to act as a beneficent hegemony, and persuade legitimacy and consent through liberal principles. Take away any of these pieces of the puzzle, and the picture will never be complete. Similar inseparability of material, ideational, and institutional aspects of hegemonic order as is presented in HST is implied in Cox’s Gramscian reading, since according to Cox, world hegemony is expressed through universal norms and the institutions and mechanisms upholding those norms. Cox’s understanding of world hegemony is also state-centric, in that he presents the material supremacy, coercive ability, and balance of power as factors adding up to the hegemony of first Britain and then the United States.138 Ultimately, however, his interpretation supersedes the level of states and his emphasis on the global civil society and universal ordering principles points toward the possibility of continuance of ideational hegemony as long as those principles are not seriously challenged by the international community.139 Accordingly, general acceptance of liberal peace, for example, as a global ordering principle supports and perpetuates the post-Cold War Western liberal empire. What is noteworthy, however, is that this particular principle was embraced as late as in the 1990s. This hints at the possibility that liberal peace as an ordering principle might transform in the future, considering that it already is a transmutation from earlier ordering principles and ideals for global peace.  Cox (1993), 60–62.  In Cox’s formulation, the years 1875–1945 were a nonhegemonic period (as well as the period following the late 1960s and early 1970s). Again, such categorizations come down to choosing ones perspective and measurements for hegemony. One could also claim that although especially the years preceding the two world wars witnessed serious contestation of organizing principles, and even though the processes of changing the hegemon and reformulating the organizing principles were underway, the cultural hegemony of the West did not entirely cave in. 138 139



When it comes to reacting to change in the world order, it all comes down to choosing your perspective. We essentially argue for theoretical flexibility. Even if one would start with the (HST) question of the United States losing global hegemony and its consequences for the liberal international order, the next question would need to be: would the loss of US hegemony necessarily signal the loss of larger, and more invisible, Western cultural and ideational hegemony? Turning our focus to the legitimacy and consent of ideational hegemony, we argue that the hegemony of the West is not only embedded in the material hegemonic power of any single state, but above all in the acceptance of Western organizing and ordering principles for mitigating inter- and intrastate violence as legitimate. And this brings us to the question of contestation of ordering principles, the conundrum of disentangling the ordering principles from Western hegemony, and the possibility of resilience and adaptation. We are prone to agree with Chantal Mouffe that in a dynamic and necessarily conflictual world, we need some ordering principles and practices to constrain conflicts and prevent them from escalating into violence.140 In this sense, the jungle (disorder, or “anarchy”) at the gates of the garden of order is indeed something that needs to be worried about and warded off. However, without serious and broadly accepted alternatives, options for order appear relatively narrow. Either the liberal order needs to weather the current crisis-talk and maintain its legitimacy as it is—as a liberal empire; or it needs to adapt and transform, even if this metamorphosis would mean that the garden would end up being less “Western.”

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Crises of the West: Liberal Identities and Ontological (In)Security Marko Lehti and Henna-Riikka Pennanen

It can hardly have escaped notice: the liberal international order has plunged into crisis. Recent scholarly literature appears to be built upon the presupposition that crisis or decline of the liberal international order is a fact that can be empirically verified.1 Indeed, the initial reaction in the past few years has been to take the idea of a crisis for granted, to maybe list some indicators of crisis, but then concentrate more on the implications of this supposed crisis for the world, and especially, for the West—the main protagonist of the order. We take an alternative position, and claim that there is no straightforward, causal relationship between the perceptions of crisis and an actual decline of Westernled liberal order, or of the West as its imagined owner. Rather, the relationship is complex, vague, tacit, and contingent—and it cannot be conclusively verified.  Thus, we have seen meticulous reports, such as RAND Corporation study, measuring certain input and output indicators to determine the “health of the liberal international order.” See Mazarr et al. (2017). 1

M. Lehti (*) Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), Tampere University, Tampere, Finland e-mail: [email protected] H.-R. Pennanen Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




Our aim in this chapter is to scrutinize the logic of this relationship, but we refrain from trying to verify the existence or non-existence of crisis of the West. Instead, we treat crisis as a narrative. By analyzing popular texts and speech of mainly scholars, but also some politicians and political commentators, we will identify current crisis narratives that revolve around the notions of liberal, international order, and the West. We approach crisis-­ talk as an expression of narrative power to contest, confirm, or constitute anew existing liberal identities. We argue that this crisis-talk is largely embedded in the question of securing symbolic agency, the role of a global leader, in an era that is seen to be characterized by the rise of non-Western actors and Western self-doubt regarding the liberal order. We will take a closer look at three current crises narratives of the West: the liberal (internationalist), conservative (/libertarian), and right-wing populist. These categories are distinct, but they have porous boundaries, especially because of the multiple meanings of “liberal.” Consequently, it is sometimes challenging to make a distinction between the liberal and conservative crisis narratives, for instance, as both in their own terms aim to defend liberal values and norms, but their understandings of liberal do not necessarily coincide. We will put the three categories into the context of the long genealogy of triumphalist and declinist narratives of the West. Our objective is to bring closer together the prevailing IR understanding of the West as a political and security community and a global actor with the understandings of the West as a marker of civilization, social imaginary, and identity—thus continuing the work begun in studies such as Conceptualizing the West in International Relations and The Struggle for the West.2 In this chapter, we explore the questions: What constitutes “crisis” in the current crisis-talk? And how “crisis” constitutes the (liberal) West? As we progress, also one additional question invites itself: why much of the discourse regarding the mechanisms of coping with the problems that plague the practices, institutions, and regulations of the liberal international order is entwined with the narrative of an existential crisis of the West, as this approach seemingly rules out the more pragmatic approaches to revising the practices, regulations, and institutions of the order.

Past Crisis Narratives There are many variations of the narrative of Western modernity, some of them locating the “essence” of the West in the legacy of the Enlightenment, and some of them emphasizing industrialization, capitalism, or colonial2

 See Browning and Lehti (2009) and O’Hagan (2002).



ism instead. What unites these narratives, according to Jan Ifversen, is that they all portray the West as breaking free from pre-modernity and as inherently “dynamic, expansive and changing.”3 Edward Luce writes that a belief in progress is the “closest thing the modern West has to a religion.”4 The belief in eternal progress and a universally applicable Western-led pathway to modernity has been the mainstay of Western modernity, and conversely, a synonym for the global superiority of the West over the rest. Yet, a belief that the West is in decline and under a threat has been a dogma held with equal fervor. From the late nineteenth century, prophets have been prognosing that the last days of the modern West are at hand.5 Since the West was imagined as a distinct entity and community, it has remained restless: forever depicted as transcending, pre-eminent, and driving forward, or alternatively as decaying, dying, or collapsing. Often these sentiments have held fast at the same time, and the crisis narratives have gone hand in hand with the triumphalist vision of the West as the endpoint of history. This contradicting duality between triumphalist and declinist tendencies is one of the few core characteristics  of the narratives of the West during the past century and half. And, always, somehow the idea of the West has persisted; the West has survived the crisis only to face another crisis around the corner. In the late nineteenth century, the crisis narrative enveloped around the European and US ideas of a “yellow peril”—coming commercial, industrial, and perhaps military contest between the thrifty, energetic “yellow races” and luxurious, lethargic “white races.”6 Over a century later, rising Asia has again been depicted as a fundamental threat for the global economic hegemony of the modern West. Many authors, especially in Europe, have understood a shift from Euro-Atlantic to Asia as inevitable, and characterized the West as a land of falling sun with its aging population and declining capacity for innovativeness.7 Such narratives portray a combination of external and internal threats to the West. The rising rest might deliver the finishing blow, but it is the internal stagnation and moral decay  Ifversen (2008), 239–240.  Luce (2018), 4. 5  Bonnett (2004), 6. See also Heller (2006). 6  See for example Lafcadio Hearn (1896). “China and the Western World.” The Atlantic Monthly 77(462). 7  See for example Cohen-Tanugi (2008); Delpech (2007). 3 4



that has first mortally injured the modern West. For those who contest the dogma of Western modernity, it has often been liberalism—the main manifestation of Western modernity—that has been imagined as the source of the moral decay and weakness of the West. However, it should be remembered that liberalism itself is also a contingent idea, and over time, the concept has come to connote different things for different people.8 Oswald Spengler’s (1880–1936) conception of the Occident as a great, yet spiritually and materially declining civilization, is a classical narrative of the inevitable loss of Western global superiority due to internal stagnation and decay.9 It is also one of most familiar expressions of Western hesitance toward modernity and liberalism. Spengler—like many other prominent German intellectuals—“denounced liberalism as a foreign philosophy and the very antithesis of German culture.” And indeed, Spengler reserved for Germany the role of a future leader of civilization, after the demise of the Anglo-Saxon liberal Occident.10 Already in the late nineteenth century, liberalism came to be seen as a mainly Anglo-American phenomena, associated with the claims to superiority of Western civilization, but also with “Anglo-Saxon” or “white” race. During and after the First World War, Germany (and France) were depicted as illiberal within the Englishspeaking world, and vice versa, the Germans denounced liberalism as an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, liberalism being “Germany’s archenemy.”11 The second half of the twentieth century was consumed by the Cold War, and the West was predominantly associated with the transatlantic alliance. From a global perspective, the Cold War era was, as Patrick Thaddeus Jackson suggests, the real “clash of civilizations” between the “East” and “the West.”12 It was a clash between the leading ideologies of these civilizations, Communism and Liberalism, taking place well before the publication of Samuel Huntington’s famed thesis depicting a handful of major civilizations competing for territory and power.13 However, at the same time, in the United States, alarm over totalitarianism prompted a shift in

 See Rosenblatt (2018).  Spengler (1927). 10  Rosenblatt (2018), 258. 11  Rosenblatt (2018), 253–258. 12  Jackson (2017), 93. 13  Huntington (1993), 25–26, 29. 8 9



what was understood as liberalism. From an earlier emphasis on duties and patriotism, liberals began to underline individual rights and interests.14 Although the perceived enemy was external, another threat, namely that of disunity, emanated from inside of the West. Already in the mid-­ 1960s Henry Kissinger warned that it was imperative that the two key parts of the transatlantic West—Western Europe and the United States— stick together to confront the external enemy.15 After the Cold War, Kissinger’s concern materialized in the crisis narratives emerging during the Second Iraq War, and depicting the core of the West, the transatlantic alliance, as dissolving. Robert Kagan declared that Europe and the United States had distanced from each other, and now represented two entirely different universes of values—Venus and Mars. In particular, the proposition of a transatlantic rift was debated between US neoconservatives and European liberal-leftist academics. Europeans tended to agree on the notion of a divided West, while they also reminded that Europe was the true cradle of Western civilization.16 A prime example of a crisis narrative antagonizing liberalism as an existential threat for the West came from the Cold War era declinist narrator James Burnham, self-described as “a romantic conservative pessimist” and anti-communist,17 who declared in his book Suicide of the West (1964) that “liberalism is the ideology of western suicide.” Burnham argued that secular liberalism generated an overarching and widespread feeling of guilt toward “wretchedness and oppression,” which translated into an obligation to do something for others. He associated this liberal guilt with universalism, relativism, materialism, and self-criticism, which then turned into self-hatred, social and spiritual restlessness, and an endless desire for reform. All this together made the West weak and vulnerable. The West, Burnham claimed, was “a beleaguered civilization” to which liberalism was an ill-suited ideology. What the West needed instead was the “pre-­ liberal conviction that Western civilization, thus Western man, is both different from and superior in quality to other civilizations and noncivilizations.”18

 Rosenblatt (2018), 268–272.  Kissinger (1965). 16  Ikenberry (2008), 1–3; Kagan (2004); Lehti (2010). 17  Koch and Smith (2006), 8. 18  Burnham (1964), 24-6, 185, 188–203, 288. 14 15



Thus, there are certain recurring images and arguments in most, if not all, narratives of Western crisis propagated from the nineteenth century onwards: either the omnipresent superiority of the West is threatened by outside forces or the authority of the West is threatened by internal forces of moral decay, loss of self-confidence, and loss of authenticity. Liberalism is alternately held to be the root cause of the fancied superiority of the West and alternately its downfall. Curiously, one thing that distinguishes present-day narratives of the West from previous incarnations, is that the proponents of Western triumphalism—eminently visible just over a decade ago—now appear to be few and far between. Today the crisis narratives are espoused by scholars and commentators from all the main theoretical approaches to international relations,19 as well as from all sides of the political spectrum.

The West as a Civilization The West is a constructed and contingent concept. It is highly contextual and dynamic, with multiple voices engaged in its construction as well as in its contestations. It is inherently pliable, and thus during its history, it has come to embrace a wide variety of meanings and connotations.20 However, the concept is not infinitely malleable, as the availability of accepted meanings that one can invoke is necessarily limited. Thus, the different and even contradicting representations of the West tend to draw from a common set of discursive and cultural resources to support their claims. This makes the West essentially a narrative concept, meaning that it exists and assumes a form and character when it is invoked in stories about the world. Such narratives are historically selective. They seek to create and emphasize continuity over dissonance by mapping out the West’s spatial borders and by assigning varied functions and roles to the West. The West is therefore profoundly grounded in grand narratives of history that are depicted by those acting and thinking in the name of the West. 19  See for example Ferguson et al. (2017); Ikenberry, G. John. 2018. “The End of Liberal International Order?” International Affairs 94 (1): 7–23; Jahn (2018); Kagan, Robert. 2018. The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; Mearsheimer, John. 2018. The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities. New Haven: Yale University Press; Parmar (2018); Walt, Stephen. 2017. “How Not to Fix the Liberal World Order.” Foreign Policy, March 6. how-not-to-fix-the-liberal-world-order/. 20  Herborth and Hellmann (2017), 1, 5; O’Hagan (2002), 8–9, 16.



One of the most persisting of the grand narratives has been the civilizational narrative, in which the West is invoked as a marker of “civilization.” The world history has been habitually treated as a history of civilization—either in singular or plural. The credits for popularizing the meta-historical idea of civilization perhaps go to Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee (1889–1975).21 Decades later, in 1990s, for Samuel Huntington, civilizations—identified with culture and religion—were a driving force of global history. A focal point of this theory was to replace Cold War bipolarity with a more profound source of global conflicts and tensions, civilizations, which escape all efforts to be permanently solved or obliterated.22 Such views have gained their share of acclaim, but also obvious criticism. In scholarly debate, the idea of civilizations as bounded, coherent, consensual, and fixed entities has been rejected, and instead, it has been argued that, like nations, civilizations are contested and are in a constant state of flux. According to Martin Hall and Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, “civilizations are better understood as ongoing processes, and in particular, as ongoing processes through which boundaries are continually produced and reproduced.”23 Peter Katzenstein breaks away from meta-­ historical usages of civilization as an agent of history by describing civilizations as essentially multiple and multilayered.24 The roots of civilizational thinking go back to the Enlightenment era, when both French and British thinkers and writers gradually endorsed the new noun, civilisation, formed by adding the suffix “-ation” to the verb civiliser.25 The late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a period of European expansion, colonialism, and of arising European bourgeois, searching for a global role for their nations and for themselves. In this context, civilizational thinking developed in parallel with the idea of nationhood, and civilization became the universal framework within which European national identities could nestle. This framework had two co-­ existing and seemingly contradictory renditions: civilization as singular and civilizations as plural. Civilization in singular was understood as a progressive evolution toward increasing sophistication and growing political and social complexity. Civilization was an irresistible and undeviating 21  See for example Spengler (1927); Toynbee, Arnold. 1963 (1934). A Study of History. Vol. I.: Introduction: The Geneses of Civilizations, part one. London: Oxford University Press. 22  Huntington (1996). 23  Hall and Jackson (2007), 6–8. 24  Katzenstein (2008). 25  Bowden (2009), 7–8; Lepenies (2008), 215–216; Pennanen (2015), 54–58.



process, but it was also envisioned as the predestined endpoint of history. Thus, it was an ontological concept, giving a destination and rationale for global history. Furthermore, it effectively made the West the sole owner of global history; a superior agent with the power to bestow others the one and only model of civilization.26 The narrative of multiple civilizations allowed the Europeans to draw boundaries between themselves—as representatives of Western civilization, which embodied modern individuality and progress—and other communities—which were  characterized by primordial stagnation and collective obedience. Then again, the narrative of a uniform process of civilization allowed the distinction between the representatives of this civilization in singular, and others whom were designated as semi-civilized, barbarians, and savages. The boundary drawn between the civilized and barbarians was institutionalized during the nineteenth century through the so-called “family of nations.” In theory, this European international society was open to all members who fulfilled the membership requirements, that is, who had adopted the elusive “standard of civilization” and acquired the identity of a member. In practice, however, for much of the nineteenth century, only the “Western powers” were considered as civilized enough to be included in the family of nations.27 In recent years, civilizational narratives have re-entered the discussion on international order and relations, or perhaps they never left. Civilizational thinking—particularly the idea of civilization in singular— has constituted the core principle, and the organizing and legitimizing practice, of global governance since the nineteenth century. The classical “standard of civilization” and the more recent notion of “liberal peace” are both firmly grounded in civilizational thinking. These ideas are premised on a belief in the universal applicability of “Western values” and “Western civilization” as well as the universality of Western path to modernity. Furthermore, both of them entail clear global hierarchies, built on basis of culture (and race). In these hierarchies, the “non-western” is presented as uncivilized, backward, and undeveloped, while the West is fashioned as a model, global leader, and protagonists of Civilization.28 Once a 26  Goody (2010); Ifversen (2008), 239; Mazlish (2001), 293–300; Pennanen (2015), 67–68. 27  Gong (1984), vii, 14–22; Hurrell (2007), 40–41; Pennanen (2015), 103; Suzuki (2009), 5, 27. 28  See for example Bessis (2003), 3–5.



concept akin to the standard of civilization or liberal peace is established, and once it is understood to constitute the underpinning for an order, invoking the concept serves to further reinforce the legitimacy of that order, but also implicitly the superiority of the West within it. From here, it is rather evident that there exists a connection between civilizational thinking and the idea of the post-Second World War Western- or US-led liberal international order. After Huntington’s theory, the concept of “civilization” was revived and reintroduced to vocabulary of international politics, and “civilizational identities and borders” again appeared significant for policymakers. According to Gregorio Bettiza, one example of the return has been the foreign policy discussion in the United States following the September 11 attacks, in which the Muslim world was depicted as constituting one uniform entity, much in the tradition and style of Orientalist discourses.29 For Hamid Dabashi, the return of civilizational thinking within the West is a defensive reaction, and an effort to update colonial worldview to the twenty-first century.30 Dabashi’s postcolonial  critique, however, ignores the difference between civilization in singular and plural, and in fact, it could be argued that civilization in singular never disappeared from Western narratives; it has just been expressed through other notions. Yet, since Huntington, and in particular 9/11, civilization in plural has gained popularity in a form that reflects certain elements of colonial thinking, as Dabashi suggests, but unlike the nineteenth-century British and US colonial discourse, these newer narratives distance themselves from the idea of a civilizing mission, and instead emphasize rivalry, tensions, and conflicts between civilizations. Thus, the West (or Western civilization) is depicted as an actor in international politics, an agent and endpoint of history, a protagonist of modernity, and a reference point for building a global hierarchy. But perhaps even more importantly, the West can be understood as a civilizational identity narrative.31 The West serves as a reference point for the creation and re-creation of both political and cultural identities. The West, as an identity, constitutes of essentialized images, ideals, values, traditions, institutions, ways of life, and history that are believed to be the common

 Bettiza (2015), 575–600.  Dabashi (2001), 361–368. 31  O’Hagan (2002), 6. 29 30



property of a “Western community” and “Western peoples.”32 For Christopher Coker, the West is a social imaginary through which “people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how they co-exist, how they meet their expectations and the deep normative notions and images that underline these expectations.” Social imaginaries lack “the strength of imperative” but they resonate “with an inclination, a way of thinking that people espouse.”33 Ultimately, the West is as an invented, “imagined community,” following Benedict Anderson’s conceptualization34 Being imagined, however, does not mean that the West does not have genuine meaning to people and concrete ramifications. It produces a dual sense of belonging and exclusion, and it serves as a principle for thinking and ordering the world. It is a tool for categorization, characterization, and classification.35 In essence, all civilizational narrations stand as universalizing expressions that inevitably brush off and minimize the explanatory power of other identities, such as class, gender, nationality, and culture. In Edward Said’s view, civilizational labels therefore reflect an imperial legacy by which a dominant (Western) culture has “eliminated the impurities and hybrids that make up all cultures,” including their own. Accordingly, Said has been critical of Huntington’s reification of civilizational identities, which, he argues, have failed to “address how the histories of the West and many Islamic nations are mutually imbricated.”36 In contrast, Said claims that all cultures are hybrid, mixed, impure, and interdependent by nature, something that civilizational analyses generally ignore. Nevertheless, it is specifically this image of a uniform West that the recent narratives depicting the crises of the West are revisiting and reviving—even if only to pronounce that the unity and cohesion of the West is falling apart. The West as a civilizational identity narrative provides a source of self-­ esteem for actors claiming a Western heritage. As Kathleen Margaret Heller notes, “Histories of Western civilization are often stories of ­heritage meant to evoke responses of identification or counter-identification”

32  Hansen (2017), 280; Miklóssy and Korhonen (2010): ix; Morozov (2013), 7–8; O’Hagan (2002), 2. 33  Coker (2010), 73–74. 34  O’Hagan (2002), 13; Weber (2017), 181. 35  Bonnett (2004), 6; Jouhki and Pennanen (2016), 2, 5; Herborth and Hellmann (2017), 1; Weber (2017), 181. 36  Chowdhry (2007), 110–111.



among key audiences.37 The idea of the West has (both positive and negative) emotional appeal to the extent that actors of all stripes—both insiders and outsiders—frequently invoke the West to locate themselves in the world. In many discourses of the West, especially those invoked by self-­ proclaimed “insiders,” the key audiences are often internal to the West itself, the goal being to seek recognition from the rest of the club for the claims one is making about either the nature of the West, or one’s role within the community. Thus, for insiders invoking the West can serve as a tool for legitimizing one’s political actions. But also, such invocations can be understood as enhancing the self-esteem and ontological security of nations, as they endow the national community “with higher significance by linking it to world history,” and a heritage associated with modernity, progress, and civilization. Following Christopher Browning, Pertti Joenniemi, and Brent Steele, a sense of ontological security (of a nation) is then generated through vicarious identification with the Western civilization.38 Being Western is portrayed as being about riding the wave of the future, and it is in such processes that the West gains symbolic power. Moreover, in those processes the whole imagined community of the West fortifies its ontological security. In Randall Collins’ terms, the privileged position of the West as a source of self-esteem and ontological security has historically established the West as a zone of prestige and attraction for those considered to be outside the West or on its margins.39 For example, as Zarakol argues, for countries like Russia, Japan, and Turkey, which used to be regarded as non-Western but subsequently recreated themselves as “modern states,” incorporation into (Western) international society has often been a traumatic experience as non-Western states were stigmatized as “inferior, backward, barbaric, effeminate, childish, despotic and in need of enlightenment.” Living in a “semi-civilized” country became a source of shame, while modernization and westernization became synonymous with salvation.40 Even if identification with the West provides ontological security in some contexts, there is nothing automatic in it. Furthermore, identification with the West can just as well become a source of anxiety and shame, and generate ontological insecurity, when it is coupled with, for example,  Heller (2010).  Heller (2010). See also Browning et al. (manuscript). 39  Collins (2004), 132–147. See also Browning et al. (manuscript). 40  Zarakol (2010, 10, 2011). 37 38



a perceived loss of previous primacy, agency, and acclaim, or with a feeling of guilt over what has been done in a name of the West. For Richard Lebow, self-esteem enables agency and preserves ontological security, while shame stands as its opposite.41 However, a feeling of shame and an experience of anxiety can also encourage renewal and revision, and in that way act as a prerequisite for resilient identification. Following Sara Ahmed, “By witnessing what is shameful about the past, the nation can ‘live up to’ the ideals that secure its identity or being in the present.” Thus, it is the absence of shame that is truly shameful. Shame itself becomes a positive force and a resource for revisiting self-esteem and prerequisite for a revision of identification.42 Therefore, we need to elaborate on what potentially constitutes a source of anxiety, how is shame and guilt experienced, and when these constitute a crisis.

Three Current Crisis Narratives The three decades following the end of Cold War bipolarity have already witnessed the emergence of several crisis narratives involving the West: rise of Asia, loss of global stature and hegemony, losing ownership to modernity and trust in progress, and the fear of a transatlantic divide. Simultaneously, an increasing number of people in the so-called West feel that the liberal order is incapable of addressing such fundamental questions as climate change or globalization. Quite the contrary, the order itself is perceived to produce global problems, such as inequality and poverty. In addition to the anti-globalization movement, we can detect three competing crisis narratives with different social imageries: the conservative (/libertarian), populist (right), and liberal (internationalist).43 Many of these crisis narratives draw from earlier narratives of the West as a stagnating community, declining global power and economic player, or decaying civilization that has lost its authenticity, morality, and purpose. In these narratives, the present moment is envisioned as a critical juncture in which harsh choices need to be made if the historical agency and ­self-­esteem of the West is to be revived. Previously, in the more conservative and reactionary narratives, liberal was often  Lebow (2008), 61–67.  Ahmed (2004), 109; Browning et al. (manuscript). 43  Outside the “Western sphere,” we find crisis narratives such as those cherished in Moscow and Ankara, that emphasize the ideological distance of Russia and Turkey from the “degenerate” liberal West. See for example Chap. 10. 41 42



portrayed as the root cause of weakness and decay, and now these narratives are repeated and reformulated by various populist and far-right movements and politicians. As a response, the anguished liberals have rallied to preserve the liberal norms and liberal internationalism that have prevailed since the end of the Second World War. In the most recent liberal narratives, the internal threats of retreating liberalism and growing illiberalism are portrayed as a decidedly bigger threat to the West, and more precisely, to the Western-led liberal international order, than any external threat. And here lies a marked difference between the earlier and recent narratives: perhaps for the first time in the history of Western crisis narratives, liberal observers seem to have lost their trust in the progressive ability of the liberal West to overcome its crisis and remain the global pacemaker of modernity. It is not that liberal pessimism has not been around, but that it has recently entered into scholarly and popular IR discussion with a bang. Writing in 2011, G. John Ikenberry was still optimistic. The liberal order was “alive and well,” and it had no serious competitors. It was an order capable of assimilating states with various cultural and political backgrounds, and thus, in essence, it was a universally inclusive system. The liberal order was “not really American or Western—even if, for historical reasons, it initially appeared that way;” it was something much broader.44 Now, a few years later, tones are decidedly more alarmed. Indeed, the notion that the world is living in the age of crisis is widely shared in so-­called West and politicians and scholars pinpoint various dislocating events contesting the Western superiority and its normative order. But what are these events and how they challenge the West differs among the three crisis narratives. Even more importantly, it is the segments of Europeans and Americans themselves who are calling the liberal order into question, resisting and rejecting some of its constitutive elements. Thus, the critical fault lines run within the West, not between the liberal democracies of the West and authoritarian, revisionist non-Western nations.45 In the liberal narrative, the first wavering pillar of the liberal international order is the global and local decline of representative democracy, the universal victory of which was declared just a couple decades ago.46 World Values Surveys indicate that the support for democracy among younger European and US generations is on the decrease and that the citizens of  Ikenberry (2011), 57–58, 61, 64–65, 67–68.  Leonard (2017). 46  Alcaro (2018), 7; Luce (2018), 12, 121; Peterson (2018), 35. 44 45



mature democracies are becoming “more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.”47 On the other hand, we are still living “in a democratic era with more than half of all countries qualifying as democratic,” but simultaneously, setbacks and autocratic tendencies are evident “in countries as diverse as Brazil, Burundi, Hungary, Russia, and Turkey.”48 Second pillar is the trust in economic globalization. The 2008 financial crisis and the following stagnation have cooled down the public enthusiasm for economic integration and free trade. Luce argues that the strongest glue holding a liberal democracy together is economic growth. However, trust in economic globalization has not revived hand in hand with the economy. A generation of Europeans and Americans has witnessed unemployment, sluggish or non-existent growth in their wages, and widening income inequality due to automation, delocalization, recession, increasing international competition, and domestic policies. At the same time, the globe’s richest 1 per cent—majority of them citizens of the United States—has grown richer. The middle classes of the West are then led to believe that they are the biggest losers of the global liberal economic order, while all the benefits accrue to elites, or the migrants and other “undeserving poor”.49 Low trust in the economic elite has been combined with a low trust in the political elite and political institutions. Concurrently, order has broken down in, for example, Syria and Iraq, resulting in refugee flows heading toward the European Union. The EU has proved to be institutionally ill-­ prepared to cope with the challenge, and to make matters worse, the refugee crisis has come to be fused with terrorism. If, as Beate Jahn explains, the liberal order has previously needed the external Other as an object to be modernized as well as a resource to be utilized; the refugee crisis has shown that the external, non-Western, Other is no longer perceived as a promise for progress and wealth, but as a threat.50 The resentment and misgivings about the capabilities of European political leaders to handle the situation has been channeled into nationalist-populist movements,  Foa and Mounk (2016), 6–8.  Lührmann and Lindberg (2018), 1.2. 49  Alcaro (2018), 8; Norrlof (2018), 64; Luce (2018), 12–13, 71; Stokes (2018), 145–l46; Wright (2017), x. 50  Jahn (2018), 59–60. 47 48



challenging the fundamental values and principles underpinning the order, such as free trade, tolerance, and open societies. The mainly right-wing populist movements of Europe, together with the conservative-populist movement of the United States, can be considered as a reassertion of the will of the people over the “corrupt” elites.51 Yet, such “illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism” may eventually lead to democracy being used to establish and consolidate authoritarian or semi-authoritarian rule.52 These trends materialized in two of the biggest seismic shocks of the 2016: Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. Taken all together, these developments sum up into what Mark Leonard characterizes as “the West … rejecting the order that it created.”53 Or, indeed, the West contesting its own self-esteem. Thus, in this prevailing liberal—or liberal internationalist—narrative, which has multiple authors, the crises of the liberal are mainly located in the West and they constitute much of the crisis of the international order. Rosenblatt discerns a widespread belief that liberalism is suffering from a crisis of confidence, and if only “liberals would clarify what liberalism stands for and have courage to defend their creed,” the crisis would be resolved.54 Similarly, Jeff D. Colgan and Robert O. Keohane call for people to defend the liberal international order, to “push for policies that can save the liberal order before it is too late.”55 Liberal narrators widely share an understanding that there are no preferable alternatives to current liberal internationalism. As Ikenberry, Inderjeet Parmar, and Doug Stokes write, criticism of the current order is easy, but in practice, the “menu options are thin.” According to them, if it is not the West who will carry the project forward, then perhaps no one will.56 However, it is reasonable to ask whether this is more a weighed conclusion reached through scholarly analysis or rather a cry to arms to defend the prevailing state affairs. The right-wing populist crisis narratives, emanating most prominently from politicians and political commentators, have tapped onto this liberal crisis narrative and blended it with the storyline of Western civilization 51  Alcaro (2018), 7–8; Luce (2018), 120, 138; Peterson (2018), 37; Wright (2017), 54–55. 52  Mudde (2015). 53  Leonard (2017). 54  Rosenblatt (2018), 277. 55  Colgan and Keohane (2017). 56  Ikenberry et al. (2018), 2.



being in jeopardy as well as with the Huntingtonian clash of the civilizations myth. One of the most visible expressions of the narrative was cultivated in the United States by Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign. For example, the conservative commentator Ann Coulter, at the time a vocal Trump supporter and author of books such as In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! and Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, declared dramatically in a video published by Breitbart media that “this election will determine the survival of Western civilization. And it is because of cultures, and demographics.”57 Also European right-wing populists utilize the narrative of crisis of Western civilization and often add to the mix theories like clash of civilizations and dystopias like “Eurabia.” They champion “Western and democratic values as a way of countering Islam,” and in this manner they strive “for legitimacy by inoculating [themselves] from accusations of racism and xenophobia, while pursuing [their] ultimate quest for ethnic homogeneity.”58 Inflowing migrants and refugees are presented as a source of fatal existential threat as they represent non-Western civilizations that are not—and cannot be—integrated and assimilated into a Western society. One of the most recent examples has been the insistence of Viktor Orbán, the Premier of Hungary, that Islamization is a grave threat to Europe.59 In the right-­ wing populist narrative, the inflow of Muslims and other non-Western peoples is a real and local menace, not just symbolic and global. A real war is going on and what is at stake is the survival of Western civilization. There is a significant emotional load in this narrative, a feeling that Westerners are living on edge and if they fail to stay vigilant, they will perish. Ultimately, this feeling and narrative is conducive for the adoption of violence as an acceptable form of political action, occasionally carried even to very extreme forms, as in Christchurch, New Zealand (2019), and Utøya, Norway (2011). Even though all the current crisis narratives describe the present as an extraordinary moment, in which the peoples and governments of the West need to make decisions on what kind of 57  “Coulter: Election ‘Will Determine Survival of Western Civilization.” 2016. Breitbart, October 6. See also Müller, Jan-Werner. 2017. “Donald Trump’s use of the term ‘the people’ is a warning sign.” The Guardian, January 24. https://www. 58  Zúquete (2017), 109–110, 116. 59  See for example Boffey (2018).



future they are choosing, it is the populist narratives that contain an apocalyptic moment in its barest form, which justifies the usage of extraordinary means. The right-wing populist voices are heterogeneous, varying from US media outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart to “new right” parties in Europe. Usually they are pro-democracy, but decidedly against liberal internationalism and globalization, for these are believed to form the core of the crisis. They especially clamor for immigration control, more effective enforcement of order, and weeding out crime. For now, it seems that these voices might make more noise than the numbers of anti-liberalists would suggest. However, one interesting finding is that in Europe these voices present “a radicalization of mainstream attitudes and concerns,” that is, there is a vast amount of potential voters, who are concerned about the same issues as the far-right-wing parties, but who are not voting for them, at least not yet.60 Of course, there is no knowing how far and wide these voices and the right-wing populist narrative will resonate in the future, but what is clear is that the liberals have singled them out as the main impediment for the continuation and support for liberal internationalism and comprehend them as a cause for existential “threat.” Of course, this invites a question whether the populist challenge actually constitutes a threat to the liberal international order, or is antagonizing the right-­ wing populists and singling them out as the foe of the order a strategy to preserve the stability and former glory of the order? And furthermore, if there exists an internal illiberal threat, is it resolvable or has the order lost its power to integrate and accommodate plurality and variety of visions? Like the liberal and right-wing populist narratives, also conservative (/ libertarian) ones are multiple. Some of them argue that Western economy has stagnated and that the West is irrevocably losing its superiority, some of them focus on the passing away of Western leadership in the global order, and some of them depict the decay of liberal norms as a source of crisis. Many of these crisis narratives set off from the defense of liberal norms as the essence of the West, but for them “liberal” does not ­necessarily mean the same things as for liberal internationalists. Kupchan, for example, identifies the West with liberal democracy, industrial capitalism, and secular nationalism, and thus he anchors the West firmly to the modernist tradition.61 Bruckner provides a similar definition, asserting that “hatred  Ignazi (2017), 329; Jahn (2018), 59; Mudde (2017, 613–615, 2018).  Kupchan (2012), 7.

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of the West is still hatred of human rights and democracy,” and thus he pairs the West to the norms of liberal peace.62 In contrast, for Moyo, democracy appears more as source of economic stagnation than a solution, because it sets barriers for dynamism and for the radical reforms needed to rescue the West.63 Ferguson, on the other hand, views democracy and rule of law as lying at the heart of Western (civilizational)  particularity. Yet, rather than searching for a solution to the crises of the West from democracy, Ferguson turns to the classical libertarian ideals of deconstructing state regulation and effectively rejects humanitarian liberalism.64 Selfidentifying himself as a “classical liberal,” Ferguson appears not to extend his support to the liberal international order. An invited contender at the 2017 Munk Debate on the topic: “Is this the End of the Liberal International Order,” he concluded that the liberal international order is beyond saving, and in fact, the order had hardly ever existed in the first place.65 Interestingly, though the modernist tradition usually emphasizes the universal applicability of Western norms and practices and offers the “non-­ West” the option to follow “the path to modernity,” the conservative narrators have instead adopted the multiple modernities perspective, to utilize Shmuel Eisenstadt’s term69—that is, a discovery of a world in which states pursue different paths to development. Moreover, they tend to see liberal as something exclusive to the West, as something inherited rather than as acquired. Charles Kupchan points out that “the rest” are “developing versions of modernity divergent from the West’s,” and thus the Western model is no longer the only path to modernity, prosperity, and security. In fact, the pluralistic Western system is probably not even the most efficient path to prosperity and security in the new global setting, as it appears that centralized states fare better in coping “with a fast, interdependent, and porous world.” Autocracies, such as China, have indeed succeeded in combining economic success with an illiberal political order.66 The adoption of modern technology, global economy, consumerism, or global scientific norms has not been necessarily followed by the adoption of, for example, liberal norms. As Pascal Bruckner notes, the world has modern Bruckner (2010), 37.  Moyo (2011). See also King, Stephen D. 2017. Grave New World. The End of Globalization, the Return of History. New Haven: Yale University Press. 64  Ferguson (2011); Ferguson (2014), 11, 24–25, 40, 54–62, 133–138. 65  Ferguson et al. (2017), 6–10. 66  Kupchan (2012), 89–92. 62 63



ized itself, but not Westernized.67 Similarly, Niall Ferguson infers that the world can never be fully transformed into Western, or liberal.68 Such statements appear to refute the idea of universal West and fall back on the idea of the West as particular and the sole proprietor of liberal ideals. Martin Jacques argues that “the West is no longer the exclusive home of modernity, with the rest of the world cast in a state of pre-modernity.” Jacques continues by noting that while Europe is losing faith in the modern project, at the same time a new, different form of modernity has emerged in East Asia. A new era of contested modernity is therefore inevitable69. Jacques claims that this era will be characterized by “an overarching cultural contest” in which: “the histories, cultures and values of these societies will be affirmed in a new way and can no longer be equated with backwardness or, worse still, failure. On the contrary, they will experience a new sense of legitimacy and, far from being overawed by or deferential towards the West, will enjoy a growing sense of self-confidence.”70 Such crisis narratives are further supported by global power shifts: the so-called “rise of the rest,” and rise of China in particular. These have sparked predictions of hardships for Europe, as in the debates revolving around the economic dynamic of the rising Asian powers. The prognosis is that not only is European economic power diminishing, but its innovativeness and vitality are slowly decaying.71 There is also a visible tendency to interpret the Western decline as inevitable over the longer term. This decline is perceived to go hand in hand with the decline of the liberal democratic order, de-Americanization, and emergence of a multipolar world.72 Accordingly, Kupchan has argued that, unlike in the past when the West was predominant and at “the leading edge of history,” future global order is unlikely to be dominated by any one state or civilization. Kupchan suggests that the West should give up the belief in liberal democracy as the only legitimate form of governance and give up the practice of denouncing as illegitimate those governments that divert from the Western model. The rising rest, he argues, will challenge Western superiority economically  Bruckner (2010), 36–37.  Ferguson (2011), 37–38. 69  See Multiple Modernities. 2002. Ed. S.  N. Eisenstadt. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. 70  Jacques (2009), 140–150. See also Moyo (2011), 3; Ferguson (2014), 1–2. 71  See Cohen-Tanugi (2008); Delpech (2007). 72  Cohen-Tanugi (2008). 67 68



and militarily. Moreover, the rising powers will want to set their own rules of international order.73 That countries such as China should “fail” to democratize and socialize into the Western-led liberal international order and instead turn into “revisionist powers,” has been a prospect haunting the advocates of that order.74 The West is suddenly perceived to lose its primacy, even agency. There is a painful realization that “A World Without the West”75 is possible, perhaps even probable, which has prompted calls for the West to take back control. Accordingly, in 2008 Ikenberry appealed to the United States to revive and strengthen the Western system and accommodate China into the Western order, before it is too late.76 Kagan, on the other hand, proposed that as an antidote against capitalist autocracies, the Western governments should establish “a global concert or league of democracies” to protect their interests and defend their principles.77 The discovery of multiple modernities and changing global power positions lie underneath the three types of recent crisis narratives, yet they provide only a backdrop. As we will see, in these crisis narratives, the meanings of the West are being defined and redefined, exalted and criticized. In the narratives, the present moment of crisis is alternately envisioned as a risk to liberalism, liberal international order, and the West; and alternately as a golden opportunity to revisit “liberal” or liberal international order and “Western” self-esteem. Kupchan proposes that to slow down and reverse its declining position in the world order, the West needs to capitalize on its uniqueness, recover its sense of cohesion, and reinvigorate its politics and economy. For Kupchan, Western revival is vital for the whole world, for only the West has the ability to guide and control the ongoing global transition of power and order.78 If the West fails to take a lead in anchoring the transition to a post-Western world, the threats of disorder and great power rivalries loom large. In the 1960s, Henry Kissinger argued that the West’s ability to reinforce its self-esteem was closely connected to its ability to remain “dynamic, creative and vital,” an ideal and model to be imitated—despite “all the  Kupchan (2012), 3–5, 87.  Weber (2017), 183–185. 75  Barma et al. (2007). 76  Ikenberry (2008), 23–25, 37. 77  Kagan (2008), 97. 78  Kupchan (2012), 146, 150, 183, 187–190. 73 74



wrongs it committed.”79 In contrast with this classical, modernist view, what Bruckner as well as Kupchan, Martin Jacques, Robert Koch, Chris Smith, and Ferguson effectively argue is that the West needs an attentive Western audience.80 They view the indifference and loss of self-esteem among the Western audience as the main cause of the decay of the West. They would wish to reaffirm the West’s role as a major actor in the world, an owner of both history and future. But unlike in many earlier visions, they tend to believe that the West does not need to modernize or appeal to non-Western others to legitimize its superiority. The social imagery of the world appears as civilizations in plural, in which struggle among civilizations is a state of normalcy. What all these narratives do is that they struggle over the meaning of the West and engage in a debate on what is the relationship between the West and liberal. The current sense of crisis has provided an opportunity for a variety of political actors to contest liberal ideas, norms, and order, to reinterpret them, and to present alternative visions to replace them— thereof adding up to the liberals’ perception of crisis. Next, we will turn to the question, how and why these  “crisis” narratives  constitute what is “the West.”

The Constituting Power of Crisis “Crisis is an omnipresent sign in almost all forms of narrative today,” Janet Roitman notes,81 and, indeed, this omnipresence of crisis-talk can be regarded as a feature of Western modernity.82 Already in nineteenth century but particularly since the twentieth century, the declaration that we are living in the midst of crisis has become commonplace in all walks of life. And yet, crisis-talk has not entirely lost its drama and power to signify the present as an extraordinary moment. The term may have been inflated in media usage, but when it is used by prominent politicians or academics it is still often taken seriously, especially if the notion of crisis becomes widely disseminated in the society. It is not so much a question of the authority and formal position of the speaker, but a question of how cred Kissinger (1965), 250.  See Bruckner (2010); Kupchan (2012); Jacques (2009); Koch and Smith (2006); Ferguson (2011). 81  Roitman (2011). 82  We do not claim that crisis narratives do not abound in other times and places. 79 80



ibly crisis is presented and how it resonates with wider economic, political, and societal trends. Yet, even though crisis-talk is presented as intrinsic to (Western) modernity, the concept remains undertheorized in international relations literature. In international political analysis, international crises follow each other, and there is little in-depth analysis of the significance or nature of crisis. “Crisis” is often presented as an undisputable description of a certain event or phenomenon and as a synonym to “conflict.” In recent years, “crisis” has been in prolific use among IR scholars especially in two consecutive connotations: the global financial crisis and the crisis of Western-­ led liberal order. As we have seen in this chapter, much of this discussion has concentrated on the questions whether there is a crisis, and if so, what are its causes and effects, and finally, should the crisis be resolved and how? Only few studies concentrate on the concept and idea of crisis. These include, for example, the 1970s and 1980s studies that adopted a behaviorist approach to crisis and investigated how crisis and crisis behavior could be managed.83 More profound debates about “crisis” have taken place in the fields of conceptual history and sociology. For sociologists, this question has been attached to theories about the essence of (Western) modernity. Jürgen Habermas, for example, considered crisis as a permanent feature of modernity. Following Habermas, modernity has made a distinction between morality (conscience) and politics (the state). In other words, morality has become excluded from politics, and it is crisis-talk that can once again facilitate moral claims over politics. Systemic theorists like Talcott Parsons and Niklas Luhmann, on the other hand, have concentrated on the relation of a systemic crisis and the systemic differentiation in a modern society. Parsons wrote about Western cultural malaise and how the West is, in a long-term perspective, “loosening [its] cultural and political grip over the remainder of the globe” and how “the cutting edge of modernity may have moved elsewhere.”84 In other words, sociology has grappled for a long time with the same questions as the current crisis narratives. Reinhart Koselleck, Michaela Richter, and Janet Roitman focus on crisis narratives and the usage of crisis metaphor. For them, “crisis” is primarily  a historico-political concept. During and after the French Revolution, the modern understanding of “crisis” departed from its original medieval  See Phillips and Rimkunas (1978); Brecher and Wilkefield (1982).  Holton (1987), 508, 511–517.

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religious connotation and ancient Greek medical connotation.85 The modern understanding is that crisis is a breakdown, pathology, and a dramatic deviation from social and political normalcy. It is often, though not always, experienced as something unacceptable. This unacceptability calls for a reaction and solution. Robert J. Holton explains that an immanent perspective presupposes the idea that crisis is not a permanent state and that its resolution is possible through social analysis of the causes of the crisis and the conditions for its resolution. On the other hand, a transcendental deployment of the crisis metaphor sets crisis pathologies “within a more utopian politics calling for thorough-going change in the social totality.”86 Crisis is a multilayered and ambiguous concept with narrative power to signify and judge history, and to mark the present as an exceptional moment. It has “metaphorical flexibility,” that is, it can be manipulated to create an “inherent demand for decisions and choices,” which explains why crisis has become “a central catchword (Schlagwort)” and why crisis-­ talk has become so popular.87 Koselleck and Richter explain that Not only can “crisis” be conjoined with other terms, it is easy to do so. While it can be used to clarify, all such coinages then require clarification. “Crisis” is often used interchangeably with “unrest,” “conflict,” “revolution,” and to describe vaguely disturbing moods or situations. Every one of such uses is ambivalent. Indeed, “this lack of clarity is often welcome, since it makes it possible to keep open what it may mean in the future.”88

Crisis-talk involves criticism, a “judgement of the validity of institutions and concepts themselves.” Narrative construction of “crisis” marks a “moment of truth” from which it is possible to judge “history,” and indeed, “the very etymology of the term speaks to the requirement of judgement.”89 Holton notes that the “use of crisis metaphor in social criticism” directs our attention to what is considered as normal and unproblematic, and what is then called into question. And thus, it assists us in conceptualizing “social change as a discontinuous process in both time and space.”90  See Koselleck and Richter (2006); Roitman (2011).  Holton 1987, 504. 87  Koselleck and Richter (2006), 358, 367; Roitman (2011). 88  Koselleck and Richter (2006), 399. 89  Roitman (2011). 90  Holton (1987), 505. 85 86



Above all crisis is “a non-locus from which one claims access to history and knowledge of history.” As Roitman writes “crisis is a criterion for what counts as ‘history’ and is a means of signifying change.” Therefore, it is justifiable to argue that “crisis marks history and crisis generates history.” Crisis declares a putative temporal situation, or a “unique, immanent transition phase,” that requires knowledge of both the past and the future which “is fundamentally open.” As crisis indicates and intensifies “the end of an epoch,” it is also associated with temporalization of Last Judgment and Apocalypse. This seems to be the case when “crisis-talk” includes moral judgment and is implicitly directed toward a normative basis of the prevailing socio-political system.91 Parmar notes that in the hegemonic liberal discourse “crises and challenges” tend to be “explained as resolvable within the system’s governing principles through socialization, integration and assimilation.”92 The perspective has been immanent, but in the recent narratives of crisis of the Western-led liberal order the perspective tends to shift toward crisis pathology, and they are thus related more with the earlier narrations of decaying Western civilization. What used to be two distinct and parallel narratives of the decay of the liberal West and its normative basis on the one hand, and narratives of a transatlantic rift or decreasing authority of the West within the global order on the other, seem now to be merging. All three current crisis narratives—the liberal, conservative, and (right-­ wing) populist—appear to perceive crisis in terms of the normative basis of the liberal order, the future of that order, and the future of the West as the protagonist of that order. They also involve the ideas of the West as a civilizational and identity marker. Interestingly, much of the current crisis-talk emphasizes existential threats rather than portrays the crisis as a resolvable challenge. This conclusion does not implicate that there is a crisis of the liberal West or the Western-led liberal international order. Indeed, from a narrative perspective, crisis and non-crisis are not empirically observable phenomena. Empirical observations of phenomena like alienation, loss of meaning, or downsides of globalization are not observations about the existence of a crisis; rather, it is the “crisis narrative” that produces the meaning of these observations. As Roitman notes, crisis can be comprehended as “a logical observation that generates meaning in a self-­referential  Roitman (2011).  Parmar (2018), 155.

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system, or a non-locus from which to signify contingency and paradox.”93 Applying Luhmann’s theory, Roitman describes “crisis” as “an enabling blind spot for production of knowledge” that “allows certain questions to be asked while others are foreclosed.” This enabling blind spot implies how “what was once perfectly intelligible and construed as productive is now taken to be without basis and construed as a negative value form.”94 The way in which Chiara Bottici and Benoit Challand conceptualize the Huntingtonian “clash of civilization” not as a theory but a political myth, reflects well the logic of an enabling blind spot. According to Bottici and Challand, the Huntingtonian vision should not be taken as a representation of the real world, but rather as a political myth that is empirically unverifiable. This myth constitutes a framework through which people interpret individual events and give meaning to them. Thus, the myth becomes self-realizing and it offers legitimization for counter-reaction.95 Similarly, the narratives of the crisis and decline of the liberal West are best understood as frames for making sense of global order and should be regarded as a self-constituting political myth akin to the “clash of civilizations” narrative. Crisis narratives, like any political myth, offer a cognitive scheme or prism through which individual events are interpreted, and they also offer guidelines for planning and anticipating horizons for various (political and economic) decisions. Therefore, when particular events, such as the European refugee crisis or the success of populist movements, are signified through “crisis” as a pathological breakdown of the West, the existence of “crisis” appears to be confirmed. In other words, crisis has a constituting power to coalesce various singular experiences into a political prognosis. The relevant question then is how crisis-talk wields this constitutive power and how the usage of crisis-talk constitutes (political) agency. The narrative power of crisis-talk is in its ability to become a widely spread and accepted, politically and socially constituting and enabling discourse, and a blind spot for knowledge. One can make a distinction between (a) the dissemination and attractiveness of crisis-talk, and (b) how narratives as discursive acts constitute and deconstruct agency and identities. To study the first requires empirical observation of the society in general and to study the latter, one needs to focus more on particular narratives, or clus Roitman (2011).  Roitman (2011, 2013), 39. 95  Bottici and Challand (2012), 2–4. 93 94



ters of narratives. In both respects, Habermas’ definition that “only when members of a society experience structural alterations as critical for continued existence and feel their social identity threatened can we speak of crisis,”96 assists in the development of a pragmatic research agenda. In this regard, we can start from Riccardo Alcaro’s claim that “the notion that we are experiencing a change in times whereby an old ‘order’ of the world is giving way to a new era has been gaining legitimacy in international debates among experts, policymakers and practitioners.”97 But as we have noted, in fact, these experiences are not one but many, so the next step is to find out how the experiences differ from each other. Jörg Kustermans and Erik Ringmar argue that, historically, modernist narratives of continual progress, prosperity, and peace have often had stultifying effects on the public, generating a sense of boredom and purposelessness. In some cases, the narrative of perpetual advancement and betterment can also be alienating, if it does not endow any meaning for life and agency. Thus, according to Kustermans and Ringmar, a conflict or a war may be a welcome chance for people to restore the experience of meaningful agency and a sense of being part of great historical events.98 In this respect, fantasies of decline seem to offer the required counter-image to triumphalist Western narratives of modernity by depicting a drama of struggle, conflict, and recovery to evoke strong emotions. Further, the heroic narrative of (violent) defense of a declining civilization may revive a sense of agency. This could explain why declinist narratives gained widespread popularity after the great catastrophic events of the twentieth century: the world wars, and again in the twenty-first century era of (overshooting) globalization. Considering experience of crisis as an elementary part of the crisis narrative itself, the focus is not only on personified emotional experiences, but on the question how in the crises narratives the “crisis” is experienced as a source for an existential or ontological security or insecurity, and how the narratives build or contest self-esteem, shame, identity, and agency. According to Anthony Giddens, to preserve ontological security, one requires an ongoing big narrative that incorporates a story about the self and past experiences. This narrative, then, contributes to identity-building

 Holton (1987), 506.  Alcaro (2018), 1. 98  Kustermans and Ringmar (2011), 1777, 1790–1792. 96 97



and self-esteem.99 Jennifer Mitzen, on the other hand, associates self-­ esteem and ontological security with routinized practices. Mitzen argues that a prerequisite for being an ontologically secure agent is to act through routinized practices in a stable cognitive environment. Conversely, a disruption in these routinized practices generates ontological insecurity.100 Brent Steele adds that there needs to be coherence between the identity, great narrative, and actions undertaken by the agent. If actions are not in accordance with values and principles of the agent, the result is shame, which could lead to revisions of identity.101 Thus, the traditional approaches to ontological security emphasize the necessity to maintain (strong) identity and/or routines. More recently, scholars like  Trine Flockhart, Browning, and Joenniemi102 have instead underlined the ability to cope with change and disruption as a source of ontological security. However, rather than excluding each other, these two approaches appear complementary. From the point of view of the second approach, ontological security may be thought of as an identification process that is by essence reflective and continuously seeking to maintain a sense of “self” through “being” and “doing” in a changing environment. Flockhart notes “how reflexivity towards identity within a constantly changing world requires continuous processes of identification and narrating the influence of ‘dislocating events’ that often compel agents to undertake action or to change their practice and to reflect on how events and actions impact established identification and narrative processes.”103 Flockhart thus departs from the presupposition that life is only about routinized activities; instead, what one needs is the ability to cope with inevitable change. Thus, it is the ability or inability to cope with dislocating events that constitutes the source for ontological (in)security. If we understand “crisis-talk” as a power to mark and signify a “dislocating and de-stabilizing moment of transition,” we should then ask whether a particular narrative can simultaneously imagine a pathological breakdown and a way to cope with such a fundamentally dislocating event—a source of ontological security and insecurity. Crisis, then, is not  Giddens (1991), 47. See also Flockhart (2016), 802–803.  Mitzen (2005), 2702–2785. 101  Steele (2008), 2–3, 7. 102  See Browning et al. (manuscript). 103  Flockhart (2016), 799–820. 99




a dislocating event as such, but a position or a blind spot through which particular dislocating events gain significance, are embedded into a single narrative, and which also allows one to make a judgment of an epochal change. From this perspective, the question is how particular events are embedded in “crisis” and does “crisis” eventually provide reflexivity that re-constitutes agency and self-esteem or does it instead generate inflexibility toward change and reform. Here, also the question of how an experience of shame is manifested in crisis-talk becomes essential. Shame can explain away uncertainty and replace it with performative certainty, it can provide a motivation for revision, but just as well, it can incite a furious defense of the prevailing moral standing. If we consider the West as a civilizational identification and its association with either pride or shame, we find that it has been mutable and inconsistent: at one moment it has constituted a source of pride over Western modernity, while at the next moment the pride has turned into anxiety and shame over the consequences of the Western modernity for the non-Western world. Related to this, a second distinguishable element in the recent crisis narratives is the existence or non-existence of an antagonized Other. When shame is attached to this antagonized Other, and feelings of guilt externalized, it helps to maintain the stability of one’s identity and routines. The risk is, however, that shame then becomes a source of stagnation and precludes the ability to cope with disruption and change. On the other hand, when shame is internalized, it opens up the possibility for renewal, but only when coupled with the ability to cope with dislocating events and the duality between trust in the liberal project and guilt over its shortcomings.

The Crises of Liberal The liberal West used to represent a grand narrative of global ordering that built ontological security through maintaining routinized practices and hierarchies. In a changing environment, with an increasing number of dislocating events (challenges from both within and outside), the narrative of the liberal West is seriously tested, and it is not clear how the ontological security provided by the idea of the West can be revived—or whether it even should be revived. A reference to “crisis” may signify both an ability and inability to cope with dislocating events, it may be both a source for renewal and loss of self-esteem, and both a source for recovering dignity and uncovering shame. Given the Western claims to pre-eminence



and agency of history, shame could result from a sense that the West is failing to live up to its heritage and past achievements, and then, shame could translate into ontological insecurity. There is a hint of this shame shared in all three current crisis narratives, but otherwise, the narratives have certain fundamental differences. Crisis is something experienced, perceived, and narrated rather than empirically verifiable. Therefore, rather than measuring crisis itself, we compare the three recent crisis narratives by introducing six variables: How the perception of crisis (1) generates anxiety, (2) (de)constructs self-­ esteem, (3) internalizes/externalizes feelings of shame, and (4) creates an antagonized Other. In addition, (5) how crisis is interpreted, and (6) what is the temporal positioning of an ideal world (see Table 3.1). The perception of crisis generates anxiety, a fear that something will be lost, but what precisely is in danger, varies in different crisis narratives, and thus forms our first variable. The second variable focuses on the relation between crisis and self-esteem, that is, whether crisis provides an opportunity for revisiting and strengthening self-esteem, or whether it forms a threat to it. Third and fourth variables concern the perceived source of shame and whether that shame is internalized or attributed to an antagonized Other. Table 3.1  Three crisis narratives Conservative (/Libertarian) Anxiety Self-esteem Shame Antagonized Other


Time (change)

(Right-wing) Populist

Loss of global hegemony Loss of Western culture/civilization Revisiting ontological Strengthening security ontological security Internalized shame Externalized shame (External Other: rising External Other: and challenging powers) immigrants; Internal Other: liberals Crisis as necessary for Crisis as the new revision of hegemony normalcy Revisionist: past as a model for a new revisioned world in the future

Nostalgic: past the best of possible worlds

Liberal (Internationalist) Loss of the liberal order Generating ontological insecurity Externalized shame Internal Other: illiberalism and rightwing populists Crisis as an existential threat for liberal values and order Presentism: present the best of possible worlds



The fifth variable, the question whether one understands crisis as an existential threat, constancy, or opportunity, is interrelated with the sixth: whether this vision of the end of an epoch is translated into an ability or desire to dream of an alternative. As Roitman explains, crisis-talk can produce a “hope that the world could be otherwise” and, indeed, it is a dream that is needed “if politics is the place for passage from imagination to history.”104 The crisis narratives containing a promise for an alternative order can then be distinguished by three temporalities: past, future, and the present, depending on how the alternative order is situated temporally. For liberals, the crisis concerns above all the liberal international order. This sense of crisis overshadows any opportunities to envision the liberal order anew and situate it as a new alternative in the future. Instead, liberal narratives suggest minor reforms and fixes to the current liberal international order,105 but otherwise they cherish and exalt the order that until now has continued to prevail. Especially when it comes to the internal challenges of illiberalism and populism, crisis does not appear as an epochal moment for renewal of the liberal order, but as a moment to treasure the institutions, ideals, and norms that for decades have been criticized, even by the liberals themselves. The present moment is the best of possible worlds, even if it is a world of crisis. Furthermore, the challenge of ­illiberality translates into an experience of shame, as it appears that the West is not able to stay true to its values and norms because of the emergence of an internal antagonized Other—illiberalism and right-wing populism. To add to the sense of shame, the liberal order appears to be incapable of accommodating and assimilating this internal threat. All in all, it is a narrative generating ontological insecurity. In contrast with the liberal narrative, the right-wing populist narratives declare an apocalyptic moment and offer an enabling blind spot with which to signify all particular events. Thus, these narratives also give meaning and agency through the storyline of heroic resistance against the external antagonized Other: immigrants, who threaten the Western civilization; and the internal antagonized Other: the liberals, who have betrayed the  Roitman (2011).  For example, Fareed Zakaria’s suggestion to restrict immigration (Ferguson et al. 2017, 22), Carla Norrlof’s notion that domestic policies could be updated to keep up with the economic globalization and to promote equal distribution of wealth (Norrlof 2018, 77), and Thomas Wright’s proposition that the United States should safeguard the order through “responsible competition,” that is, competing with economic rather than military weapons (Wright 2017, 188–191). 104 105



West. The moment of crisis and the struggle for the West becomes a new source of identification, and thus a source for ontological security. While the populists perceive an almost mythical alternative of pure and homogenous Western civilization existing in the past, they do not appear to hold out an alternative for the future or hope for renewal. Rather, the conflict  and crisis is continuous. Imagining a constant “crisis,” embedded with violent imagery, serves as a source of self-esteem and hence also of ontological security. Conservative (and libertarian)  narratives picture an alternative that is temporally situated in the past, in the glorious days of the superior West, but they also entertain the possibility that this alternative could be envisioned anew and projected into the future: a new (liberal) West within a non-liberal global order. While the liberal narratives tend to look back to the post-Second World War era, the conservative narratives look back to the West as a protagonist of modernity. This rhetorical move enables the conservatives to praise the relative superiority of the West, and to extend this claim also into the future. What appears as a nostalgic gaze into the past is effectively utilized for envisioning renewed Western leadership in the world of multiple modernities or of civilizations in plural. This is believed to be possible, if just the right choices are made in this extraordinary moment of crisis. As Kupchan, for example, insists, the West possesses the ability to guide and “anchor” the global transition in an orderly way toward a post-Western world order, but first, it needs to reinvigorate itself by recovering its sense of cohesion and its political and economic vitality.106 In this regard, “crisis” constitutes an authority to judge history, but it is also an enabling blind spot that is easy to replicate and disseminate, since the crisis narrative offers a meta-historical frame to explain and justify particular politico-economic demands and decisions as necessary and crucial. The vision of future primacy and unity also provides a sense of ontological security, which in the present moment of crisis is wavering. What these three crisis narratives show is that although scholars have declared the death of the West repeatedly for over a century, it seems that even at this point we are not yet invited to attend its funeral. As an idea and concept, the West still appears to be very much needed in discourses on global order, hierarchies, politics, and identity, and it may be that intense crisis-talk only makes the West more vital as a marker of identity. Such re-identification may strengthen, preserve, or contest ontological  Kupchan (2012), 146, 150, 166, 183; see also Bruckner (2010), 217–218.




security of the actors claiming to be part of the West, or outside of it. What is noteworthy is that unifying civilizational imageries and identity narratives seem almost as universal at the moment and the voices contesting the straight-jacket of civilizational uniformity appear muted. Besides having a great significance for (civilizational) identification, the crisis narratives have a bearing on the legitimacy of Western-led global order. Moreover, the multiple crisis narratives engage in political struggles over the liberal and the West and provide building blocks for self-esteem and a source of ontological security in the midst of complex global currents. Crisis-talk recovers certainties, generates antagonized dichotomies, and perhaps even confirms the imagined superiority of the West. But first and foremost, the current perceptions of crisis provide an epochal moment for the ideas of the liberal order and liberal. The crises of the liberal, declared particularly by the liberal internationalist and conservative narratives, force us to envisage the West beyond the liberal frame, but also the liberal beyond the Western frame.

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From Identification to Division: Contesting the Unity of the West from Within Johanna Vuorelma

In this chapter, two hypotheses concerning the crisis of the liberal West are put forward and developed. It is argued that while the debate over ‘two Wests’ in the early 2000s and the late 2010s share some characteristics, they diverge in terms of their main dividing lines. In the earlier one the main dividing line was drawn on geographical terms with a strong emphasis on the trans-Atlantic divide and security policies. In the more recent wave, however, the boundary is more ideological, focusing on conservative and liberal networks that transcend the geographical division. The latter debate includes a wider range of issues ranging from security to economy and the style of governing. In other words, in the early 2000s there were depictions of how Americans and Europeans are inherently different in their values and therefore cannot unite around shared norms, while the late 2010s debate is essentially about how liberals and conservatives are inherently different and cannot stand as a united West. The second hypothesis developed in the chapter focuses on the moral direction in the ‘two Wests’ debate. It is argued that in the early 2000s debate the moralising gaze was directed towards the ‘other West’, while in the late 2010s debate it has been increasingly directed towards the self— whether European or American. The chapter suggests that there has been J. Vuorelma (*) Institute for Advanced Social Research, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




an ironic turn in the ‘two Wests’ debate, which contains a self-critical approach that has two different policy implications. The first one emphasises hegemony and the second one focuses on justice. As such, it can be argued that although the debate in the late 2010s concerning the future of the liberal West in general and the ‘two Wests’ in particular shares some narrative elements with the early 2000s debate, it diverges from it to such an extent that it forms its own narrative cycle and represents a new wave in the ‘declining West’ narrative tradition. What is also distinctive about the debate on ‘two Wests’ in the Trump era is that while the formative moment is often located in the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, it can be argued that the formative moment was, in fact, the global economic crisis that erupted in 2008. As such, while the earlier ‘two Wests’ debate grew as a response to the crisis of political liberalism, the latter one has been essentially a reaction to the crisis of economic liberalism. It can be argued that the ‘two Wests’ crises resulted from ‘the two events which mark the beginning and the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century: the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the financial meltdown of 2008’.1 While the contemporary interpretations concerning the crisis of the liberal West can be seen as part of the long tradition of the ‘West in crisis’ narrative, it is important to tap into the particular features that define the latest incarnation of it. The chapter employs a paradigmatic study of narratives and seeks to find instances of three different concepts. Firstly, it focuses on three different conceptualisations of the West: (1) the ‘civilisation West’, (2) the ‘modern West’, and (3) the ‘political West’.2 Secondly, instances of the moralising impulse3 are examined in the narratives. Finally, the concept of irony is employed to tease out the specific features in the narrative battle.4 The research task is not simply to discover or describe the categories that identify particular occurrences within the data but also to note relationships among categories.5 This means that the chapter adopts a comparative approach to the ‘two Wests’ debate in the early 2000s and the late 2010s, analysing ruptures and continuities between the two debates. The ‘two Wests’ debate will be analysed as a  Žižek (2009), 1.  Browning and Lehti (2010). 3  White (1987), 14. 4  Vuorelma (2019). 5  Polkinghorne (1995), 14. 1 2



narrative battle in which different narrative traditions overlap and challenge each other. The chapter focuses on those interpretations of the West’s division that have been particular influential in the debate on ‘two Wests’. The reason for focusing on elite discussions in scholarly, journalistic, and administrative circles rather than on more grassroots debates is that the chapter analyses narratives that have most shaped the idea of ‘two Wests’.

Debating the Idea of the West There are three different narratives that can be distinguished in the debate concerning the nature of the West.6 Firstly, the West is often described as a civilisation in a historical, geographical, and cultural sense with roots dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, boundaries limiting it to particular continents, and cultural traditions deriving from the Judeo-Christian legacy.7 The idea of the West as a civilisation that dates back to ancient history has been criticised for lacking in a historical depth. It has been argued that the idea of the West is actually a recent invention that can be traced back to the late 1800s as an articulation of the modern world.8 Indeed, it is important to note that the West as a rhetorical claim was part of the European identity-making exercise in the late 1800s.9 The ‘civilisation West’ narrative is perhaps the most criticised of the three Western narratives because it arguably neglects the intertwined nature of world history and is arguably maintained to advance the hegemonic interests of the few.10 Secondly, the West is often defined as a modern entity that shares common values. Those values can be, for example, about liberty,11 reason, and prosperity,12 but also about the legacy of the Enlightenment, industrialisation, capitalism, and colonialism.13 Finally, the West is also depicted as a political community that is held together through common institutions and policy practices. The ‘political West’ narrative is a Cold War idea in that it connects the idea of the West to the key post-war institution,  Browning and Lehti (2010); see also Ifversen (2008).  See Patterson (1997). 8  See for example Bonnett (2004), 25; see also Gillespie (1999), 7. 9  GoGwilt (1995a, b). 10  See for example Wolf (1982); Davies (1996), 28–29. 11  McNeill (1997). 12  Gress (1998). 13  Browning and Lehti (2010); see also Hall (1993). 6 7



NATO, and perceives the West as an institutional entity forming around the security community. The ‘political West’ narrative is framed around peace and security, and during the Cold War it had a strong anti-­communist impulse attached to it. The debate about the relationship between Europe and the United States is an important element in the ‘political West’ narrative because the founding idea of the common institutions and practices was to find a practical alliance between them.14 After the Second World War, the United States assumed the leading role in NATO when Europe was preoccupied with post-war reconstruction efforts. This asymmetrical relationship still echoes in the idea of ‘two Wests’ as speculations are repeatedly raised as to whether Europe is finally ready to cut her dependency on the United States and choose a more independent policy line particularly in the area of security. All the three narratives can be located in the ‘two Wests’ debate, which shows that they overlap and challenge one another. The West is a floating signifier without a fixed meaning, which means that it is particularly useful in producing foreign policy imagination and providing a fertile narrative ground for debates on shared values and practices. In addition to these narrative traditions, the chapter also examines how a moralising impulse manifests itself in these debates. American historian Hayden White has argued that ‘every historical narrative has as its latent or manifest purpose the desire to moralize the events of which it treats’.15 It is argued here that the moralising impulse is clearly recognisable in the idea of ‘two Wests’. It partly connects to the third conceptual tool that is employed here, irony, which is also apparent in the more recent wave of the narrative battle. Irony here refers to a critical approach towards the self that is unable to live up to its own standards.16 There is, in other words, a contradiction between the ideal self and the actual self, which can rise ‘in an atmosphere of social breakdown or cultural demise’.17 The ironic gaze has been part of the United States’ self-image for a long time,18 which is well captured in the famous words of American political scientist Samuel Huntington in his book American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (1981): ‘Critics say that America is a lie because its reality falls  See for example Harries (1993); Kupchan (2002).  White (1987), 14, emphasis added. 16  See for example Bernstein (2016); Rorty (1989); Steele (2010); Vuorelma (2019). 17  Domanska (1998), 178. 18  See for example Bercovitch (1978); Niebuhr (1952); Pfaff (2010). 14 15



so far short of its ideals. They are wrong. America is not a lie; it is a disappointment. But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope’.19 As can been seen here, irony is not only about cynicism—there is always the potential for self-betterment but that requires, firstly, the recognition of the self’s weakness in fulfilling the ideals and, second, conscious and laborious efforts to find adequate, even radical solutions to reach a solution to the current impasse. This ‘double character’ of America’s ironic experience20 is also present in Western self-image, which is particularly evident in the ‘modern West’ narrative that represents values such as freedom and democracy alongside with values such as colonialism. As Pfaff argues, the ‘West’s history is distinguished by a creativity and dynamism that have allowed it to shape the modern world, and also by much violence and ruthless aggrandizement as well’.21 There are different types of ironic narratives that can be distinguished in debates concerning the West. Radical irony is a self-critical gaze that seeks to advance justice, while conservative irony aims to strengthen hegemony.22 They both attempt to narrow the gap between the ideal self and the actual self, but their strategies and policy implications are different. In his classic work A Rhetoric of Motives, American literary theorist Kenneth Burke argued that ‘one need not scrutinize the concept of “identification” very sharply to see, implied in it at every turn, its ironic counterpart: division’.23 Burke showed that identification and division are intertwined in such a way that they cannot be separated. As he noted, ‘put identification and division ambiguously together, so that you cannot know for certain just where one ends and the other begins’.24 The identification as being Western illustrates Burke’s notion that identification and division are tightly connected. The idea of the West relies on a shared belief that a unified West exists, but the potential for division is always present. In fact, the potential for division has for a long time provided creative energy that has kept the idea of the West in existence. As IR scholar Patrick Thaddeus Jackson has argued, the idea of the West was born in crisis through narratives of its possible decline.25 It has  Huntington (1981).  Niebuhr (1952), 11. 21  Pfaff (2010). 22  Vuorelma (2019). 23  Burke (1969), 23. 24  Burke (1969), 25. 25  Jackson (2010). 19 20



been convincingly shown how ‘the idea of the West in its fullest sense arises as the idea of the end of the West, as the retrospective recognition of a horizon that we have now transcended’.26 The dramatic rhetoric of division and demise can be seen as a strategy to advance particular policy options in political language. A crisis rhetoric can have a mobilising effect and legitimise policies that are unpopular or controversial. According to Jackson, different narratives of the West’s decline contain ‘a kind of fundamental anxiety that accompanies debate and discussions about Western action; this makes an appeal to the West’s immanent demise an attractive trope for advocate of particular policies to deploy, since the audience— raised in the same “West” tradition—is already familiar with the basic line of argument’.27 Indeed, in the ‘two Wests’ debate, the crisis discourse describes and produces not only Western disharmony but also optimistic visions for a stronger Western unity. For example, in arguing in 2003 that there is an ‘emotional estrangement’ within the West, French political scientist Dominique Moisi suggested that the alliance needs to be ‘reinvented’.28 Moisi promoted a new alliance because ‘Europe is the best protection that the United States has against its inner evils: its isolationist narcissism, its ignorance of the way others feel and think’.29 Europe, Moisi argued, is similarly dependent on the United States for military reasons. The revisionist instinct and ambitious nature of the United States can and should be reconciled with the postmodern instinct and modest nature of Europe.30 In his analysis, Moisi focused on inherent characteristics of Europe and the United States, locating the point of divergence in their inner qualities. The ‘two Wests’ were depicted as inherently different, which did not mean that they cannot form rational cooperation around shared interests. In the midst of the ‘two Wests’ debate in 2003, Princeton University’s Professor of Politics and International Affairs Andrew Moravcsik adopted a rationalist approach towards Western unity, advocating a roadmap to the troubled partnership: ‘To get things back on track, both in Iraq and elsewhere, Washington must shift course and accept multilateral conditions for intervention. The Europeans, meanwhile, must shed their resentment of  Gillespie (1999), 11.  Jackson (2010), 67. 28  Moïsi (2003), 67. 29  Moïsi (2003), 70. 30  Moïsi (2003), 73. 26 27



American power and be prepared to pick up much of the burden of conflict prevention and postconflict engagement. Complementarity, not conflict, should be the transatlantic watchword’.31 A similar conciliatory tone has been often present in the later wave of the ‘two Wests’ debate in the 2010s: ‘To effectively address these challenges (to Western democracies), the United States and Europe need to act together […] It’s an imperfect relationship but it’s the best one we’ve got.’32 In the following sections, the ideas concerning ‘two Wests’ in the early 2000s and the late 2010s will be examined more closely.

The ‘Two Wests’ Debate: A Geographical Division When American historian and foreign policy commentator Robert Kagan wrote in 2003 around the time of the Iraq War that it is ‘time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world’, he drew the diving line between a realist, Hobbesian America and an idealist, Kantian Europe. ‘Europeans have stepped out of the Hobbesian world of anarchy into the Kantian world of perpetual peace. In fact, the United States solved the Kantian paradox for the Europeans’, Kagan argued.33 The focus was strongly on security and the different approaches towards security policies in the United States and Europe. Kagan argued that there are profound differences in the nature, character, and conduct of Europeans and Americans, which made it impossible for the West to remain intact. Kagan viewed Europe as a weak and impotent power that is lacking in a realist perception of the international system and simply relying on American security guarantees. The picture painted in IR scholar Charles A. Kupchan’s narrative of the trans-Atlantic rift was different in that Kupchan represented Europe not as a weak and impotent power but as a strong and threatening force that is competitive and ambitious. Kupchan wrote at the time that ‘the rising challenger is not China or the Islamic world but the European Union, an emerging polity that is in the process of marshaling the impressive resources and historical ambitions of Europe’s separate nation-states’.34 Kupchan  Moravcsik (2003).  Smith and Rizzo (2018). 33  Kagan (2003), 3, 57. 34  Kupchan (2002). 31 32



predicted that the trans-Atlantic rivalry ‘will inevitably intensify. Centers of power by their nature compete for position, influence, and prestige’. And finally, in his dramatic prediction, the EU ‘will come to dominate the geopolitics of Eurasia, gradually replacing America as the arbiter of the globe’s strategic heartland’. Kupchan even argued that the rivalry between America and Europe can reach a point where ‘the coming clash of civilizations will be not between the West and the rest but within a West divided against itself’.35 There was a sharp geographical division drawn in the debate, depicting the divided West in terms of the trans-Atlantic rift. The question of the trans-Atlantic division largely arose as a result of the highly controversial Iraq War that was widely opposed in Europe’s public opinion. This ‘two Wests’ debate in the early 2000s largely rested on the idea that the Cold War had united America and Europe under the same battle against the perils of the common enemy, the Soviet Union. They shared the common narrative concerning the Second World War and were united behind the same threat perception, which made the alliance seem robust and natural.36 Both American and European interlocutors focused on the shared Cold War experience that was shaped by the memory of the Second World War. Kagan37 noted that ‘during the Cold War, “the West” did mean something. It was the liberal, democratic choice of a large segment of humanity, standing in opposition to the alternative choice that existed on the other side of the Berlin Wall. This powerful strategic, ideological, and psychological need to demonstrate that there was indeed a cohesive, unified West went down with the Berlin Wall and the statues of Lenin in Moscow’. In 2002, Kupchan even compared the situation to the fate of the Roman Empire that at the end of the third century split into two halves with two capitals, Rome and Constantinople. Kupchan went on to argue: ‘As Byzantium did with Rome when it separated from its former overseer, the EU is making a run at the United States. And just as the Byzantines and the Romans parted ways over values and interests, so have the Europeans and the Americans’.38 In Europe, Moisi39 similarly emphasised the legacy of the World War II: ‘Transatlantic tensions of the past—the Suez debacle, the French d ­ eparture  Kupchan (2002).  See also Chap. 5. 37  Kagan (2003), 81. 38  Kupchan (2002). 39  Moïsi (2003), 67. 35 36



from NATO in 1966, the Vietnam War, and the Euromissiles crisis in the 1980s—were contained by painful memories of World War II and the unifying effects of the Soviet threat.’ The West was now narrated through rivalry and opposing ideals also in Europe. European philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida argued in 2003 that ‘the reduction of politics to stupid and costly alternative of war or peace simply doesn’t pay. At the international level and in the framework of the UN, Europe has to throw its weight on the scale to counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States’.40 There was an element of scapegoating in the narratives of the West’s division. The idea was that it had become increasingly difficult to identify with the ‘other’ West because of its repugnant actions and character. The threat was not seen as coming from outside but from within the West. Moisi argued that the new threats—‘Islamic fundamentalism, international terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction’—do not have the same unifying effect as the Soviet threat because the United States and Europe have a very different approach to them. Moisi called the approach of the United States after the September 11 attacks as ‘Bismarckian’ as it focused on military might and hard power. Europe, on the other hand, was arguably engaged in idealistic foreign policy akin to the early 1900s American strategy, which represents the Wilsonian foreign policy tradition in Walter Russell Mead’s41 typology. Indeed, the debate concerning the separation of the West contained a strong moralising impulse that directed the critical gaze towards the other party. Moisi, for his part, argued that ‘Europeans have always found it difficult to understand Americans. This particularly true today, when less savory sides of the American character—its nationalist religiosity, its intolerant suspicion of others—have returned to the fore’.42 Moisi continued that ‘Europe feels that is must exist as an alternative to the United States—a different and better West.43 The early 2000s debate on whether the West is getting divided within was the first time after the Cold War that the identity of the Western self was being truly questioned.44 In short, the ‘two Wests’ debate in the early 2000s was essentially a gulf between Europe and the United States over different political visions in general and  Habermas and Derrida (2003), 293.  Mead (2017). 42  Moïsi (2003), 68. 43  Moïsi (2003), 69. 44  See for example Friedman (2003); Lieven (2002); Gordon (2003); Neuhold (2003); Ash (2004); Stevenson (2003); Anderson et al. (2008). 40 41



security issues in particular. The moralising impulse was directed towards the ‘other West’ that failed to uphold the values that previously united the West.

The Divided West in the Age of Trump: Towards an Ideological Division In the 2010s, the narrative of the ‘divided West’ arouse again in response to the presidency of Donald Trump in 2016. Foreign policy author James Traub put it very bluntly in his Foreign Policy article in 2018: ‘RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945–2018’. There was an equally sober conclusion a year later in Foreign Affairs: ‘The Atlantic alliance as we know it is dead.’45 It was suggested that the Western alliance had been weakening since the end of the Cold War, but the values of the liberal post-war order had kept the relationship between Europe and the United States alive— until the arrival of Donald Trump. According to Traub, however, Trump only represented a wider shift that was taking place, inevitably taking the two allies in separate directions.46 As Traub argued: ‘Obama wanted the United States to face toward the future, not the past. The American people, meanwhile, preferred to face home. They wanted a pivot to America, and they voted for the candidate who promised to deliver it. It has thus fallen to Trump to deliver the coup de grâce to the alliance that has defined the postwar world’.47 The main dividing line was once again drawn between Europe and the United States, but this time the moralising impulse was not directed towards the ‘other West’. The prospect of the West getting divided for good was narrated with an emotional tone: ‘The mind reels. No, the heart breaks.’48 When the ‘two Wests’ debate in the 2010s is followed more closely, however, it becomes clear that the geographical division between Europe and the United States was getting replaced by a more ideological division. The idea that the West was getting divided along geographical lines was a more marginal narrative as the focus was instead on ideological networks that were forming across the West. The alliances that were seen to be building up and weakening the unity of the West were divided along the  Gordon and Shapiro (2019).  See also Cohen (2017). 47  Traub (2018). 48  Traub (2018). 45 46



lines of conservative–liberal, national–international, authoritarian–democratic, or tolerant–xenophobic networks that included not only some political actors or parties but even countries. It was argued, for example, that France’s Marine Le Pen ‘applauded Trump a year ago not because he was American but because of his white nationalism’.49 It was suggested that if the Atlantic alliance would be brought back, ‘the alliance could be reborn as a populist, nationalist, and racist partnership between the United States and governments in Hungary, Poland, Italy, or others. Such a transatlantic alliance, one based on the shared values of hating Islam and immigrants, would not be worth having’.50 Indeed, Kupchan argued that while the post-war version of American exceptionalism was about liberal values, multilateralism and later on increasingly about pluralism and tolerance, Trump’s racial, nationalist, and protectionist language was in stark contrast to that: ‘For Trump, making America great again means making it white again’.51 The ideological division in the ‘two Wests’ debate is evident when examining the movement between distinguishing the West as a particular or a universal entity. Jackson has argued that while the early years after the Cold War were an era when the West was represented as a particular entity in the US foreign policy rhetoric, this changed during the Bush and Obama administrations that witnessed the West being narrated more as a universal entity.52 The universalist understanding of the West provided a conducive ground for the ‘modern West’ narrative. Jackson argued in reference to the Bush and Obama administrations that ‘we hear a great deal about putatively universal values like “freedom” and “liberty”, values that are taken to be less the possession of a particular historical or cultural tradition and more the common endowment of human beings per se’.53 In other words, foreign policy rhetoric moved from a ‘clash of civilisations’ frame towards a more universal frame in which all actors can join the universal community of Western values. It can be argued that a return to a particular understanding of the West has been taking place during the Trump administration—a shift that is in line with a move away from the ‘modern West’ narrative towards a ‘civilisation West’ narrative.  Nougayréde (2017).  Gordon and Shapiro (2019). 51  Kupchan (2018), 145. 52  Jackson (2017). 53  Jackson (2017), 86, emphasis in the original. 49 50



Once again, in the words of Jackson, the ‘usefulness of the West, in other words, seems to have changed.54 In the US foreign policy rhetoric under Trump, the idea of the West has been employed to emphasise shared characteristics based on blood and soil, which brings back older ideas of the West. This particular understanding of the West as a civilisation is shared by European counterparts who emphasise the need to defend the West as a civilisation that is built upon ethnic and cultural attributes. This shared ideological ground forms around political parties that are situated in the far-right spectrum of Europe’s political map. Paradoxically, they often identify with nationalist values, but nevertheless advocate a transnational network of political actors who share the civilisational imagination that is not universal but particular. In a situation where the European Union was voicing deep concerns that Poland is not upholding the values of democracy and the rule of law, Trump was already setting Poland as a virtuous example to follow: ‘So, together, let us all fight like the Poles—for family, for freedom, for country, and for God.’55 It was often argued that although the unity of the West had been in crisis before, Trump was the first president who simply did not value the alliance with Europe.56 It would be more accurate to argue that Trump did value cooperation with European partners but only with those actors that shared the more conservative ground that was rapidly in the making. Indeed, in 2018 Dutch first vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans used the old metaphor of ‘battle for soul of Europe’ to define the 2019 European parliamentary elections as a fight against nationalist and protectionist forces that challenge the liberal idea of Europe.57 The ‘liberal West’, on the other hand, was seen to be forming not around Europe as a whole but around Germany’s Merkel who was largely represented as one of the final Western leaders upholding liberal ‘modern West’ values. Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Europe for the New York Times Steven Erlanger argued in 2017 that ‘Merkel has reluctantly been thrust into the role of the West’s most outspoken defender of the liberal democratic order.58 The dividing line was narrated as running between  Jackson (2017), 86, emphasis in the original.  White House (2017). 56  See for example Gordon and Shapiro (2019). 57  Schaart (2018). 58  Erlanger (2017). 54 55



Europe’s Merkel who is the last defender of liberal Western values and the United States’ Trump who is challenging those values. The ‘modern West’ narrative was seen as being seriously under threat with Trump advocating a very different reading of what actually constitutes the West. There were two policy statements in particularly that have been seen as representing the drifting apart of the West. Firstly, Merkel attempted to set the policy agenda with her speech in May 2017 when she declared: ‘We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands’. She continued that ‘we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny’.59 Merkel envisioned a more independent policy line for Europe, but at the time of her speech, the idea of a united and liberal Europe was already being fiercely challenged at home. As such, those who put faith in the idea of a liberal West were not only liberal allies in Europe but also those in the United States. It was no longer possible to draw the line between an idealist Europe and a realist United States that dominated the early 2000s debate. The narrative battle was moving towards a more complex rift between a ‘modern West’ and a ‘civilisation West’ narratives as was evident in the second policy statement, Trump’s speech in Poland in July 2017. In the speech Trump first employed the ‘political West’ narrative by referring to the ‘victory over communism by a strong alliance of free nations in the West that defied tyranny’. He then talked about the dire threat of ‘another oppressive ideology’, Islamic terrorism, ‘to our security and to our way of life’ in the West. Other threats included ‘new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare’ and ‘the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people’.60 Trump’s speech, however, soon began to turn into a ‘civilisation West’ narrative, referring to ‘the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are’. He went on to declare that ‘the West was saved with the blood of patriot’ and that ‘our civilization will triumph’ if new generations show similar courage and heroism. And finally: ‘Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield—it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.’ The  Paravicini (2017).  White House (2017).

59 60



racial, religious and cultural characteristics have been at the heart of the ‘civilisation West’ narrative of the Trump administration, sharing the ideological ground with Europe’s far-right.61 According to Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, the speech in Poland showed that in the ‘heady days of the Cold War, “the West” referred to the so-called free world—a liberal democratic order. Today it has been replaced by a cultural, rather than political, notion. But unlike in the 19th century, when a “white man’s burden” took pride of place, today what dominates are the “white man’s fears”’.62 Another notable difference in the ‘two Wests’ debate between the early 2000s and the late 2010s is the direction of the moralising impulse. It has been turning towards the Western self, which is clearly seen in the analyses both in the United States and Europe. American political scientist Graham T. Allison, for example, wrote about the ‘myth of the liberal order’ in the United States in 2018: ‘The fact that in the first 17  years of this century, the self-proclaimed leader of the liberal order invaded two countries, conducted air strikes and Special Forces raids to kill hundreds of people it unilaterally deemed to be terrorists, and subjected scores of others to “extraordinary rendition,” often without any international legal authority (and sometimes without even national legal authority), speaks for itself.’63

The Self-ironic West The highly self-critical narrative provides a very different self-image of the ‘American West’ than the one featuring in the earlier debate on ‘two Wests’. There is an ironic gaze towards the gap between the ideal self and the actual self. As Allison continues: ‘The overriding challenge for American believers in democratic governance is thus nothing less than to reconstruct a working democracy at home’.64 In other words, when it comes to democracy promotion and leading by example, the United States should start the arduous task from home. A similarly self-critical attitude can be seen in European analyses that adopt an ironic approach towards the grave failing of the self. They usually start from an idealist self-image of the past and move on to describe Europe’s current fall from grace. The  Foster (2017).  Krastev (2017a, b). 63  Allison (2018), 126. 64  Allison (2018), 133. 61 62



narratives often follow a jeremiad tradition that contains a three-fold structure: first setting out the communal norms, then drawing the actual declinist state of the community, and finally providing a prophetic vision that ‘unveils the promises, announces the good things to come, and explains away the gap between fact and ideal’.65 Here the formative moment is not the election victory of Trump but, most often, the economic crisis in Europe that erupted in 2008. As such, there is clearly a move from a security perspective to a more economic perspective. Greek academic and politician Yanis Varoufakis has been one of the most vocal critics of the European self. Varoufakis argued in 2016 that in Europe ‘a titanic battle is being waged for Europe’s integrity and soul, with the forces of reason and humanism losing out, so far, to growing irrationality, authoritarianism and malice. The rest of the world, America in particular, are concerned but not as much as they ought to be’.66 In his narrative, Merkel was certainly not the beacon of democratic, liberal, and tolerant values as represented by many others in the ‘two Wests’ debate. Instead, Merkel and many other European leaders such as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy were depicted as ironic figures who do not act according to the values that they claim to hold. Referring to Merkel and Sarkozy, Varoufakis argued that a ‘cynical ploy that transferred hundreds of billions of losses from the books of the French and German banks to Europe’s taxpayers was presented to the world as the manifestation of European solidarity’.67 The moralising impulse was firmly directed towards the European self that is unable to uphold her outspoken values. The United States, ‘a global minotaur’,68 is very much part of the narrative and subject to fierce criticism, and as such there is no clear normative distinction between the ‘American West’ and the ‘European West’. Instead, Varoufakis’ West has been an alliance with its own deep establishment with illiberal and illegitimate practices and values. Varoufakis argued that ‘for years before the arrival of Trump, Brexit and other populist disruptions, the West’s establishment had itself practiced character assassination, truth reversal, loony economics and downright illiberalism’.69  Bercovitch (1978), 10.  Varoufakis (2018), 250. 67  Varoufakis (2018), 157–158; see also Marsili and Milanese (2018). 68  Varoufakis (2015). 69  Varoufakis (2017), 1. 65 66



This dark state was in a stark contrast to the image of the past West that was truly able to act as a beacon on the hill, inspiring the world to come together and unite not around a common enemy but common values of democracy, human rights, and reason.70 Also Krastev emphasises the ironic gap in the European project when analysing the continent’s political, economic, and cultural decline: ‘The European Union has always been an idea in search of a reality. But there is a growing worry that what once kept the union together no longer holds’.71 Krastev offers a similar reading as Varoufakis about the role of European leaders in failing to truly promote democracy at home. In 2017 Krastev argued: ‘Rather than Brussels symbolizing the glory of a common European home, the EU’s capital has come to represent the unrestricted power of the markets and the destructive power of globalization’.72 Germany’s former Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer has been similarly critical towards the European self, arguing that Europe has failed to live up to its political ideals.73 Also Fischer locates the formative moment in the economic crisis that has called into question European identity and the whole existence of the European Union as a modern value community. Fischer argued in 2014 that Europe is increasingly lacking in solidarity both in economic and political terms while the European Union is lacking in democracy. The role of the United States was central also to Fischer’s analysis as the 2008 economic crisis originated in the United States, resulting in a situation akin to the stock market crash that erupted in 1929 and resulted in unprecedented political and economic crises.74 Interestingly, this self-critical attitude was somewhat diminishing with the arrival of Trump who, in the words of Fischer in 2018, sought ‘to disrupt virtually all that has defined the West since the end of World War II’.75 As a result, Fischer called for more European sovereignty, abandoning the highly self-critical gaze and focusing on self-defence: ‘The rebalancing of power that is already underway could determine the fate of Europe’s democracies, welfare states, independence, and way of life […] The question now is whether the EU will reclaim its full sovereignty and  Varoufakis (2018), xi–xii.  Krastev (2017a, b). 72  Krastev (2017a, b), 67. 73  Fischer (2015). 74  Fischer (2015). 75  Fischer (2018). 70 71



assert itself as a power on the global stage, or let itself fall behind for good’.76 Here the constant interplay between identification and division is clearly seen. The narrative evolved from Western unity to European division, only to return to European unity against the threat coming from the ‘other West’ that Europe used to identify with. The seeds for both identification and division are always present and can be harnessed to the narrative task. Krastev has noted, similarly, that it is ironic that the fear of European disintegration might actually enhance integration.77 It can be seen that ironic narratives advance both justice and hegemony, leading to different political visions. A narrative of the weak self can lead to calls for more solidarity and empathy towards others, but it can also employ the image of a threatening other to call for more strength and hegemony.

A Common Western Ground in the Making? There is an interesting intersection between the ‘civilisation West’ and the ‘political West’ narratives in the late 2010s debate on ‘two Wests’. Traces of the early 2000s debate can be clearly seen in the more recent wave. Trump’s demand that European states must contribute more towards NATO is in line with Kagan’s thesis that Europe is simply taking advantage of the United States to achieve its peace and security. Kagan wrote in 2003: ‘How nations could achieve perpetual peace without destroying human freedom was a problem Kant could not solve. But for Europe the problem was solved by the United States. By providing security from outside, the United States rendered it unnecessary for Europe’s supranational government to provide it.’78 Trump’s rhetoric is less refined, but the moralising impulse and the meaning is the same. As he noted in the 2017 speech in Poland: ‘Words are easy, but actions are what matters. And for its own protection—and you know this, everybody knows this, everybody has to know this— Europe must do more. Europe must demonstrate that it believes in its future by investing its money to secure that future.’ This is also what Kupchan has argued: ‘Although Trump’s diplomacy lacks tact, he is right to insist that U.S. allies shoulder their fair share’.79 Or as Security Studies  Fischer (2018).  Krastev (2017a, b). 78  Kagan (2003). 79  Kupchan (2018), 147. 76 77



scholar Barry R. Posen stated in relation to Trump: ‘As a candidate, he regularly complained about the failure of U.S. allies, especially those in NATO, to share the burden of collective defense. However uninformed these objections were, they were entirely fair’.80 Perhaps paradoxically, then, the seeds for a potential common ground for a renewed Western alliance can be found in a Cold War narrative that imagines the West as a political community that is kept together through rational interests that are channelled through institutional and practical arrangements. This would certainly represent a move away from the idea of the West as a liberal alliance that shares common values and normative underpinnings—it would mean ‘giving up the high ground’.81 It would also mean a step away from a civilisational narrative that emphasises blood and soil. A ‘political West’ narrative in the 2020s would focus on mutual security and economic interests that are not intertwined with strong normative underpinnings like during the Cold War. Many argue that this sort of rational trans-Atlantic alliance is possible and ‘worth fighting for’.82 Given the trans-Atlantic ideological bond between different actors, the ‘political West’ narrative that emphasises mere rational interests could, however, simply turn into an illiberal version of the ‘political West’ narrative and as such become a highly normative institutional arrangement that talks about rational interests but is kept together through ideological underpinnings. Many argue that contrary to expectations, Trump has not completely abandoned the institutional arrangements and norms of the international order but simply turned towards more illiberal hegemonic practices. Posen, for example, has noted, ‘Although the Trump administration has pared or abandoned many of the pillars of liberal internationalism, its security policy has remained consistently hegemonic. Whether illiberal hegemony will prove any more or any less sustainable than its liberal cousin remains an open question’.83 The ironic interpretation of the Western international order provides fuel for new institutional arrangements. Foreign policy expert Jake Sullivan, for example, has argued that ‘a badly needed effort to reinforce and update the international order’ must start by acknowledging the ‘growing disillusionment with some of its core assumptions. This disillu Posen (2018), 21.  Margon (2018). 82  Gordon and Shapiro (2019). 83  Posen (2018), 27. 80 81



sionment has been stoked by forces of nativism and illiberalism, but it is rooted in the lived experience of many who have seen few promised benefits flow to them’.84 While this ironic awareness can indeed lead to a process of renewed institution building that seeks to widen justice and tolerance in the international order, the ideological networks that have been forming around the trans-Atlantic alliance suggest that there is more political potential for calls towards a greater hegemony—a Western hegemony based on illiberal values.

Conclusion The debate on whether the West is splitting up into two separate entities— a European West and an American West—is one manifestation of the long ‘declinist West’ narrative tradition that has been an integral part of Western identity-making since the 1800s. The ‘two Wests’ debate offers a narrative arena where different ideas of the West can be imagined, contested and rendered meaningful. The debate itself already limits the boundaries of the West to the trans-Atlantic alliance rather than to a wider geographical area. The chapter has shown that the narrative battle around ‘two Wests’ is not simply descriptive but highly normative in nature, putting forward moralistic interpretations concerning the West. Approaching the topic from a narrative approach allows for a more nuanced analysis of the storied structure of the ‘two Wests’ debate. It is evident that older ideas of the West as a civilisation, a modern value community, and a political entity all feature in the debate, attaining new forms and meanings in different eras and in relation to various events. What is notable in the more recent manifestation of the ‘two Wests’ debate is the presence of a stronger ironic gaze, which produces calls for more justice but also calls for more hegemony. It is equally noteworthy that geographical significations matter less in the ‘two Wests’ debate in the 2010s than in the 2000s. Ideological networks transcend the trans-Atlantic divide, resulting in new alliances and cooperative practices. While many are hoping that the Western alliance could be strengthened in the rational realm of common institutions and practices, it seems credible to suggest that the cooperative potential for a stronger Western unity lies rather in these informal networks that are ideologically driven—and often imagine the West as some Sullivan (2018), 15.




thing else than a liberal democratic project. The informal networks might be further energised by ironic calls for more hegemony and as a result push towards stronger institutional arrangements—an illiberal hegemony that forms a new ‘political West’ narrative.

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Gillespie, Michael Allen. 1999. Liberal Education and the Idea of the West. In America, the West, and Liberal Education, ed. R.C. Hancock, 7–26. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. GoGwilt, Christopher. 1995a. True West: The Changing Idea of the West from the 1880s to the 1920s. In Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and Its ‘Others’, ed. S.  Federici. Westport: Praeger. ———. 1995b. The Invention of the West: Joseph Conrad and the Double-Mapping of Europe and Empire. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gordon, P.H. 2003. Bridging the Atlantic Divide. Foreign Affairs 82 (1): 70–83. Gordon, P.H., and Jeremy Shapiro. 2019. How Trump Killed the Atlantic Alliance. Foreign Affairs, February 26. posts&utm_campaign=tw_daily_soc&utm_medium=social. Gress, David. 1998. From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents. New York: Free Press. Habermas, Jurgen, and Jacques Derrida. 2003. February 15, or What Binds Europeans Together: A Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in the Core of Europe. Constellations 10 (3): 291–297. Hall, Stuart. 1993. The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power. In The Formations of Modernity, ed. B. Gieben and S. Hall, 276–331. Cambridge: Polity Press. Harries, Owen. 1993. The Collapse of the ‘West’. Foreign Affairs 72 (4): 41–53. Huntington, Samuel. 1981. American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Ifversen, Jan. 2008. Who Are the Westerners? International Politics 45 (3): 236–253. Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. 2010. The Perpetual Decline of the West. In The Struggle for the West: A Divided and Contested Legacy, ed. C.S. Browning and M. Lehti. London: Routledge. ———. 2017. After ‘the Clash’: Uses of ‘the West’ After the Cold War. In Uses of the ‘West’: Security and the Politics of Order, ed. G. Hellmann and B. Herborth, 83–108. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kagan, Robert. 2003. Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Krastev, Ivan. 2017a. How Donald Trump Redefined ‘the West’. The New York Times, July 11. ———. 2017b. After Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kupchan, Charles A. 2002. The End of the West. The Atlantic, November. ———. 2018. The Clash of Exceptionalisms. Foreign Affairs 97 (2): 139–148.



Lieven, Anatol. 2002. End of the West. Prospect 78. Margon, Sarah. 2018. Giving Up the High Ground: America’s Retreat on Human Rights. Foreign Affairs 97 (2): 39–45. Marsili, Lorenzo, and Niccolo Milanese. 2018. Citizens of Nowhere: How Europe Can Be Saved From Itself. London: Zed Books. McNeill, William. 1997. What We Mean by the West. Orbis 41 (4): 513–525. Mead, Walter Russell. 2017. The Jacksonian Revolt. Foreign Affairs 96 (2): 2–7. Moïsi, Dominique. 2003. Reinventing the West. Foreign Affairs 82 (6): 67–73. Moravcsik, Andrew. 2003. Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain. Foreign Affairs 82 (4): 74–89. Neuhold, Hanspeter. 2003. Transatlantic Turbulences: Rift or Ripples? European Foreign Affairs Review 8: 457–468. Niebuhr, Reinhold. 1952. The Irony of American History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Nougayréde, Natalie. 2017. After a Year of Trump, Good News for Europe – He Doesn’t Care About Us. The Guardian, November 11. Paravicini, Giulia. 2017. Angela Merkel: Europe Must Take ‘Our Fate’ into Own Hands. Politico, May 28. Patterson, Thomas. 1997. Inventing Western Civilization. New  York: Monthly Review Press. Pfaff, William. 2010. The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy. New York: Bloomsbury. Polkinghorne, Donald E. 1995. Narrative Configuration in Qualitative Analysis. Qualitative Studies in Education 8 (1): 5–23. Posen, Barry R. 2018. The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony. Foreign Affairs 97 (2): 20–27. Rorty, Richard. 1989. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schaart, Eline. 2018. Timmermans: EU Election Is Battle for Soul of Europe. Politico, November 6. Smith, Julie, and Rachel Rizzo. 2018. Trump’s War on Europe Is Revving Up. Foreign Policy, March 9. Steele, Brent J. 2010. Irony, Emotions and Critical Distance. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 39 (1): 89–107. Stevenson, Jonathan. 2003. How Europe and American Defend Themselves. Foreign Affairs 82 (2): 75–90. Sullivan, Jake. 2018. The World After Trump. Foreign Affairs 97 (2): 10–19.



Traub, James. 2018. RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945–2018. Foreign Policy, May 11. Varoufakis, Yanis. 2015. The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy. London: Zed Books. ———. 2017. And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability. London: Vintage. ———. 2018. Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment. London: Vintage. Vuorelma, Johanna. 2019. The Ironic Western Self: Radical and Conservative Irony in the ‘Losing Turkey’ Narrative. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 47 (2): 190–209. White, Hayden. 1987. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. White House. 2017. Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland. July 6. Wolf, Eric. 1982. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Žižek, Slavoj. 2009. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. London & New York: Verso.


The West: Divided in Freedom and Fear? Ville Sinkkonen and Henri Vogt

One wonders today, whether a profound sense of alienation has replaced the sense of community that used to underwrite the West, the framework of cooperation between the United States and Europe. After decades of shared efforts to shape the politics of the world, two mutual strangers now seem to exist on both shores of the Atlantic, with waning agreement on the desired future direction of the international system. Yet, upon closer scrutiny, this prevalent story of an impending transatlantic breakup appears too simplistic. The present chapter approaches, and at times challenges, the estrangement thesis from the standpoint of a—if not the—core value of the transatlantic community, namely freedom. We examine to what extent the (dis-) similarities found in articulations of freedom in US and European foreign-­ policy discourses can function as a metric for gauging how fundamental the current impasse between the two sides of the Atlantic really is. One may also recognise a normative agenda here. If we wish to preserve the most valuable features of the transatlantic order—namely rule-based patterns of global governance—it is important to inquire how Europe, or the V. Sinkkonen (*) The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland e-mail: [email protected] H. Vogt University of Turku, Turku, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




European Union, and the United States could find a common ground to reconcile arising differences. Converging articulations of freedom might indeed serve this purpose. We start off by reviewing the central tenets of the transatlantic linkage since the Second World War. This consensual-hegemonic relationship has been built upon what IR scholarship knows as “rationalism”; a peculiar mixture of realist threat perceptions and liberal interdependencies have informed the bond across the Atlantic. In every-day political decision-­ making on both sides, this combination of realism and liberalism has generally materialised by way of joint security concerns, on the one hand, and mutually related identity constructions, on the other. What is crucial here, however, is that this rationalist paradigm has been both constituted and continuously challenged by various ideas and ideals of freedom; freedom, as we will illustrate, stands in an intimate relationship with both security and identity. In order to make sense of these sensibilities after 2014, we introduce a conceptual categorisation of freedom in the middle section of the chapter. We then employ this framework in the final section as we explore, in a contrastive manner, a number of central foreign-policy documents from the European Union and the United States. We do find differences of emphasis, different nuances, in these actors’ parlance, but are they merely a matter of electoral tides?

The Rationalism of a Consensual Community of Values More than thirty years ago, historian Charles S. Maier argued that the grand bargain reached across the Atlantic Ocean in the wake of the Second World War was a manifestation of what he called consensual hegemony.1 The post-war transatlantic order was in effect built on reciprocal consent. Western Europeans, on the one hand, agreed to abide by the rules of an order, which was to a considerable extent of the American hegemon’s making. In return, the United States would not only cater to the allies’ security needs in the face of the Soviet threat, it would also prop up its allies economically, and make America’s hegemonic attainment bearable by tying the country’s power to the order’s rules, norms and institutions.2

1 2

 Maier (1977).  Cf. Ikenberry (1998).



The undergirding logic of this order was first and foremost “rationalist”, a combination of realist articulations of threat and liberal values of interdependency. It was essentially designed to keep both sides of the Atlantic “sane” for mutual security and economic benefit. For its part, the United States, as superpower arbiter of intra-European squabbles, allowed its allies to build working and (ultimately) trusting relations with each other,3 possibly even paving the way for European integration. Europe, in turn, was granted permanent “access” to the hegemon through ever-­ proliferating mutual dependence and institutional channels. European states could even at times use these channels to have an impact on United States’ policy choices, effectively making American “power safe for the world”, or at least for Europe.4 Through the heady years of the Cold War, the consensual-hegemonic order, the order of the West, thus took on the trappings of a security community wherein “war or the threat of force to settle disputes within the region is unthinkable”,5 and “dependable expectations of peaceful change” rule the day.6 There is also another well-known conceptual viewpoint, related to what we call “rationalism” above, with which we can make sense of the post-war transatlantic political constellation. Judith Shklar coined the notion of liberalism of fear in the late 1980s to denote a political doctrine, the ultimate purpose of which is to prevent the evil, evil political ideologies, from reigning.7 In a sense, we can interpret the entire course of political developments in Western Europe from 1945 until the mid-1970s, the inherent desire to push forward the continent’s political integration, from this perspective: bringing Europe’s nation-states under a shared political umbrella, with the European Commission as a Leviathan of sorts, represented a form of constitutionalised anti-totalitarianism and institutionalised paternalism that was to guarantee that the evil of war would never again prevail.8 Indeed, democracy, liberal democracy, was deemed too unpredictable without a strong counterbalancing factor of technocratic, enlightened leadership. Advancing individual freedoms or freedom of choice was bound to remain only a secondary objective for the liberal-democratic  Kydd (2005).  Ikenberry (2008), 10; cf. Risse-Kappen (1996). 5  Ikenberry (2008), 7. 6  Adler and Barnett (1998), 34. 7  Shklar (1989). 8  Müller (2014). 3 4



political systems in this context.9 This type of liberalism did not seek to draft positive Utopias for the future but was rather an exercise in “warding off destructive visions of transformation”, such as communism and fascism.10 In light of the above, it would, of course, be possible to present a long list of essential elements that have bound Americans and Europeans together since the mid-1940s.11 Two overarching factors, however, deserve particular attention here: security and identity. As regards the former, there is a strong realist case to be made that the extraordinary confluence of security interests after the Second World War was the key driver behind the original consensual-hegemonic bargain; persistent shared threat perceptions were essential in deepening and maintaining the transatlantic link.12 Arguably, the awareness of a common foe allowed the community to paper over various transatlantic cracks during the Cold War years, crises that could have otherwise led to the community’s demise. Examples abound from each decade: the Suez Crisis in 1956, the inception of German Ostpolitik in the late 1960s, the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the oil crises of the 1970s, and Ronald Reagan’s drive to up the ante in the Cold War confrontation in the early 1980s.13 One interpretation is that issues as contentious as these could still be resolved because they “were either seen as being secondary to […] or could be folded into the larger East–West competition”.14 The end of the Cold War left the community without such an overarching existential threat. Western Europe rediscovered its Eastern neighbourhood almost overnight, and the United States—triumphant in its own “indispensability”—had become the global superpower par excellence, the pinnacle of a “unipolar” world order.15 Although America’s international attainment had been global throughout the Cold War, it was only after the 9  It is important to bear in mind, though, that intra-European differences were large in this respect: while les six original EU member states subjugated themselves to the tutelage of Brussels, the efforts to build functioning national welfare states accelerated in Northern Europe, and Southern Europe remained under right-wing authoritarianism. 10  Gourevitch (2007), 32. 11  See for example Risse (2008). 12  Walt (1985), 34–41. 13  Anderson (2018), 624; Green Cowles and Egan (2016). 14  Cox (2012), 75. 15  Ikenberry et al. (2008). On the idea of the United States as the “indispensable nation”, see Albright (1998).



demise of the USSR that Europe really began to lose its “special” status in the eyes of the American hegemon.16 The terrorist attacks of 9/11, instead of functioning as a new galvanising impulse for the West, brought into starker focus the different geopolitical approaches prevalent on two sides of the Atlantic.17 The conduct of the “War on Terror” and the invasion of Iraq exposed divisions between the “two Wests” on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and—to use Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s worn out phrase—between “old” and “new” Europe.18 If anything, this dynamic has been accelerated by the impending power transition in the international system, as the (economic) importance of Asia has increased steadily.19 The divergence of security interests on the two sides of the Atlantic has, therefore, been posited by many as the paramount driver behind the impending transatlantic divorce.20 One can also argue, however, that Europe’s own experiences of terrorism in the 2000s have had the opposite effect of galvanising cooperation between the two shores of the Atlantic in the security sphere, a dynamic which the Ukraine crisis has accentuated further. In fact, the Trump administration, despite abrasive calls for more equitable burden-sharing from European allies, has actually increased, in monetary terms, America’s commitment to Europe’s defence.21 It seems that a real divorce would be too expensive for both. Be that as it may, any posited dissonance of security interests, and its implications for the community, cannot easily be separated from questions of identity—of religious values, of “shared” educational institutions, of common ethnic and linguistic roots. Indeed, a liberal institutionalist and social constructivist case can be made that the sustainability of the transatlantic link is, in no small part, a function of the gradual evolution of a collective identity based on a (broadly speaking) common value base, which further strengthened within the proverbial West during the Cold War years.22 Both the European Union and the United States have also asserted their liberal identities in international society by way of distinct policies of value promotion, comprising of democracy, human rights, rule  Wallace (2016), 359–60.  Layne (2008). 18  Kagan (2003); Forsberg and Herd (2006); see also Chap. 4. 19  Cf. Nye (2011); Zakaria (2011); Acharya (2018); Mahbubani (2018). 20  Layne (2008); Nau (2008); Wallace (2016). 21  Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (2018). 22  See for example Risse-Kappen (1996) and Fuchs and Klingemann (2008). On a different view, consult Kupchan (2002). 16 17



of law and freedom, the core concern of our exposition.23 Hartmut Mayer has even argued that the United States and its European partners have a shared “special responsibility” towards guaranteeing the functioning of both the transatlantic alliance and the (liberal) international order, given that the latter still remains very much a Euro- and US-centric creation.24 In this sense the term security community might even be misleading—it is better, perhaps, to speak of a community of values. In drafting actual policies, however, identity constellations often function in a virtually “rationalist” manner. The defence of values and, by extension, identity can even undermine an actor’s material interests. The European Union’s sanctions strategy towards Russia is a telling example in this respect: in spite of the inevitable and also disproportionate blows to the member state economies, the Union imposed a series of restrictive measures against Russia following that country’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula—and this was done with a surprisingly high degree of unanimity among the European Union’s constituent parts.25 Of course, identities can also be exploited by policymakers to pursue less benign objectives by way of inherently rational calculation. A case in point is the strategy of securitising immigrants, ruthlessly utilised by the Trump administration and European right-wing populists. As indicated at the outset, the lead idea of this chapter is that the rationalism(s) of security concerns and identity politics are undergirded by an element that is much less “rational” and therefore often difficult to pin down. We refer to the mechanisms by way of which various ideals of freedom inform these polities’ acting and being in the world—their security and identity, in fact. To these ideals and their defining features we now turn.

Freedom: A Core Value of the Transatlantic Community The notion of freedom features prominently in the foundational documents of both the United States and European integration. The First Amendment of the US Constitution famously refers to freedom of religion, the press and peaceful assembly.26 In fact, for the sociologist Gunnar  Nicolaïdis (2005), 102–3; Sinkkonen (2015); Lucarelli (2006).  Mayer (2006). 25  Sjursen and Rosén (2017). 26  US Const. amend. 1. 23 24



Myrdal, the notion of freedom was a central component of the “American Creed”, the foundational mythology of the nation.27 It is effectively a concept that the United States can anchor its “exceptional” attainment to.28 Twentieth-century Presidents from Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush have habitually articulated America’s international forays in terms of the defence of freedom(s). In Europe, in turn, the Treaty of Rome (1957) already lays out the four freedoms of the integration project (goods, persons, services and capital)—although, admittedly, it was peace, not freedom, which constituted the original rationale for the EEC escapade. In the Treaty of Lisbon, the current constitutional framework, it is stated that the Union wishes to “offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers”.29 As Eastern Europeans began dreaming of membership in the European Union after the collapse of communism, they essentially believed that membership would somehow fulfil their new-born category of freedom. But how can we analyse a concept that so centrally informs the Dasein of many political communities and that is time and time again uttered by political elites? A concept that is seldom defined in any substantive sense, and regularly even employed as an empty signifier? We need to resort to writings on freedom in political theory and philosophy for conceptual guidance.30 The most well-known point of departure in this respect is, of course, Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive freedom.31 The former refers to an actor being free from external constraints imposed by others, to non-interference. The latter underlines the opportunity to make a free choice between available options. Berlin’s original contribution hardly addresses the nature of that choice, but to speak of positive freedom in any fruitful sense, it appears that the choice has to be both ­meaningful and reasonable, and the chooser must have access to the fruits  Myrdal (1964).  The idea of American exceptionalism naturally has diverse meanings for different identity-political groups. It can, for instance, accommodate both an aloof, even “isolationist”, approach to the world or serve as a justification for a drive to remake the world in America’s image. For recent discussion, see for example Kupchan (2018) and Cha (2015). 29  Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union art. 3, 2010 O.J. C 83/01, at 17. 30  For a more in-depth discussion on the categorisation presented below, see Sinkkonen and Vogt (2019). 31  Berlin (1969). 27 28



Table 5.1  A sketch of categorisations of freedom for analysing foreign-policy discourse Categorisations of freedom in elite political discourse Positive-­ negative dimension

Positive Negative/ non-interference Non-­domination

Level of focus Individual dimension Systemic


Freedom as the opportunity to make a choice between available options Freedom from external constraints Freedom as the ability not to serve the powerful Civil liberties associated with liberal democracy Freedom achieved through elite-driven maintenance, change or restoration of the essential building blocks of a political community Freedom realised through emergent “bottom-up” creation of socio-political institutions by collections of individuals in an egalitarian setting

of her choice.32 A simple negative/positive dichotomy, however, fails to take into account how active interference by others is not necessary for an actor to feel restrained by external constraints: in a social system such hindrances can encompass, for instance, norms, taboos, rules, practices or even a hegemonic order as a totality. True freedom would, from this standpoint, require non-domination, the ability not to serve the powerful—or, what is also important here, the ability not to let emotional impediments such as fear prevail.33 The positive-negative distinction thus begs a tripartite categorisation of freedom, one encompassing non-domination (see Table 5.1). To further shed light on the distinction between non-interference and non-domination, the notions of coercive, institutional, structural and productive power, as categorised by Barnett and Duvall, prove particularly useful.34 The first of these refers to the direct exercise of power by one actor over another, in the sense of A preventing B from doing X. Institutional power, in turn, reflects the ability of the dominant to constrain others within institutionalised settings. The structural dimension captures direct power-relations of super- and subordination (e.g. master-­ slave). Productive power, finally, pertains to discursive frameworks of  Kioupkiolis (2009).  See for example Pettit (1996) and Skinner (2002). 34  Barnett and Duvall (2005). 32 33



power that constrain actors, perhaps even without their explicit knowledge or realisation. While non-interference clearly pertains to the coercive logic, non-domination can be approached in terms of the latter three. Since our exposition is concerned with external affairs discourses, it is pertinent to make another tripartite distinction, one that philosophical categorisations of freedom do not usually address. Namely, it is possible to distinguish between the levels of focus (or analysis, or abstraction) where freedom is found, promoted and achieved (see Table 5.1).35 Freedom is most often conceptualised as an individual-level phenomenon. The plethora of civil liberties associated with liberal democracy—whether freedom of speech, religion, assembly, inquiry or movement—are, in the most basic sense, something to be enjoyed by singular human actors. These can evidently be framed in both negative and positive terms. On the other hand, it is also possible to identify articulations of freedom whose intention is to change, maintain or restore the essential building blocks—values, norms, principles, habits, practices and so on—of a political community, often in an elite-led, top-down manner. Such systemic freedom is usually addressed in the context of distinguishable, functionally undifferentiated and spatially bounded entities, for instance, states, civilisations, cultural spheres and regions. It does not seem far-fetched to argue that the (liberal) right traditionally saw itself as the defender of the rights of the individual and hence of his/her freedom and liberty. The left, in contrast, pushed for systemic (or rather collective) freedom that was to be achieved by way of individual equality. In the post-Cold War world, however, this constellation has all but turned around. Left-leaning politicians have tried to fill the ideological vacuum that they have found themselves in by strongly emphasising (individual) human rights, whereas those leaning towards the right have been concerned with the systemic freedom of the economy in the framework of (often and paradoxically highly regulated) neo-liberal policies.36 In terms of the level of focus, a third distinguishable category of freedom emerges in the space between the individual and the systemic. Individuals can obviously join together in groups and undertake projects to realise their goals and, in the process, produce realms of freedom. Such emergent “bottom-up” creation of differentiated socio-political institutions by collections of individuals, insofar as the creation takes place 35  On the level-of-analysis problematique in the study of international politics, see Waltz (2001) and Singer (1961). 36  See for example Gauchet (2016).



through mutual recognition of others as equals and negotiation of shared interests, can be termed socio-institutional freedom.37 Individuals in other words seek to, or come to, empower themselves by way of collective cooperation. In this respect, the distinction between individual and socio-­ institutional freedom brings to mind what in political theory have been described as the two ultimate aims of human emancipation—emancipation as individual autonomy (Locke, Mill) or as collective power (Rousseau).38 The above discussion on the conceptual complexity of freedom can also be presented in the form of a table (Table 5.1). In fact, the two tripartite categorisations we have laid out will function as an analytical toolbox that allows us to make sense of the manifold articulations of freedom in the foreign-political elite discourses on both sides of the Atlantic. The temporal focus of our exposition is on the period after the Ukraine crisis, which has proven to be a formative moment for a new phase of geographically focused and threat-perceptive transatlantic security cooperation in the post-Cold War era. We have systematically read recent key foreign-policy-related speeches by European Union leaders (Ashton, Mogherini, van Rompuy, Tusk, Barroso, Juncker), including the central figures who sit in the (intergovernmental) European Council (especially Macron and Merkel). A number of core  external affairs documents, The Global Strategy of 2016 and The European Consensus on Development (2017) above all, also inform our analysis. In the case of the United States, the primary focus is on speeches of the foreign-policy leadership, the two previous Presidents (Obama and Trump) in particular, along with the most recent Secretaries of State (Kerry, Tillerson, Pompeo). In addition, we have also taken stock of key US policy documents such as the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR, 2015), the two most recent National Security Strategies (NSS, 2015 and 2017) and the publicly available synopsis of the National Defense Strategy (NDS, 2018). It is obvious that the two polities are so different that the “match” between these empirical materials is suboptimal at most if we were to create an illusion of systematic comparison. That is not our aim, however. We rather seek to show what kinds of discursive seeds, prevalent articulations, one can identify in terms of freedom in the case of these two polities; the exposition is suggestive and contrastive rather than comparative.  Cf. Honneth (2011).  Cf. e.g. Rosanvallon (2006).

37 38



Turning to the Inside: Emphasis on Sovereignty The most important recent freedom-related storyline proved fairly easy to distinguish in both cases. Both sides of the Atlantic spill a lot of rhetorical energy on emphasising their (new-born?) desire for sovereignty, vis-à-vis the United States in the case of EU-Europe, against the rest of the world in the USA of Donald Trump—an evident contrast to the tone struck by his predecessor Barack Obama. In a sense this denotes a turn to the inside, to the realist idea that one first needs to guarantee one’s  own security, means for self-help and survival, even if one still affirms the basic blessings of a multilateral world order; this is, perhaps, a paramount example of IR rationalism, indeed = liberalism plus realism. The speeches of the selected politicians offer a number of expressive illustrations of this new accent on sovereignty, of the ability to follow one’s preferred course of action. In a speech to EU Ambassadors in September 2018, Federica Mogherini, the former Italian foreign minister in charge of EU external affairs since 2014, strongly emphasised Europe’s distinct identity, the continent’s own space of manoeuvre, its “own compass”. She also expressed her unreserved support for a multilateral international order, for a system that should not tolerate badly behaving hegemons—a view widely shared by current European leaders. We believe it is essential for us to focus on this: the whole world is going through a moment of chaos. And the question is: is it a moment or a longterm trend? In both cases, we need as Europeans, as the European Union, to be extremely clear, united and firm with our own compass in mind: the set of values, principles and interests that guide our actions on the global scene. Because the number of global powers continues to rise, but instead of having a system that governs this multi-polar world through multilateral institutions, the very idea of multilateralism is being challenged more every day. There is a return to the logic of bilateral transactions between powers—if not between individual leaders; a situation where “might makes right”, and the world is split in spheres of influence. This is not our logic and many others in the world do not want to go this way.39

This arguably represents a strong formulation of systemic freedom; or perhaps we can here see an idea(l) of the world as based on non-­domination that, at the end of the day, makes (intergovernmental) cooperation more feasible. Moreover, within the European Union, one can even wonder  Mogherini (2018), emphases added.




whether there is a sense of coming of age, of getting rid of the illusions of one’s youth, after decades of ultimately unsuccessful aspirations to develop the parameters of Union governance in an inherently self-sufficient manner. Perhaps we even witness a desire to finally leave the realm of an institutionalised liberalism of fear that called for some sort of protection from the outside. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker seemed to echo this mental framework in his last State of the Union speech (September 2018) entitled “The Hour of European Sovereignty”. He summarised the logic as follows: The geopolitical situation makes this Europe’s hour: the time for European sovereignty has come. It is time Europe took its destiny into its own hands. It is time Europe developed what I coined “Weltpolitikfähigkeit”—the capacity to play a role, as a Union, in shaping global affairs. Europe has to become a more sovereign actor in international relations.40

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a cautious but determined European, has also echoed this type of thinking, emanating both at national and regional levels, in her recent public addresses.41 The following extract is from a speech that she gave to her country’s diplomats in July 2018. The German word in the original, Schicksalsgemeinshaft (“a community with a common destiny”), is here key, almost in a paradoxical manner: sovereignty, the defending of one’s own interests, is fully justified but it must materialise with due consideration to the wishes and interests and values of the others and the sustainable limits of the earth: […] working together in many ways—multilateralism—is not a form of altruism. Every country needs to assert its interests and work in the international community to ensure that what is specific to its own people and country is heard. But in view of the many challenges, we sense that as a global community we are also a community with a common destiny. That is why we will continue to play our part in global, joint multilateral cooperation and to try to strengthen it in any way we can.42  Juncker (2018).  On Merkel cf. Chap. 4. 42  Merkel (2018a). The original German formulation reads thus: “Nun ist es natürlich so, dass vielfältige Zusammenarbeit, der Multilateralismus, kein Altruismus ist. Vielmehr muss jedes Land seine Interessen vertreten und in der Weltgemeinschaft so zusammenarbeiten, dass das, was das eigene Volk, das eigene Land ausmacht, auch zur Geltung kommt. Aber angesichts vieler Herausforderungen spüren wir doch, dass wir als globale Gemeinschaft eine 40 41



A vision, fundamentally similar to the articulations above, was, in fact, laid out by President Barack Obama in his final address before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2016. For the outgoing White House incumbent, the state of the world brought forth a paradox, wherein heretofore unimaginable prosperity has been offset by disenchantment in post-industrial societies. In Obama’s view, the world thus faced a choice between a “better model of cooperation and integration” and “a world sharply divided” into exclusive identity-based constellations, ones based on “nation and tribe and race and religion”.43 The speech also rehearses a theme that proliferated in the President’s parlance throughout his tenure, the idea that human agency can alter the shape of history, move it towards a higher moral plane and even combat what he terms the “retreat of freedom”.44 Making the right kind of choice, a rational choice, between engagement and retrenchment, in short, necessitates commitment to institutions on the part of the powerful: Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action—not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term—enhances our security. […] We are all stakeholders in this international system, and it calls upon all of us to invest in the success of institutions to which we belong. And the good news is, is that many nations have shown what kind of progress is possible when we make those commitments.45

In Obama’s vision, therefore, the way forward is trading ideas of non-­ interference for an agenda of positive freedom that also embraces non-­ domination, one ultimately attainable through commitment to

Schicksalsgemeinschaft sind. Deshalb werden wir uns auch weiter in die weltweite, gemeinsame, multilaterale Zusammenarbeit einbringen und versuchen, sie zu stärken, wo immer wir das können” (Merkel 2018b). 43  Obama (2016a). 44  Ibid. Obama often returned to the idea that the “arc of history” can be steered in the direction of justice. See for example Goldberg (2016). The notion is also taken up, in a critical vein, by the Trump administration in its National Security Strategy: “[t]here is no arc of history that ensures that America’s free political and economic system will automatically prevail”, Trump (2017a), 37. 45  Obama (2016a), emphasis added.



international institutions.46 However, this approach would not entail rescinding the capacity to protect oneself and pursue cherished goals. In Obama’s vision, sovereignty is ultimately exercised through “collective action”.47 Security, stability and, we dare add, the realisation of systemic freedom, necessitate the creation of genuinely inclusive fora wherein actors with potentially conflicting identities can find common cause.48 Such eloquent articulations have been hard to come by during Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House. Unlike Obama, Trump has called for US disengagement from global commitments such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran Nuclear deal) and the UN Human Rights Council. Such forays reflect Trump’s long-held animosity towards international constraints, as well as his opposition to Obama’s foreign-policy legacy at large.49 This fledgling Trumpian approach to the world—“America First”—has also been marketed, to global and domestic audiences alike, as a marriage between freedom and sovereignty. Such a framing of freedom took centre stage in Trump’s most recent address to the UNGA in September 2018: In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual. We believe in self-government and the rule of law. And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty—a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence. We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country. […] To unleash this incredible potential in our people, we must defend the foundations that make it all possible. Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered. And so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all. […] Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat.50

At present it seems that such calls for non-interference are hardly an exercise in creative renegotiation of stale institutions of global governance. Instead, the Trump administration is trying to further unbind the American Gulliver so it can strike self-serving transactional bargains with the  Obama (2015).  Obama (2016b). 48  Obama (2016c). 49  Laderman and Simms (2017) and Daalder and Lindsay (2018). 50  Trump (2018). 46 47



Lilliputians.51 In particular, the Trumpian worldview conflicts with Obama’s by equating sovereignty with non-interference. The President refuses to see an acceptable level of checks on American power as the price to pay for a qualitatively different amalgamation of liberty and sovereignty, one that would allow the United States to enjoy freedom in the positive sense by opening up novel avenues for cooperation, and potentially fosters (a semblance of) non-domination in a complex 21st-century world. This is reflected, for instance, in his remarks to the Faith and Freedom Coalition in June 2017, shortly after he had announced the United States exit from the Paris agreement: To protect […] jobs and the sovereignty and freedom of the United States, I followed through on my promise to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. […] You understand it. You understand how bad it was for our country. It’s going to strip us of our jobs, our wealth, our companies. And they keep saying, oh, it’s nonbinding—so innocent. I figure between that deal, the Iran deal, NAFTA—we’ve got some beauties, don’t we? […] [W]hat we won’t do is let other countries take advantage of the United States anymore and dictate what we are doing and dictate our future. From now on, we will follow a very simple rule: Every day I am President, we are going to make America first—not somebody else, not some other country.52

This focus on sovereignty as something to be built in order to ensure actorness—a positive notion of freedom, perhaps—in the world, even if for the more value-driven causes of justice and human freedom, has also gained purchase on the other side of the Atlantic over the past few years. The European Union’s Global Strategy, for example, “nurtures the ambition of strategic autonomy for the European Union”.53 France’s President Emmanuel Macron has assumed the role of a leading propagator in this respect, echoing, no doubt, traditional (and at times desperate) French status-hunting on the world arena. To the extent Macron’s celebrated speech of September 2017 at Sorbonne represents the future of the European Union, this emphasis on sovereignty à la independent actorness, possibly based on material power resources, will not vanish any time soon. Sovereignty offers the primary point of departure, or an organising prin-

 See esp. Bolton (2018).  Trump (2017b). 53  EEAS (2016). 51 52



ciple, for the entire speech.54 The pronoun “we” plays an important role here—just as it does in Trump’s rhetoric: As I have done at every point in front of the French people, I would today like to say with resolute conviction: the Europe of today is too weak, too slow, too inefficient, but Europe alone can enable us to take action in the world, in the face of the big contemporary challenges. Only Europe can, in a word, guarantee genuine sovereignty or our ability to exist in today’s world to defend our values and interests. European sovereignty requires constructing, and we must do it. Why? Because what constructs and forges our profound identity, this balance of values, this relation with freedom, human rights and justice cannot be found anywhere on the planet.55

The World Outside: Real-Political Resilience and Strategic Competition The new emphasis on sovereignty thus assumes more or less similar rhetorical forms on both sides of the Atlantic. As the reported differences in views vis-à-vis multilateral cooperation indicate, however, the ways in which these two actors wish to shape or simply relate themselves to the world around them display attitudes that operate wide apart from each other. The USA, for its part, fundamentally posits itself into a framework of global-level competition—a competition that takes place in every corner of the world with other great and emerging powers, China in particular. The European Union, by contrast, focuses on functioning relations with its neighbouring areas in addition to its long-term development partners, particularly the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The Union’s global reach and ambition is, in a sense, qualified. 54  In the autumn of 2018, in connection with the 100th anniversary celebrations of the end of the First World War, Macron even started to propagate in favour of an independent European army. The proposal was, however, met with a healthy dose of scepticism in many an EU member state—and even by the American president, despite his incessant calls for more equitable burden-sharing. 55  Macron (2017a), emphasis added. The speech in the original French reads as follows: “Comme je l’ai assumé à chaque instant devant les Français, je le dis aujourd’hui avec une conviction intacte: l’Europe que nous connaissons est trop faible, trop lente, trop inefficace, mais l’Europe seule peut nous donner une capacité d’action dans le monde, face aux grands défis contemporains. L’Europe seule peut, en un mot, assurer une souveraineté réelle, c’est-à-dire notre capacité à exister dans le monde actuel pour y défendre nos valeurs et nos intérêts. Il y a une souveraineté européenne à construire, et il y a la nécessité de la construire. Pourquoi? Parce que ce qui constitue, ce qui forge notre identité profonde, cet équilibre de valeur, ce rapport à la liberté, aux Droits de l’Homme, à la justice est inédit sur la Planète” Macron (2017b).



The European Union seems to have realised, at least in its official documentation, what inherent difficulties the imposition of liberal values, and an order informed by them, may spell to those whose values remain fundamentally different. Different contexts and constellations require different policy measures; a sense of realpolitik and pragmatism needs to prevail in relations with other states and regions—or of what Joris Larik calls “nuance”.56 The new catchword to be promoted is therefore “resilience”, defined as “the ability of states and societies to reform, thus withstanding and recovering from internal and external crises”.57 The European Union’s framework of action thus comprises multilateral cooperation in terms of resilience and realpolitik instead of a full-hearted agenda of global competition. The Global Strategy formulates this trust towards resilience in an unequivocal manner: Together with its partners, the EU will […] promote resilience in its surrounding regions. A resilient state is a secure state, and security is key for prosperity and democracy. But the reverse holds true as well. To ensure sustainable security, it is not only state institutions that we will support. Echoing the Sustainable Development Goals, resilience is a broader concept, encompassing all individuals and the whole of society. A resilient society featuring democracy, trust in institutions, and sustainable development lies at the heart of a resilient state.58

It is worth noting that the European Union’s self-image has traditionally been that of a provider of opportunities to the individuals—of positive individual freedom, one might add. It seems that this traditional liberal-­ positive idea also pertains to the current talk on resilience, or at least it is possible to identify a bottom-up (rather than systemic) emphasis in terms of how society is generally being understood; this reflects, perhaps, an underlying idea of socio-institutional freedom. The European Consensus on Development of 2017, effectively an extension of the Global Strategy, reiterates the Union’s basic adherence to resilience—for example “support to resilience at all levels” and “fostering a dynamic and multidimensional approach to resilience”59—but it also includes several lists of individual-­ level pledges of benevolence drafted in terms of what has often been called the capability approach.60 For example:  Larik (2018).  EEAS (2016), 24. 58  Ibid., 23–24. 59  European Commission (2017), §9. 60  For example, Ibrahim (2006). 56 57



The European Union and its Member States will implement a rights-­based approach to development cooperation, encompassing all human rights. They will promote inclusion and participation, non-discrimination, equality and equity, transparency and accountability. The European Union and its Member States will continue to play a key role in ensuring that no-­one is left behind, wherever people live and regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation and gender identity, migration status or other factors. This approach includes addressing the multiple discriminations faced by vulnerable people and marginalised groups.61

The realpolitik of resilience and cooperation—flexible cooperation—is not meant to be altruistic in any sense, of course; it is designed to serve the long-term interests of European citizens. No wonder, then, that there is currently a lively debate whether we need to see this type of resilience-talk as a novel mode of neo-liberal neo-colonialism, or whether it truly represents an unprecedented turn in defining the relations between the West and “the Rest”, something which can be combined with resistance (against, for instance, unfair global conditions).62 Federica Mogherini has repeatedly made a point about this non-altruism, while also emphasising the Union’s possible role as a kind of powerful assistant in world affairs: So we are there in difficult times. We are there in positive times, we are there when it is a matter of investing in infrastructures or in difficult institutional reforms, or in difficult judiciary reforms, or in difficult political transitions. And the list could continue, case by case, capital by capital. Because we know, as Europeans, that it is when we invest in peace, cooperation, good neighbourly relations that our people are better off. This is simply our experience inside the European Union and it is quite easy and simple: it is only sometimes difficult to remind ourselves in these difficult times. This is the European way in this new reality. Where others see fault lines and spheres of influence, we try to bridge differences and create spaces for win-win solutions and cooperation.63

Whereas the European Union rhetorically wishes to “stand by” its partners, all possible partners, and thus shows respect to local ways of life, the unfolding changes in the international (geo)strategic environment have led the United States to underscore unhindered access to the global arenas upon which a functioning and open inter- and transnational order depends.  European Commission (2017), §16.  For example, Bourbeau and Caitlin (2018) and Mckeown and Glenn (2017). 63  Mogherini (2017). 61 62



This sentiment of maintaining systemic freedom on a grand, global scale was succinctly enshrined in Barack Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy under the rubric of “shared spaces”: The world is connected by shared spaces—cyber, space, air, and oceans— that enable the free flow of people, goods, services, and ideas. They are the arteries of the global economy and civil society, and access is at risk due to increased competition and provocative behaviors. Therefore, we will continue to promote rules for responsible behavior while making sure we have the capabilities to assure access to these shared spaces.64

The United States, the hegemon, wants to stand in the centre of these spaces, on the podium in fact—and from there fundamentally shape them. This also means retaining the ability, the positive freedom, to gain access for oneself and grant others the same possibilities.65 The Obama administration, moreover, insisted that ensuring sustainable and unimpeded use of these arenas would necessitate a mixture of multilevel collaboration with actors beyond and below the state, as well as a willingness to engage in “rules-based” contestation with “emerging powers”.66 In fact, the notion of a renegotiated (liberal) international order, where China and perhaps even Russia should ultimately assume the role of stakeholder, remained part of US foreign-policy discourse until the end of the Obama era, although in increasingly tenuous coexistence with less benign interpretations of Beijing’s and especially Moscow’s international conduct.67 This approach may have represented a vision of non-domination, one that  Obama (2015), 12, emphasis added.  This is compatible with its predominant post-Second World War grand-strategic leitmotif, namely that “deep engagement” with the world serves US interests (Brooks and Wohlforth 2016). 66  Obama (2015), 7, 29; see also U.S. Department of State (2015), 9. 67  Cf. Obama (2016a); Goldberg (2016). America’s China policy, for instance, has, for the better part of the post-Cold War era, been beset by a dilemma. On the one hand, it has been deemed important to pursue deepened immersion of China into the institutions of the liberal international order. On the other hand, there has always been an element of fear in the background, a fear that China might use that very immersion to grow powerful and seek to overthrow the incumbent hegemon, along with the order that the United States has fostered since the end of the Second World War. See for example de Graaff and Van Apeldoorn (2018); Campbell and Ratner (2018); and Foreign Affairs (2018). With respect to Russia, each US president since the end of the Cold War has arguably entered office with the wish to improve relations—none of them has succeeded due to a confluence of divergent interests, worldviews and perceptions between Washington and Moscow. Katz (2018). 64 65



pertained to both regional constellations (e.g. the Asia Pacific or Europe) and the global level (e.g. systems of economic exchange or the high seas). The strategic documents produced by Donald Trump’s national security team have, unsurprisingly, shifted US preoccupations further away from the realm of norm-bounded cooperation towards strategic competition—a state of affairs that the administration has claimed to “embrace”.68 The January 2018 synopsis of the National Defense Strategy lays out the logic of US global engagement in the Trump era in terms of perceived threats to systemic freedom: The National Defense Strategy acknowledges an increasingly complex global security environment, characterized by overt challenges to the free and open international order and the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition between nations. These changes require a clear-eyed appraisal of the threats we face, acknowledgement of the changing character of warfare, and a transformation of how the Department conducts business. The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by […] revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.69

The National Security Strategy published in December 2017 is similarly blunt regarding the threats that the United States faces. The document places great stress on great-power dynamics but also singles out “rogue regimes”, “transnational threat groups”, “jihadist terrorists” and “criminal organizations” as further perils. The challenges posed by these manifold (and multifaceted) actors are framed in the language of freedom, this time of the individual variety: While these challenges differ in nature and magnitude, they are fundamentally contests between those who value human dignity and freedom and those who oppress individuals and enforce uniformity. These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades— policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.70  McMaster and Cohn (2017).  Mattis (2018), 2, emphasis added. 70  Trump (2017a), 3. 68 69



In this vein, the administration perceives the world in dualistic terms, as “[a] geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order”71 and also derides the wisdom of “liberal-democratic enlargement and inclusion” adhered to by Trump’s predecessors, so-called globalists.72 On occasion, the president has even framed this all-embracing liberal internationalist agenda as a threat to the preservation of American identity and, more broadly, Western civilisation.73 Fear, but not a liberalism of fear, becomes an indispensable starting point of politics. When thinking in terms of freedom, it is also noteworthy that unlike the 2015 NSS, the 2017 document speaks of “domains” instead of “shared spaces”. This terminological reframing may constitute more than a mere rhetorical shift; it appears symptomatic of a different vein of thinking about global order. In a world of zero-sum games and “America First”, competing for access to delineated domains—land, air, maritime, space and cyberspace—becomes the sine qua non.74 In this reading, ensuring free access is less and less a shared or pooled responsibility. Instead, various manifestations of freedom (of navigation, of trade, of movement etc.) are framed as goods that the blatantly self-interested hegemon provides of its own volition and is, in extremis, willing to render excludable. Distributing access to domains and controlling the global flows that enable states to exercise power across space and time should allow the United States to retain its position as the sole global superpower into the foreseeable future.75 Such practices of restricting access are by no means novel, but the Trump administration might be willing to go further than its predecessors in imposing control over vital choke points. Here it is evident that America’s pursuit of freedom, of non-interference, may serve to produce profound unfreedom for others.

Conclusion The reflections above show how different understandings of freedom (possibly) inform new turns, new propositions, in the foreign policies of the European Union and the United States, often in connection with or  Ibid., 45.  Ibid., 27; Trump (2018). 73  Trump (2017c); see also Chap. 8. 74  Raik et al. (2018), 15–22. 75  On the notion of global flows and their relevance for US power, see Aaltola et al. (2014). 71 72



through such elementary categories of human political life (and transatlantic relations) as security and identity. The new emphasis on sovereignty, easily identifiable on both sides of the Atlantic although with dissimilar connotations, is a paramount manifestation of the centrality of freedom for both these actors. The implications of this are not necessarily positive: if great powers overly emphasise sovereignty, one becomes sceptical about the possibilities of finding global governance solutions to the pressing common challenges humanity currently faces. Two particular differences in terms of freedom conceptions are worth replicating, however. First of all, the United States, at least with Trump at the helm, sees the politics of the world through the lenses of non-­ interference. The European Union instead, true to post-Cold War transatlantic multilateral consensus, promotes a world based on non-domination. Secondly, the European Union’s rhetoric is clearly less systemic than that of the United States, the latter having a distinct mental map of global strategic competition. In many contexts, for example in its development work, the Union embraces an individualist and/or socio-institutional freedom agenda; its view on society follows a bottom-up logic. This difference may of course simply be owing to the fact that the European Union’s relations with the world have always been reactive rather than transformative or productive; the Union has, in other words, had a much more limited space of manoeuvrability than the United States. The hegemon, by virtue of its enviable position in the international power hierarchy, not only possesses a more global gaze, it also has greater ability than any other international actor to upend hitherto accepted practices and the normative frameworks that structure the global arena. It may be that these differences are also related to, in one way or the other, the sense of fear that these actors recognise. In the case of the European Union of the 2010s, the prevailing insistence on a multilateral global order founded on the rule of law may be seen as an echo of the anti-­utopian, technocratic liberalism of fear that underlined the structuration of the European political system during the post-Cold War decades. A rule-based liberal order still represents the ultimate guarantee against the evil, against overly large concentrations of power and ideology. President Trump’s desire for shelter against diffusions that emanate from the global arena, whether in the form of people, products or even principles, reflects a qualitatively different fear, a fear that flows of inclusion dilute the American (and Western) “self” as an ontological, identity-­ political category.



Finally, although there is no doubt that various categories of freedom in many respects still bind these two polities together, it is evident that the use of the notion of consensual hegemony is no longer justified. Instead, the European Union clearly aspires towards a more balanced relationship with the world outside, the United States included. The objectives of the Union’s articulated policies, in fact, point to what we would like to name proportionate hegemony, a system where the dominant powers non-­hypocritically act in the name of the global good. The United States, by contrast, seems, at least for the time being, to be heading in a different direction. Its global engagement is increasingly premised on a sovereign, even solitary, existence in a dangerous world, where strategic competition between actors within different domains represents the new order of the day. Of course, the perseverance of this type of an aloof approach is contingent upon the ebb and flow of America’s electoral politics. It seems increasingly likely that the oscillation between more and less engaged global postures—and, by implication, between prevalent understandings of what it means to be free and to promote freedom—will become more pronounced. It is not impossible that some years down the line, Europe and America will find common cause, united in freedom and together aspiring for a shared proportionate hegemony.

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Macron, Emmanuel. 2017a. Speech on New Initiative for Europe. Élysée, September 26. president-macron-gives-speech-on-new-initiative-for-europe.en. ———. 2017b. Initiative pour l’Europe  – Discours d’Emmanuel Macron pour une Europe souveraine, unie, démocratique. Élysée, September 26. https:// Mahbubani, Kishore. 2018. Has the West Lost It? A Provocation. London: Penguin. Maier, Charles S. 1977. The Politics of Productivity: Foundations of American International Economic Policy After World War II. International Organization 31 (4): 607–633. Mattis, Jim. 2018. Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge. U.S. Department of Defense. pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. Mayer, Hartmut. 2006. The ‘Mutual’, ‘Shared’ and ‘Dual’ Responsibility of the West: The EU and the US in a Sustainable Transatlantic Alliance. In A Responsible Europe? Ethical Foundations of EU External Affairs, ed. Henri Vogt and Hartmut Mayer, 57–75. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Mckeown, Anthony, and John Glenn. 2017. The Rise of Resilience After the Financial Crises: A Case of Neoliberalism Rebooted? Review of International Studies 44 (2): 193–214. McMaster, H.R., and Gary D. Cohn. 2017. America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone. The Wall Street Journal, May 30. Merkel, Angela. 2018a. Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Reception for the Diplomatic Corps in Meseberg on 6 July 2018. Bundesregierung, July 6. ———. 2018b. Merkel: Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel beim Jahresempfang für das Diplomatische Corps am 6. Juli 2018. Bundeskanzlerin, July 6. https:// Mogherini, Federica. 2017. Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the 2017 Bled Strategic Forum. European External Action Service, September 4. ———. 2018. Speech by HR/VP Mogherini at the Annual EU Ambassadors Conference 2018. European External Action Service, September 3. https://


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They Hate Our Freedoms: Homosexuality and Islam in the Tolerant West Roderick McGlynn

In the April 2012 elections, the National Front took almost 26% of the vote from gay Parisians—ten points more than their heterosexual counterparts—after promising to defend gay citizens from the threat of a homophobic Islam. This is part of a growing trend across the West, where the language of liberalism—of tolerance and individual freedom—is used to further decidedly anti-liberal ideas. This trend is a new retelling of a story as old as the West itself, one which uses sexuality to construct a culturally inferior ‘Orient’ and to recreate the East/West binary which have long been fundamental tropes of Western imperialism. This chapter begins with an exploration of Western narratives of progress and goes on to explore how discourses of tolerance towards homosexuality are used across the world to construct and shape the boundaries of belonging between East and West. The binary between homosexuality and Islam forms a key part of this discourse in Western Europe and the United States in the years after 9/11, where the trope has been successfully used to shore up support for nationalist political movements, which have adopted the language of liberalism to pursue decidedly illiberal aims. In August 2018, as part of a public debate about the place of the burqa in British public life, Conservative Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries tweeted that ‘you cannot expect a society that celebrates gay pride and R. McGlynn (*) University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




embraces gay marriage to live harmoniously when condoning the suppression of women forced to cover up’.1 Dorries voted against marriage equality at every possible opportunity and in 2012 called it a ‘divisive’ idea pursued by ‘metro elite gay activists’ and called for the policy to be ‘put into the bin’.2 Dorries’ changing relationship to the gay community is not unique. Across the West, public figures and politicians who have spent careers arguing against equalising the age of consent, marriage equality and same-­ sex adoption have become increasingly vocal supporters of gay rights. Like Dorries, this support often arises during conversations about the role of Islam in the West and references Islam’s intolerance towards homosexuality. This chapter explores how this tolerance, invoked in opposition to the ‘liberal West’, is selectively policed to create and shape a non-Western Other in the guise the homophobic Muslim. It illustrates how the complex histories of in/tolerance towards homosexuality are overlooked and replaced with the myth of a tolerant, liberal West and an intolerant—and therefore conflicting—Islam. In doing so, this chapter traces the shifting foundations of the West and the ever-changing values which constitute it. Gender equality has long dominated discussions of Huntington’s much-contested ‘Clash of Civilisations’ theory. However, in recent years, scholars have noticed a new kind of public attention towards gay rights.3 Acceptance of homosexuality (or, more accurately, passive tolerance thereof) has become a defining feature of Western modernity and a totemic representation of ‘liberalism’s most cherished values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity’.4 However, these values are rather new additions to our understanding of liberalism, an ideology which historically has been more closely linked with the rights to ‘life, liberty and estate’ as originally described by John Locke in the seventeenth century.5 While tolerance has been a part of the liberal lexicon since the time of John Stuart Mill a century later, acceptance of women’s rights and gay rights are increasingly described in political and journalistic rhetoric as core tenets of liberalism in the twenty-first century as the clash of civilisations is reimagined following the attacks of 9/11.  Dorries (2018).  Dorries (2012). 3  Puar and Rai (2002); Duggan (2004); Puar (2007); Haritaworn et al. (2008) and Butler (2008). 4  Quoted in Poorthuis and Wansink (2002) and Bellafante (2018). 5  Locke (2003) [1689], 67. 1 2



However, while the terms of debate have changed, the narrative remains the same. The deviant sexual desires of the Orient of old were key to the civilisational discourses that placed the West as morally and culturally superior. In the West today, the inclusion of certain queer bodies into the fold of the nation allows for the promulgation of discourses of moral and cultural superiority vis-à-vis the homophobic Other. In pre-modern times, ‘the Orient’ was a place where lust and desire could be given free rein; the modern Other to the East is sexually repressed. The terms of deviance have reversed but the story remains the same. The West is modern, developed and ‘civilised’; the East is trapped by tradition, morally and culturally lacking, and ‘barbaric’. This false binary has allowed for certain actors in the West to construct Islam as an existential threat to the freedoms that gay people in the West enjoy today. The opposition between homosexuality and Islam is especially harmful given that neither are homogenous, fixed entities. Islam is, ‘what Muslims define and practice as Islamic at a certain place and at a certain time’—a delicate mix of a numerous of spatial, temporal and individual factors and certainly not a monolithic entity.6 Sexuality is the same. Just as Islam is better understood as a mosaic than a monolith, so too with (homo)sexuality. It is not some kind of natural given, but rather a historical construct specific to each time and place.7 The Ancient Greeks would not have called themselves homosexuals; neither would many people who practice same-­ sex sexual intercourse in the contemporary non-Western world. I use the words ‘homosexuality’ and ‘Islam’ throughout this chapter not to ignore this fact but to attempt to establish a common thread across the globe and across centuries as I attempt to trace how the queer body has historically been a sight of cultural contestation between East and West. In the past, the Orient was the land of ‘sexual promise, […] untiring sensuality, unlimited desire’, a marker of barbarity which served to reinforce Western civilisation narratives.8 Today, an idealised tolerance of gay citizens has become a key marker of modernity in the West and has become an ‘optic, and an operative technology’ in the production and disciplining of Muslim Others.9 Just as liberal Western tolerance is an idealised construct rather than a fundamental truth, Islam is not inherently  Krämer (1999), 25–26.  Halperin (1989) and d’Emilio (1993). 8  Said, Orientalism (2003), 190. 9  Puar (2007), xiii. 6 7



­ omophobic—there is a rich history of the celebration of same-sex desire h in the mediaeval Islam world. Sexuality has, however, long been a vehicle for value contestation between East and West. In May 2018, Malaysia’s newly elected President Mahathir Mohamad vowed to take a stand against the tolerance of homosexuality in Malaysia as part of a wider stand against the creep of Western values into the country’s society, stating his disappointment that ‘sometimes Asians will accept western values without questioning’.10 Across the non-Western world, homosexuality is widely seen as a Western import: 47% of Egyptians surveyed in 2016 and 46% of Saudi Arabians agreed that ‘same-sex desire is a Western World phenomenon’.11 In many non-Western countries, to reject homosexuality is to reject Western values. However, to place homosexuality and Islam in binary opposition to each other is simply ahistorical, erasing the infinite ways that people have lived and loved within and between these two identities. Indeed, the Orientalist project relies on collapsing multiple identities into one homogenous, ‘knowable’ whole. Much of the secondary literature, from the nineteenth century to today, conflates Arab with Middle Eastern with Muslim with Other. When I refer to these sources, it is not to agree with this conflation. It is instead to make use of the very limited academic resources concerning Islam and homosexuality. They are overwhelmingly produced in the Western academy and the knowledge created there regarding the Orient/Middle East/Islam is often ahistorical, inaccurate and politically problematic. Likewise, when I speak of ‘the Orient’, it is not to attempt to describe a geographic location, but rather to describe a part of the Western imaginary which—like ‘Muslim’ today—acts as a placeholder for the unknown. ‘The West’ is similarly an intangible and unknowable descriptor, and Islam is a rich and diverse theological tradition spanning centuries and continents. To attempt a comprehensive survey of the past and present relations between these two markers would be impossible. Instead, this chapter explores the relationship between Islam and the West through a series of snapshots, from nineteenth-century Iran to twenty-first-century Germany, and suggests that two such malleable identities could never be inherently incompatible; they are constantly in flux and are reimagined as new political configurations emerge.  Marlow and Thanthong-Knight (2018).  International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (2016).

10 11



Islam today does not represent an existential threat to gay people in the West. There is, however, a growing threat which does threaten the foundations upon which the liberal West is built. Far-right, decidedly anti-­ liberal actors now couch their views in the language of the liberalism, as ethnic nationalists across Europe and the United States have increasingly come to weaponise ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ in their war on Islam. Far from being threatened by barbarians at the borders, the crisis of the modern West comes from within.

Liberalism, Tolerance and Western Modernity ‘Progress is with the West’, wrote British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in 1908. A century later, these words were echoed by the former Editor-in-­ Chief of The Economist, when he wrote that ‘to be Western has meant to be at the forefront of science, social change, of culture, of affluence, of influence, of power in all its forms’.12 For its inhabitants, the West has always been synonymous with progress, civilisation and modernity. Modernity today is signified by the acceptance of liberal democracy which Fukuyama famously deemed ‘the end of history’—the apex of civilisation which the West had reached and which the rest would eventually attain. Modern liberalism, as described by John Stuart Mill, is an ideology wherein ‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others…. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign’.13 It is an ideology hallmarked by the principles of pluralism and individual freedom. It is this tolerance which opponents of Islam purport to defend from outside attack. After the attack on the Twin Towers, President Bush gave an address to Congress in which he declared that Al Qaeda ‘hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other’. President Bush went on to declare the fight against the terrorist group as ‘civilization’s fight […] the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom’. His speech was the wellspring for a discussion on Islamic fundamentalism that dominated public and political discussion for years to come. This public conversation, which drew heavily on Orientalist tropes, acted in tandem with practices of racial profiling in the name of anti-­ terrorism to contribute towards the ‘racialization of Islam’, wherein bod Emmot (2017), 2; Balfour (1908).  Mill (2008) [1859], 68–69.

12 13



ies which appeared to be Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian were read as ‘Muslim’.14 Islam became a sweeping identity, occupying the geographic and mental space as ‘the Orient’ of old. ‘Islam’, like ‘the Orient’, came to be a placeholder for difference and the barbarism of the Other. The sudden public and political recognition of Muslims living in the West after 9/11 precipitated a new panic about the clash of values between a tolerant West and an intolerant Islam. The justification for the War on Terror, like all Western incursions into ‘the Orient’, was intimately linked with civilising discourses. Tolerance has become one of the key weapons with which this ideological war is fought and across the West and politicians have weaponised this perceived intolerance to homosexuality to shore up support for anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, ethnic nationalist movements. This is, however, not to suggest that there are no homophobic Muslims. In March 2019, hundreds of Muslim parents in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, signed a petition demanding that their children not be taught about LGBT relationships as part of their school education and decrying the ‘promoting of homosexuality and LGBT ways of life to our children’.15 Similarly, a 2017 survey in the United States found that fewer American Muslims thought homosexuality ‘should be accepted by society’ than the general population, polling at 52% and 63%, respectively.16 However, American Muslims polled at exactly the same rate as their Protestant counterparts, and far above the 34% acceptance rate of evangelical Christians who took part in the survey. Similarly, as discussed in further detail below, in 2014 Christian parents in Germany also petitioned their children’s schools to stop teaching LGBT issues in class. Like tolerance, homophobia is not unique to one group. Instead, far-right, illiberal actors in the West have sought to legitimise their actions by framing all Muslims as uniquely homophobic and, in doing so, frame Islam as incompatible with the tolerant, liberal West.

Gay Men and Islam: The Creation of a Binary The American queer theorist Jasbir Puar argues that the binary between Islam and homosexuality, as two monolithic and opposing identities, came to prominence in the aftermath of the attacks on the Twin Towers.17  Volpp (2002).  Parveen (2019). 16  Pew Research Center (2017). 17  Puar (2007). 14 15



Tolerance of homosexuality, despite its recent ascension to the realms of (relative) acceptability, has become intimately linked to notions of modernity. Indeed, gay rights have only ‘recently and inconsistently become legitimate credentials of modernisation in the West’.18 This inconsistence is key. The boundaries of belonging have been lightly redrawn, welcoming certain queer bodies into the arms of the state. Those queers who seek inclusion within existing political, economic and kinship systems are rewarded with citizenship. This is what Lisa Duggan has termed ‘homonormativity’: a form of neoliberal sexual politics that does not contest dominant assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, as part of an ideology which ‘rhetorically remaps and recodes freedom and liberation in terms of privacy, domesticity, and consumption’.19 It is here that Heidi Nast’s description of a ‘queer patriarchy’ is prescient. She argues that white gay men are unique among queers in their ability to position themselves as the ideal neoliberal citizen, their ability to accumulate capital (and consume) unaffected by economic realities such as racism and the wage gap.20 Nast’s claims are verified by those who would quantify ‘diversity’ and its economic benefits: one article found that ‘the leading indicator of a metropolitan area’s high-technology success is a large gay population’, in a study which defined ‘gay population’ as gay male couples cohabiting in a normative family structure.21 Bruce Bawer, a gay American writer who also authored While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, argues that ‘the lifestyle of mainstream gays is indistinguishable from that of most heterosexual couples in similar professional and economic circumstances’ and Andrew Sullivan— also a white gay writer—argues that what gay and lesbian people really want is simply to be the same as the rest of society.22 Both Sullivan and Bawer take their experience to be the universal experience of homosexuals worldwide. It is this assumption of a universal homosexuality that allows Hilary Clinton to stand before the United Nations Human Rights Council and declare that ‘gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights’. This statement implies that gay people all over the world experience their sexuality in the same way, that  Rahman (2014), 275.  Duggan (2004), 50; Manalansan (2005), 142. 20  Nast (2002). 21  Florida and Gates (2001), 1. 22  Bawer (1993), 33–34; Sullivan (1995). 18 19



they practice and are motivated by the same desires the world over. It is one that suggests gay people, ‘whether white or black, male or female, soldier or civilian, rich or poor, Palestinian or Israeli, can be comprehended and interpolated through the same rights framework’.23 The creation of this universal homonormative citizen—who wants what everyone else wants—involves ‘shoring up of the respectability of homosexual subjects in relation to the performative reiteration of the pathologised perverse sexuality of racial others’.24 The homonormative citizen is folded into the nation, creating the space for gay rights discourses to be used to position the West as exceptional vis-à-vis an uncivilised Other. The intrusion of the uncivilised Other into the West is then figured as an existential threat to its foundational values. Homonationalism, as defined by Puar, is ‘a facet of modernity and a historical shift marked by the entrance of (some) homosexual bodies as worthy of protection by nation-states’.25 This new benevolence is contingent upon, among other things, gender and kinship normativity and consumption capabilities. Puar goes on to argue that the recognition and inclusion of the homonormative subject is ‘contingent upon the segregation and disqualification of racial and sexual others from the national imaginary’.26 Homonationalism is, as all nationalisms, an exclusionary discourse, only offered to the ‘good gays’. However, this identity is taken as universal, as seen with Florida and Gates’ conflation of ‘gay male couples in a metropolitan area’ with a ‘gay population’. This conception of a universal homosexuality in the shape of homosexuality as it experienced by the homonormative Western subject is essential to the homonational project. It creates and sustains the age-old tropes of the West as a land of modernity, with non-Western sexualities positioned as somehow ‘backward’ and primitive rather than simply different. Discourses of gay rights, built on exclusionary terms, are now used to shore up Orientalist fantasises of non-Western intolerance towards homosexuality, ignoring the violence and intolerance that many gay (and transgender) citizens still face within the West’s borders. In a post-9/11 world, homophobia has been portrayed as one of many ways in which the Muslim world is not just different to, but lesser than,  Mikdashi (2011).  Puar (2013b), 23–43. 25  Puar (2013a), 336–339. 26  Puar in Kuntsman and Miyake (2008), 14. 23 24



the West; one 2002 paper produced at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard argued that ‘the cultural gulf separating Islam from the West involves Eros far more than Demos’.27 The reasons offered for this gap are plenty. One typical example argues that economic development and political stability are the defining societal characteristics which determine how public opinion is shaped towards non-normative groups: the ‘Muslim world’ is often less economically developed than the West and therefore tends towards intolerance.28 Another argument is that the relationship between socioeconomic development and democracy creates the conditions for the acceptance of homosexuality.29 These arguments are more nuanced than ‘Islam is inherently homophobic’ yet still place Muslim societies temporally behind the West and construct them as societies playing catch-up to ‘evolve’ to supposed Western values of tolerance and acceptance. This position is also echoed by non-Western LGBT activists: one Singaporean campaigner noted that ‘the western world … finds it hard to comprehend how backward we are when it comes to LGBT and human rights’.30 Nonetheless, these statements themselves serve to buttress conceptions of Western modernity, temporally ahead of the rest of the world.

Homonationalism in Western Europe After the United States, there is perhaps no country in the West which, in the aftermath of the attacks on the Twin Towers, so strongly cast Islam as an existential threat to its values as the Netherlands.31 The gay identity in the Netherlands today is one of world’s most mainstream and socially and politically integrated. The Dutch sociologist Jan Duyvendak argues that this is in part due to Dutch political reactions to the AIDS epidemic, a point in history where the Western gay identity as we know it today began to crystallise. For Dutch gay people, the campaign against AIDS was waged in consultation with the gay population and as a result a radical politics never emerged. Instead, they have a ‘gay and lesbian movement [which] has accommodated itself to the parameters of the political, cultural and power balance’ almost since its inception.32  Norris and Inglehart (2002).  Inglehart and Welzel (2005); Inglehart and Baker (2000). 29  Andersen and Fetner (2008). 30  Quoted in Mosbergen (2015). 31  Mepschen et al. (2010), 963. 32  Schuyf and Krouwel (1999). 27 28



This history paved the way for Pim Fortuyn: the gay sociology professor who made his way into politics on anti-immigration platform, famous for his repeated statement that ‘I refuse to start again with the emancipation of women and gays’.33 Fortuyn hailed ‘tolerance and permissiveness as the great glories of western civilisation’ and repeatedly warned the Dutch public that Islam was an existential threat to the liberal West.34 It has been further argued that gay rights discourses achieved such popularity in the Netherlands because gay men—as unattached and autonomous subjects—represent the ‘ideal citizen of neoliberal modernity’.35 Pim Fortuyn utilised his homosexuality to present himself as the embodiment of the nation and positioned both as under attack from Islam. In France too, rather than acting as ‘dissenting, resistant, and alternative’, the gay community has instead come to underpin dominant political formations.36 French gay liberation narratives have long drawn on the national tradition of republican universalism. French gay organisations, such as AIDES, founded in 1985 by Daniel Defert after the death of his partner, Michel Foucault, ‘persisted in regarding their action as removed from any element of gay activism and, in good republican tradition, without any reference to a so-called homosexual identity’.37 SOS Homophobie, one of France’s biggest LGBT organisations, states in its aims that ‘it is only about bringing respect of human beings and equal rights, not to promote particular rights’.38 From its inception, the French gay movement fought not for liberation, but for tolerance—the supposed birthright of Western citizens. Today, this fight has come at the expense of a racialised Other. In 2012, sociologist Éric Fassin wrote that France is not the Netherlands. There, the supposed homophobia of migrants is a reason to close the door to them. Sarkozy has never used gay rights to draw a line between ‘us’ and ‘them’—we should not over exaggerate the homonational phenomenon in France.39

Much has changed since then. Today, the National Rally (formerly the National Front) polls almost ten points higher among gay Parisians than  Fortuyn in Poorthuis and Wansink (2002).  Chanellor (2002). 35  Mepschen et al. (2010), 970. 36  Puar (2007), 205. 37  Fillieule and Duyvendak (1999), 195. 38  Charter of Intervention, quoted in Dard-Dascot (2012). 39  Fassin in Birnbaum (2012). 33 34



their heterosexual counterparts. The party’s former leader, Jean Marine Le Pen, was a vocal homophobe who declared on national television in 1982 that homosexuality was a ‘biological and social anomaly’ and who was ultimately expelled from the party in 2011 for repeated Holocaust denial. His daughter Marine, who took up her father’s mantle, has aggressively courted groups—including Jewish people and gay people—that were once historic enemies of the National Rally. She has done so by promising them tolerance, promising them protection from an intolerant Islam. In doing so, the National Rally has drawn gay people into the arms of the ethno-­ nationalist state at the expense of a racialised Other. This was not done without collaborators. The strategic director of Le Pen’s 2011 Presidential campaign, Florian Philpott, is gay, as is her former Chief Strategist, Sébastien Chenu. Following the murder of 49 people in a gay club in Florida by a self-professed follower of ISIS, Chenu stated that Islam is a fundamentally intolerant and homophobic religion that represents an existential threat to the freedoms that the West is built on.40 Chenu was far from alone in his beliefs. A 2017 poll by Hornet, a dating app for gay men, found that almost half of respondents under 30 intended to support Le Pen in that year’s Presidential election.41 One gay voter in Paris, interviewed by the Associated Press, explained that ‘faced with the current threats, particularly from radical Islam, gays have realized they’ll be the first victims of these barbarians, and only Marine is proposing radical solutions’.42 Not only has tolerance of homosexuality come to represent a liberal, ‘civilised’ society, like in the Netherlands, it has also become increasingly co-opted by far-right actors in their war on Islam. The increasing promulgation of gay men (and very rarely women) as leading figures in far-right movements has, like in France, led to tolerance of homosexuality becoming lauded in illiberal circles in words, if not in actions (Le Pen’s manifesto promises to abolish gay marriage). Instead, homosexuality has become a rhetorical tool, which calls upon liberal ideas of tolerance to figure Islam as an existential threat to the West. Why then, do gay men in the West both lead and follow these movements? Gay men have previously been documented participants in movements which would seem hostile to them. The most infamous of these is perhaps  Parrot (2017).  Howell (2017). 42  Adamson (2017). 40 41



Ernst Röhm, an early Nazi and head of the Sturmabteilung whose homosexuality was an open secret until his murder during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. However, the shift in the twenty-first century has seen gay men take part in illiberal movements not despite being gay, but because they are gay. After the attacks of 9/11, political and journalistic rhetoric seized upon the Taliban’s treatment of women to justify the War on Terror, with First Lady Laura Bush stating in 2001 that ‘the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women’. Since the attacks, human rights discourses have underpinned Western portrayals of its enemy to the east—whether the Taliban specifically or Islam more generally. In whatever form it is mobilised, the ‘enemy to the east’ is figured as a threat to liberal values and therefore to the freedom of gay people to live freely in the West. The far-right has exploited these discourses for its own gain. By drawing upon gay rights discourses, far-right actors are able to simultaneously increase their support among a new constituency while detoxifying their image among the general public. This approach has worked. In May 2018, the British newspaper The Sunday Times published an article under the headline ‘Heil Hipsters!’ in which it described how the British far-right ‘are rebranding with skinny jeans, trainers and honeyed words’.43 The language of hatred has been left in the twentieth century. Instead, far-right groups speak of their desire to protect the liberal order, to protect women and gay people, to protect the West from an external, intolerant threat. In stoking intolerance under the pretence of fighting for tolerance, the far-right poses a far bigger threat to the West than anything outside it.

Homosexuality and Islam Outside the West, opposition to homosexuality has become a means of creating and affirming an identity distinct from the West.44 Indeed, in numerous Middle Eastern states, homosexuality is perceived as a ‘western import’ which threatens the social and moral order. Like Western perceptions of homosexuality and Islam as inherently incompatible, this does not stand up to historical scrutiny—the silence surrounding sexuality in the modern Middle East is a far cry from the scientific, legal and cultural

 Gilligan (2018).  Katerina Dalacoura (2014).

43 44



engagement in earlier centuries.45 However, homosexuality in the Middle East has become a means of cultural contestation—to reject homosexuality is to reject Western modernity and claim a modernity of one’s own. While Islam has been portrayed as monolithically homophobic by both those who would seek to shore up Western identity and by those who would seek to exclude a racialised Other, the reality is rather more complex than these Orientalist fantasies would portray. The study of sexuality in the Arab-Islamic world today is a complex one, not least because of its ethnic, linguistic and political diversity. The ‘Middle East’ is a vast geographic region which cannot easily be described (accurately), and one which boasts of a complex history. Likewise, sexuality cannot easily be translated outside of its cultural context. For this reason, I do not attempt to speak for the Middle East, the Arab-Islamic world or Islam as a whole, but rather to suggest a general trend for the region through a snapshot of the past and present states of homosexuality in two different Muslim-­ majority states: Iran and Egypt. The two were chosen for their different histories with relation to the West, their present and past relationship with homosexuality, as well as a generous range of English-language scholarship about the relationship between Islam and same-sex desire within the countries. Homosexuality has long been a means of cultural contestation. One Orientalist travel writer in the seventeenth century noted his disgust at the licentiousness he saw during his travels in Algiers, writing that This horrible sin of Sodomy is so far from being punish’d amongst them, that it is part of their ordinary Discourse to boast of their detestable Actions of that kind. ‘Tis common for Men to fall in Love with Boys, as ‘tis here in England to be in Love with Women.46

While these encounters were often sensationalised to exaggerate the uncivility of the Orient, the sentiments were corroborated by Muslim travellers to Europe, who expressed surprise that ‘flirtation, romance and courtship for them take place only with women, for they are not inclined to boys or young men. Rather, that is extremely disgraceful to them’.47 While Khaled El-Rouayheb, in his seminal history of same-sex desire in  Dialmy and Uhlmann (2005), 16.  Pitts, quoted in El-Royhayeb (2005), 123. 47  al-Saffar, quoted in El-Royhayeb (2005), 123. 45 46



the pre-modern Arab-Islamic world, argues that although the concept of homosexuality did not then exist, there is much evidence to suggest that the Arab-Islamic world was a (relatively) tolerant place for non-­heterosexual desire.48 Today—despite many documented histories of same-sex desire in the Islamic world—the view in many modern Muslim societies is that homosexuality is incompatible with the faith.49 Because of this belief, gay people face extreme prejudice in many Middle Eastern countries. In 2007, Iranian President Ahmadinejad went as far as to declare that ‘in Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in [the United States]. We don’t have that in our country’.50 Ahmadinejad’s claim is a far cry from Iran’s relationship with gender and sexuality in the nineteenth century. The queer historian Afsaneh Najimabadi’s history of the Qajar period (1785–1925) documents how gender and sexuality were increasingly influenced by the West and how, by the end of the nineteenth century, queerness had come to be reviled by elite Iranians in the same way Europeans did.51 She notes the effect that Christian Orientalist writers had on elite urban men, who began to disavow and deny same-sex practices as they became acutely aware that ‘Europeans considered love and sex between older and younger men as prevalent in Iran and that they considered it a vice’.52 The disavowal of same-sex practices led to the adoption of the Western ontological distinction between homo- and heterosexuality as two binary identities. During this period, mediaeval Islamic discourses on sexual practices were selectively dropped and partially replaced by ­adaptations of European medical treatises.53 In Iran today, homosexuality is criminalised and sodomy is punishable by death. In 2005, the criminalisation of homosexuality in Iran was the source of a global campaign after two young men were convicted and hanged for raping a 13-year-old boy. Human Rights Watch issued a statement stating that The bulk of evidence suggests that the youths were tried on allegations of raping a 13-year-old, with the suggestion that they were tried for consensual

 El-Royhayeb (2005).  Babayan and Najmabadi (2008); McDonnel (2010). 50  Quoted in Washington Post (2007). 51  Najmabadi (2005a). 52  Ibid., 80–97. 53  Najmabadi (2005b). 48 49



homosexual conduct seemingly based almost entirely on mistranslations and on cursory news reporting magnified by the Western press.54

Nonetheless, Peter Tatchell and the British gay rights group, OutRage!, alleged that the two teenagers were arrested for consensual sex and started a campaign to condemn Iran for its treatment of homosexuality. Faisal Alam—director of Al-Faitha, a support organisation run by and for queer Muslims—noted that three ‘homosexual’ Nigerian men were stoned to death earlier that year without any such indignation.55 Instead, the fixation on Iranian homophobia forms part of a wider discourse which produces an imagined liberal West and intolerant Islam. Like Iran, Egypt today has a fraught relationship with homosexuality. It is de facto illegal in the country, and 95% of the population believe it should not be accepted.56 However, like Iran, same-sex desire was part of Egyptian society before the nineteenth century, with one European traveller in 1801 noting that, The passion contrary to nature, […] the inconceivable appetite which dishonoured the Greeks […] constitute the delight, or to use a juster term, the infamy of the Egyptians. It is not for the women that their amorous ditties are composed: it is not on them that tender caresses are lavished.57

Political attitudes have shifted in Egypt as they have in Iran. In May 2001, Egyptian police raided a gay party boat, arresting 52 men. Domestic press coverage focused on the main defendants’ travels to Europe and Israel, playing on the belief among many Egyptians that homosexuality is a Western phenomenon.58 Sexual identities and identities are ‘an arena of constant surveillance and control’ and, with elections looming in November, the clampdown offered the government an opportunity to perform its ‘Egyptianness’.59 It was the most highly publicised crackdown on same-sex practices in an Arab country, with international media using the case ‘to make pronouncements on the overall situation of same-sex practices in Arab and Islamic countries’.60  Quoted in Puar (2007), 17.  Alam (2005). 56  Pew Research Center (2013). 57  Sonnini, quoted in El-Royhayeb, Before Homosexuality: 251–252. 58  Dawoud (2001). 59  Altman (2001), 2. 60  Awwad (2010), 318–336. 54 55



Though today, there are numerous cases of intolerance towards homosexuality among Muslims in the West and Middle East, this is not inherent to the faith. Instead, the state’s relationship to homosexuality offers the change to stake a claim to their own version of modernity. Today, the West portrays itself as a tolerant society in which homosexuality is protected and individuals are free to live as they please. However, in a West where 30% of French people surveyed in 2006 said that they would not want a homosexual neighbour, this tolerance seems somewhat misplaced.61 As well as being uneven across the West today, tolerance of gay men in the West was nowhere to be seen in the late twentieth century.

Homosexuality and the West The story of the liberal West is a series of myths about Islam and about the West; they ‘mobilise a system of power/knowledge that constructs the Muslim other as a negation of an idealised Western secular self’.62 Indeed, the story we tell of the West is one of neat distinctions between politics and religion, public and private and one of complete sexual liberation.63 This is of course not true—Christianity is deeply embedded in Western life. In the United Kingdom Queen Elizabeth II is both the head of state and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In addition, the United Kingdom, with 26 bishops granted automatic seats in the House of Lords, still allows unelected Christian leaders to write laws in parliament. Beyond anachronisms like this, there are more mundane examples: state-mandated holidays on Christmas and Easter or the expectation that when one dies, there will be a cemetery and church to be buried in. The story of sexual liberation is also a myth. The pre-modern West attacked medieval Islam’s sexual licentiousness; today it attacks its repression of sexual freedom in the present. From a sign of barbarity, the tolerance of certain expressions of homosexuality has become a marker of civilisation—despite the fact that the social tolerance of homosexuality in the West is recent and at best partial. The construction of ‘the Muslim world’ (as if it were one monolithic entity) as uniquely homophobic and misogynistic is tied to what Anne McClintock calls the ‘eroticisation of

 World Values Survey, Wave 5 (2005–2008).  Mavelli (2013), 163. 63  Mavelli (2012), 68–74. 61 62



domination’, whereby sexual politics play a fundamental part in constructing a barbaric Orient.64 Puar’s study of atrocities committed at the Abu Ghraib detention centre during the Iraq War illustrates the way in which the Islam/homosexuality binary was quite literally weaponised in order to torture detainees. Prisoners were forced to simulate homosexual acts upon one another, in the belief that, in the words of one Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at New  York University, ‘such dehumanisation is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world. Homosexual acts are against Islamic law and it is humiliating for men to naked in front of other men’.65 This statement, with its conflation of Arab and Muslim and sweeping statements about the Arab/Muslim world, is typical of Orientalist perceptions of the relationship between homosexuality and Islam. This binary is constructed by Western Orientalists and by the elevation of ‘the exceptional Muslim’. The exceptional Muslim is the ‘native informant’ who corroborates Orientalist narratives about Islam and homosexuality. One such case is that of the aforementioned Faisal Alam, founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation. Alam corroborated Western narratives about what happened at Abu Ghraib, adding that ‘sexual humiliation is perhaps the worst form of torture for any Muslim […] Iraq, much like the rest of the Arab world, places great emphasis on notions of masculinity. Forcing men to masturbate in front of each other and to mock same-sex acts or homosexual acts is perverse and sadistic in the eyes of many Muslims’.66 Forcing prisoners to strip naked, to masturbate and to sexually assault each other would be perverse and sadistic in the eyes of most people. However, Puar understands these statements as part of a ‘complex dance of positionality’ that Muslim groups in the West are forced to play.67 Drawing on the cultural critic Rey Chow’s concept of ‘coercive mimeticism’—a process in which ‘those who are marginal to mainstream Western culture are expected […] to resemble and replicate the very banal preconceptions that have been appended to them’—queer Muslims, more than many other minority groups, are forced to legitimate Orientalist tropes in order to escape suspicion.68 Additionally, Tamsila Tauqir, a queer  McClintock (1995).  Haykel (2004), cited in Puar (2007), 106. 66  Al-Fathia Press Release (2004), quoted in Puar (2007), p. 91. 67  Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: 91. 68  Chow (2002), 107. 64 65



Muslim activist and scholar, adds that there is almost no way to get mass media attention without acting as the ‘exceptional Muslim’. Tauqir reports that she received numerous requests, from both the gay and mainstream press, to ‘respond to the difficulties of being gay and Muslim in Britain’. When she suggested that they report on progressive imams who officiated nikahs (Muslim marriage contracts) for same-sex couples, Muslim parents who supported their gay children or the considerable liberal and progressive work being done within Islam, these journalists ‘reacted with silence’.69 Gay rights are used as a disciplinary tool to create and shape the folk devil that is the homophobic Muslim, constructed as an existential threat to Western values. During the 1980s, gay men themselves were the Western folk devil du jour—to be homosexual was to exhibit ‘exemplary and admonitory’ signs of Otherness.70 They enjoyed demonisation by both the media and the public at large, with the treatment of gay men just 40 years ago illustrating how easily the limits of citizenship and belonging are recast. Indeed, less than 40 years before Hilary Clinton stood before the United Nations and declared that ‘gay rights are human rights’, President Reagan’s Communications Director said publicly that ‘homosexuals […] have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution’. The tolerance that homosexuality enjoys in the West today is recent indeed. Stanley Cohen, in his work on folk devils, argues that a moral panic occurs when ‘a person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests’.71 During the AIDS epidemic, images of traditional morality and family values were called upon to be defended against the sex-crazed and disease-ridden homosexual; today tolerance and diversity are imagined as foundational Western values which is under attack from an intolerant and homophobic Islam. Values like ‘acceptance’ and ‘tolerance’ have become the barometer by which to measure Westernness. This is exemplified in the (since retracted) so-called Muslim Test, introduced in the German state of Baden-­ Württemberg in 2006 for prospective citizens applying from states which were members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which asked questions such as:

 Tauqir in Haritaworn et al. (2008), 14.  Watney (1987), 98. 71  Cohen (2011), 16. 69 70



• ‘Imagine your full-grown son comes to you and declares that he is homosexual and would like to live with another man. How do you react?’ • ‘In Germany various politicians have made themselves publicly known as homosexuals. What do you think about the fact that there are homosexuals in public office in Germany?’72 In 2014, the conservative state was embroiled in a debate over the teaching of homosexuality in schools, with plans to include homosexuality in sexual health lessons leading to over 60,000 people petitioning ‘against the ideology of the rainbow’. The ‘Muslim Test’ was clearly not one designed with the interests of queer Germans at heart. Tolerance of homosexuality has become the marker of the ‘civilised’ and ‘modern’ West, homophobia a symbol of a ‘traditional’ and ‘backward’ Other. Like the concept of gender equality, same-sex relationships function as paradigmatic examples of tolerance—same-sex relationships are used by the media and by politicians to ‘teach tolerance’ to those who are framed as lacking it. Gay rights have been recast as an operative technology in the production and disciplining of Muslim Others in the West and to buttress the construction of an idealised tolerant West. It is not, for many, oxymoronic to describe oneself as both Scottish and British, or as a secular Jew. Neither is it impossible to be both Western and Muslim. Indeed, the irreconcilable binary between Islam and the West is a relatively new creation. Richard Southern, in his history of mediaeval Europe, ‘found only one mention of the name Mahomet [before 1100] in literature outside Spain and Southern Italy. But from about the year 1120, everyone in the West had some idea of what Islam meant’.73 Islam has, in one form or another, been part of Europe for almost a millennium. Indeed, the histories of the West and of Islam are not two separate stories. They are two strands of a history woven across centuries and continents, connecting and crossing across time and space.

The Future of the Liberal Project To be Western is to adhere to a constantly changing set of values and boundaries that are redrawn according to the political configuration of the time. Liberal democracy is today figured as the pinnacle of modernity,  Quoted in Haritaworn (2015), 10–11.  Southern (1962), 28.

72 73



with tolerance and individual freedoms celebrated as the foundations upon which a modern society like the West is built. Tolerance towards homosexuality has become a key marker of this modernity, despite its recent and inconsistent appearance across the West. The queer Westerner has, within living memory, been transformed from a figure of death to a figure of life, mobilised against the new enemy from the East in the guise of the homophobic Muslim. Acceptance of homosexuality has come to be intimately linked to notions of Westernness, despite its recent ascension to the realms of (relative) acceptability. Following the gay liberation movements of the late twentieth century and more recent citizenship advances such as legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and antidiscrimination laws, gay rights have become mainstream in the Western world and the institution of such policies has been figured as part of a teleological progress towards a more liberal democracy. However, the language of liberalism has, perversely, become weaponised by those who would seek to make the West a decidedly illiberal place. Tolerance of homosexuality has become more than a marker of modernity—it has been weaponised in a war on the West’s racialised Other. Following the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub, then-­Presidential candidate Donald Trump, promised to ‘do everything in [his] power to protect LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology’.74 Since his election, President Trump has appointed anti-­ gay Mike Pence as his Vice President, attempted to reinstate a ban on transgender people serving in the military and, without explanation, fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Before and during his Presidency, the American President has been, at best, ambivalent to the idea of gay rights. A rare public statement in favour of the LGBT community came only as part of an attack on an external threat—‘Islam’. The tale has come full circle—‘Islam’ has replaced ‘the Orient’ and tolerance of homosexuality has become vaunted, not denounced. The story remains the same: the West is civilised and the East is not. Stories of sexual liberation and gender equality are told and used to frame the West as the ‘avatar of both freedom and modernity’ while simultaneously depicting Muslims as backward and homophobic.75 In marking Muslims as uniquely intolerant and homophobic, the far-right across the  Quoted in Bruni (2018).  Butler (2008).

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West has succeeded in shoring up support from gay citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. However, neither Islam, homosexuality nor the West is timeless, unchanging entities with intrinsic qualities. They are cultural creations which are of their time and place and constantly in flux. We live now in one such time where the story of the West is changing. The post-war consensus of liberal democracy in the West is now confronted a threat unlike any other it has faced. It does not come from the Other to the East, but from the rising tide of the far-right within. Through co-opting liberal values of tolerance, anti-liberal politicians like Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump continue to further an exclusionary, ethnic nationalist agenda that, unless challenged at its core, may usher in the end of the liberal experiment.

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Silences in Queerness/Raciality, ed. Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, 71–95. York: Raw Nerve Books. Howell, Sean. 2017. Gay Men Under 30 Are More Likely to Vote for Marine Le Pen Than Older Ones., May 3. Inglehart, Ronald, and Christian Welzel. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. New  York: Cambridge University Press. Inglehart, Ronald, and Wayne E. Baker. 2000. Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values. American Sociological Review 65 (1): 19–51. International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. 2016. The Personal and the Political: Attitudes to LGBTI People Around the World. Geneva: ILGA. Krämer, Gudrun. 1999. Gottes Staat als Republik: Reflexionen zeitgenössischer Muslime zu Islam, Menschenrechten und Demokratie. Nomos: Baden-Baden. Kuntsman, Adi, and Esperanza Miyake, eds. 2008. Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, 14. York: Raw Nerve Books. Locke, John. 2003. Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration. Edited with an Introduction by Ian Shapiro; with essays by John Dunn, Ruth W. Grant, and Ian Shapiro. New Haven: Yale University Press. Manalansan, Martin F. 2005. Race, Violence, and Neoliberal Spatial Politics in the Global City. Social Text 23 (3–4): 141–155. Marlow, Iain, and Randy Thanthong-Knight. 2018. Malaysia’s Mahathir Says Asia Won’t Follow West on LGBT Rights. Bloomberg, October 25. Mavelli, Luca. 2012. Europe’s Encounter with Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular. London: Routledge. ———. 2013. Between Normalisation and Exception: The Securitisation of Islam and the Construction of the Secular Subject Millennium. Journal of International Studies 41 (2): 159–181. McClintock, Anne. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge. McDonnel, Thomas M. 2010. The West’s Colonization of Muslim Land and the Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. In The United States, International Law, and the Struggle Against Terrorism. Routledge. Mepschen, Paul, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Evelien H. Tonkens. 2010. Sexual Politics, Orientalism and Multicultural Citizenship in the Netherlands. Sociology 44 (5): 962–979. Mikdashi, Maya. 2011. Gay Rights as Human Rights: Pinkwashing Homonationalism. Jadaliyya, December 16. Mill, John Stuart. 2008. On Liberty and Other Essays, 68–69. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mosbergen, Dominique. 2015. Being LGBT In Southeast Asia: Stories of Abuse, Survival and Tremendous Courage. Huffington Post, October 11. https:// 818f6185151.



Najmabadi, Afsaneh. 2005a. Women with Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2005b. Mapping Transformations of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Iran. Social Analysis 2: 54–77. Nast, Heidi J. 2002. Queer Patriarchies, Queer Racisms, International. Antipode 35 (5): 835–844. Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2002. Islam & the West: Testing the Clash of Civilizations Thesis. John F. Kennedy School of Government Research Working Paper Series (No. RWP02-015), Harvard University, Cambridge. Parrot, Clément. 2017. Le Front national est-il vraiment devenu “gay friendly”? Radio France, March 12. Parveen, Nazia. 2019. Birmingham School Stops LGBT Lessons After Parents Protest. The Guardian, March 4. Pew Research Center. 2013. The Global Divide on Homosexuality, 4th June. Accessed 21 April 2016. the-globaldivide-on-homosexuality/. ———. 2017. Like Americans Overall, Muslims Now More Accepting of Homosexuality. Poorthuis, Frank, and Hans Wansink. 2002. Pim Fortuyn op herhaling: ‘De islam is een achterlijke cultuur’. Volkskrant, February 9. Puar, Jasbir K. 2007. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke University Press. ———. 2013a. Rethinking Homonationalism. International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 45: 336–339. ———. 2013b. Homonationalism as Assemblage: Viral Travels, Affective Sexualities. Jindal Global Law Review 4 (2): 23–43. Puar, Jasbir K., and Amit Rai. 2002. Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots. Social Text 20 (3): 117–148. Rahman, Momin. 2014. Queer Rights and the Triangulation of Western Exceptionalism. Journal of Human Rights 13 (3): 274–289. Said, Edward W. 2003. Orientalism. London: Penguin. Schuyf, Judith, and André Krouwel. 1999. The Dutch Lesbian and Gay Movement: The Politics of Accommodation. In The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics: National Imprints of a Worldwide Movement, ed. B.D.  Adam et  al. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Southern, R.W. 1962. Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sullivan, Andrew. 1995. Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality. New York: Picador. Volpp, Leti. 2002. The Citizen and the Terrorist. Immigration and Nationality Law Review 23: 561–586. Watney, Simon. 1987. Policing Desire: Pornography, Aids and the Media. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.


Who Owns the West?  German Political Establishment and the New Right Ann-Judith Rabenschlag

On December 19, 2016, Germany became the target of a major Islamist terror attack.1 The 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri drove a truck into the crowd on the Berlin Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz killing and injuring several. Amri managed to escape but was eventually shot by the Italian police in Milano. The day after, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deed.2 Reactions by German politicians and the media came fast: The actual target, so the conclusion ran, had been neither the Christmas market nor the city of Berlin itself. Rather, these spots were seen as symbolic targets representing a larger entity, which by many was 1  Attacks on a smaller scale had taken place before in, for example, Hannover, Essen, Würzburg and Ansbach. Compare the information by the German intelligence service. “Verfassungsschutz.” 2  Newspapers with different political affiliations agree on these facts. Compare, for example, Spiegel, December 23, 2016, 16–26; taz, December 21, 2016, 1–3 and December 24/25/26, 2016, 4; FAZ, December 20, 2016, 1, December 21, 2016, 1–3 and December 24, 2016, 1f.; SZ, December 20, 2016, 1f., December 21, 2016, 1–3, December 24, 2016, 1–3.

A.-J. Rabenschlag (*) Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




referred to as the West. “The entire free world,” so said the mayor of Berlin, was mourning.3 Warnings about the endangerment of the West have also been articulated by the populist right. In 2014, the populist movement PEGIDA4 held its first demonstration in Dresden, claiming to protect the West against Islamization. In 2016, the right-wing Populist Party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) promised in its party program “to preserve […] our occidental Christian culture.”5 And just recently, Thilo Sarrazin, a Social democrat who has made headlines with xenophobic and Islamophobic statements, has published his latest bestseller warning about a “hostile takeover” of Western societies by high birth rates among Muslim citizens.6 While “the crisis of the West”, hence, appears to be a key notion in public German (and European) debate, the nature of the West remains blurred as different actors are using the concept differently. A famous attempt within German discourse to define the West has been undertaken by the historian Heinrich August Winkler. Winkler understands the West as a normative project rooted in the old Occident, the region dominated by the Roman Western church. Decisive events such as an early separation between ecclesiastical and worldly power, the renaissance, the reformation and the enlightenment led, according to Winkler, to the formation of genuinely Western features: the respect for human rights, the division of powers, the rule of law and the rule of parliamentary democracies.7 Instead of defining the West, this chapter acknowledges the diverse uses of the West, highlights its contingency and places it in the field of conceptual history. The chapter takes inspiration from recent studies by Anglo-­ Saxon and German researchers who have convincingly demonstrated that the West has been negotiated upon, influenced and reshaped over time both along the lines of changing sociopolitical circumstances and due to different political interests.8 As Browning and Lehti have pointed out,  Müller, “Terroranschlag Breitscheidplatz.”  Abbreviation for “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes” (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident). 5  AfD, “Programm für Deutschland.” 6  Sarrazin (2018). 7  Winkler (2009–2015). 8  Trautsch (2017), 58–66; Osterhammel (2017), 101–114; Bavaj and Steber (2017); Browning and Lehti (2010); Bonnett (2004); Hochgeschwender (2004), 1–30; Gassert (2001); Doering-Manteuffel (1999). 3 4



“speaking ‘West’ will invoke a different cluster of concepts amongst American and European audiences than many audiences in the Middle East or Africa.”9 The West, this study argues, cannot be defined “as such,” but only in relationship to the circumstances under which it is being articulated. Both context, speakers and the audience take part in the meaning-­ making process. Therefore, the West can be integrated with different, even contradictory, ideas and worldviews. The terror attack in Berlin mentioned above serves as a case study for this chapter. By analyzing reactions to, and interpretations of, this event, the chapter traces and compares different uses of the West. Speeches by leading politicians, newspaper articles and posts in the social media serve as source material. The focus lies on the comparison between utterances by representatives of Germany’s political establishment on the one hand and representatives of the German New Right on the other. The chapter includes a transnational perspective by comparing German reactions to the terror attack with responses from other European politicians to similar attacks in their home countries.

An Attack Against “Us”: Statements by the Political Establishment Both German media and politicians considered the Berlin Christmas market and the city of Berlin to be symbolic targets in the fight of Islamist terrorists against the West. It remains to be seen, however, whether different actors referred to the same idea when talking about the West. Who or what exactly was targeted on December 19, 2016? Let us have a look at the reactions of German state representatives first. If one compares the first public statements by Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic, Joachim Gauck, then President of the Federal Republic, and Michael Müller, mayor of the city of Berlin, there are striking similarities in the description of the target. All three representatives refer to a collective “us” which fell victim to the terror attack. Gauck uses the pronoun “we” repeatedly as the first word in the initial sentences of his speech: “We are united in grief today, indivisibly united with the relatives of the victims of the attack of Berlin. We mourn the dead. We fear for the injured. And we feel with their families, their friends. We will not leave 9

 Browning and Lehti (2010), 23.



them alone in their pain.”10 Also Merkel uses the collective “us.” At first sight, however, she seems to refer to all Germans or all inhabitants of Germany when talking about the grief “we” are feeling: “All of us, an entire country, are united with them [the victims] in deep grief. All of us hope, and many of us are praying for them, that they shall find comfort and support, that they shall recover, and that they are able to go on living after this terrible blow.”11 Likewise, Michael Müller addresses the collective “us”: “We are bewildered today, deeply shaken. So shortly before the holiday, many of us have been looking forward to a couple of happy and contemplative Christmas days with their families and friends. However, since yesterday evening we are filled with deep sorrow.”12 The collective “us,” Gauck, Merkel and Müller are addressing, is supposedly united in grief, worries, pain, compassion and shock. The reason for this alleged companionship between the victims and the addressed audience does not, despite Merkel’s reference to Germany, lie in a shared national identity. All three politicians refer to an entity larger than the community of German citizens. Indirectly referring to terror attacks outside of Germany, Gauck states: “But we know that this attack, as those before it, was aimed for all of us. This was an attack against our midst, against our way of life.” Clearly, the president emphasizes that he is not talking about a mere German way of life: We are shaken now, but those deeds do not shake our convictions. We stand on firm grounds and we stand together, in Germany, in Europe, and wherever people do live and want to live in freedom […] We in Germany realize today that we live in a strong community ruled by law and humanity. […] This community reaches far beyond our national borders.13

Merkel speaks about defending the life, “as we want to live it in Germany—free, together and open.”14 By this choice of formulation, Merkel does not refer to a German way of life. Rather she speaks of a way of life that cherishes values, such as freedom, togetherness and openness, and calls it a lifestyle Germans want to share. The Mayor of Berlin is very close to Merkel’s formulation when stating: “This act is an attack against  Gauck, “Statement zum Anschlag.”  Merkel, “Press statement.” 12  Müller, “Terroranschlag Breitscheidplatz.” 13  Gauck, “Statement zum Anschlag.” 14  Merkel, “Pressestatement.” 10 11



our way of life, against our values and against our democracy.” It was “the entire free world,” which mourned for the victims of the attack.15 “It is up to ourselves to shape our cosmopolitan city peacefully. Respect, tolerance, non-violence: These are our common values.”16 All three politicians refer to a community based on common values and convictions and a certain way of life. Keywords mentioned in this context are freedom, justice, humanity, togetherness, tolerance and respect. All three presuppose that the audience they address sees itself as being a part of this community and cherishes the values that Merkel, Gauck and Müller connect to it. Müller’s statement about the “entire free world” is an obvious reference to the cultural and political West. Its opponent, however, is no longer fascist Germany or the communist East behind the Iron Curtain as it used to be in the past decades, but everyone who disrespects and violates the values of the common “us” Merkel, Gauck and Müller are referring to. Against the background of the debate on refugees coming to Germany, this “us” sketches furthermore the picture of an integrative society and thereby turns against the attempts of the extreme right to put all immigrants under the general suspicion of being terrorists. It is remarkable, indeed, that neither Merkel nor Gauck nor Müller literally use the notion of the West or of Western values, respectively. This might be a coincidence. However, considering the fact that none of the speeches was a spontaneous statement, it seems more likely that the choice of formulation was a conscious one: Merkel, Gauck and Müller are trying to avoid the construction of an opposition between the West and its enemies. Instead, they are addressing a societal “us” which is inclusive to everyone willing to share the values and lifestyle of Western democracies. However, as a look at speeches by heads of states in similar situations shows, the strong reference to a transnational community of values is far from being a common feature. It seems reasonable to discuss whether it proves to be a typically German one. On June 4, 2017, one day after an Islamist terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, the British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the public at Downing Street. Already in the first sentence of her speech, May pointed out, whom she considered to have been the target of the attack: “Last night,” May stated, “our country fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack once again.” The notion of the “country” appears  Müller, “Terroranschlag Breitscheidplatz.”  Ibid.

15 16



six times in her eight-minutes-long speech, in addition to references to “Britain,” “the United Kingdom” and “our society.” At one point only, May mentions a wider, international context when stating that Islamist extremism was “an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam.” Otherwise, the community she addresses is the British people. Islamist extremism, May claims, “will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values—pluralistic British values—are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate. […] The whole country needs to come together to take on this extremism, and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom. […] As a country,” May concludes, “our response must be as it has always been when we have been confronted by violence. We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.”17 Likewise, the first official response by the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to the Islamist terror attack in the city center of Stockholm on April 7, 2017, addressed explicitly the Swedish people. “Today, we have been confronted with a terrible attack in the heart of our capital,” Löfven opened his speech. “An entire country” was united in “grief, anger and decisiveness.” The prime minister uses the notion of Sweden five times in his three-minutes-long speech. The comment that “leaders from the entire world have gotten in touch in order to express their sympathy” is the only reference to a community larger than Sweden. According to Löfven, the intention of the terrorist was “to undermine democracy” and to spread hate and mistrust. The defense of democracy, however, is going to be taken care of by Swedish society itself. “Such actions,” Löfven refers to the terrorist’s alleged intention to undermine democracy and social solidarity, “are never going to succeed in Sweden. […] In this difficult hour, Sweden shows its strength […] I know that many are worried and shaken now. Many of us are going to hug those we love especially tightly tonight. […] Take care of each other and together we will take care of Sweden.”18 When Paris was hit by a series of Islamist terror attacks on November 13, 2015, also president Hollande appealed to national feelings of  May, “PM statement.”  Löfven, “Uttalande.”

17 18



t­ogetherness. In his four-minutes-long speech Hollande uses the notion “la France” eight times, the notion of “the country” four times along with other references to the “homeland” and “the republic.” He calls the attacks an act of war “against France, against the values that we defend all over the world, against what we are, a free country, which speaks to the entire planet.”19 While Merkel and Gauck refer to values of a transnational community shared by Germany, Hollande turns the chain of dependency upside down speaking of French values shared by a transnational community. By means of an anaphor, Hollande puts the French nation in the focus of the speech: “France is strong and even though she may be hurt, she will always rise again and nothing will be able to break us down, even though we are troubled by grief. France is solid, she is active, France is brave and she will triumph over barbarism.”20 The official press statement by the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, commenting on the Islamist terror attack in Barcelona on August 17, 2017, differs to some degree from the statements by May, Löfven and Hollande. Rajoy emphasizes the international dimension of Islamist terrorism by stating that “the neighbors at places such as Madrid, Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin or London have experienced the same pain and the same uncertainty as the people of Barcelona are suffering from today.” The tragedy of Barcelona “unites us in pain with so many other countries in the world.” Nota bene, however, that Rajoy only lines up cities located in Western Europe. “Today,” Rajoy states, “the fight against terrorism is the first priority of free and open societies as ours. […] All of us, who share the same love for freedom, for the dignity of being human, and for a society based on justice and not on fear and hate, we are united in this cause.” Also Rajoy, however, closes his speech by emphasizing the importance of national strength. Against the background of the domestic struggle between the national government and separatist activists in Catalonia, Rajoy uses the attack to demonstrate national unity: “We shall never forget that Spain is a united people.” Reminding of the terror attacks committed by ETA, Rajoy states: “We have fought many battles against terrorism in the course of history. We have always won them. Also in this situation we, the Spanish people, shall overcome.”21

 Hollande, “L’intégralité de l’allocution.”   Ibid. 21  Rajoy, “Declaración institucional.” 19 20



At least in the light of this short comparison, it appears to be a typical German feature to downplay national identity and instead emphasize the transnational community of values. Almost 70  years after Chancellor Konrad Adenauer launched his policy of “Westintegration,” a political and cultural orientation westward still dominates the argumentation of Germany’s political establishment. While Merkel, Gauck and Müller avoided the notion of the West, other representatives of Germany’s political elite, who were not obliged to represent the ethnically and culturally heterogeneous entities of the German nation and the city of Berlin respectively,22 did name the West as the target of the attack. In an interview with Bild, Cem Özdemir, then party leader of Die Grünen, called the incident an attack “against the West and its values.”23 Özdemir did not explain what kind of values he considered Western but presupposed a common understanding. A clear utterance concerning the nature of the West was made by Wolfgang Schäuble, then minister of finance in Merkel’s cabinet and one of the grand seigneurs in German politics. Holding a speech on the celebration for Klaus Kinkel’s 80th birthday (a former German foreign minister and front figure of Germany’s liberal party) which happened to take place the day after the attack, Schäuble stated, Klaus Kinkel embodies a great deal of what we urgently need—in Germany, in Europe, in the entire Western world—that is to say that we do not allow anyone to confuse us concerning the foundations of our Western model, as Winkler […] has defined it: Democracy, human rights, the dignity of every individual […], the state of law, open-mindedness and tolerance, but also a sufficient degree of security […], openness towards the world […].24

Schäuble’s reference to Winkler is remarkable, indeed.25 Schäuble did not only adopt Winkler’s definition of a Western model but also the historian’s normative impetus to consider the West to be a societal model to fight for. Schäuble articulates what Merkel, Gauck and Müller have hinted at but avoided to express explicitly. He connects the societal “us” with “Germany, Europe and the entire Western world” and thereby rephrases 22  By the end of 2017, ca. 10.6 million persons with an exclusively foreign nationality were registered in Germany; Almost one-fifth of Berlin’s citizens are foreigners; “Statistik-berlin-brandenburg.” 23  Kautz, “BILD-Interview.” 24  Freie Demokratische Partei, “Wolfgang Schäuble.” 25  Likewise in Die Zeit: Schäuble (2016), 6.



not only Winkler’s hypothesis of Germany’s successful road to West26 but relates to the popular way of framing German contemporary history as a continuous, successful Westernization. Having left its national Sonderweg, so reads the core argument of this narrative dominating German academic and political discourse alike, Germany has eventually found guidance and orientation in the close cooperation with Western Europe and the United States, exchanging the ideas of 1914 with those of 1789.27 The West, as prominent members of Germany’s political establishment understand it, is hence not just a synonym for democratic societies ruled by law, the protection of human rights and the dignity of the individual. It represents, furthermore, a core piece of the self-image of a society eager to assure to itself that it has left the road to nationalism and fascism once and for all.

The West as “Open Society”? Reactions of the Press As to be expected, German press published intensively on the terror attack in Berlin.28 Articles published in the direct aftermath of the attack mainly deal with the reconstruction of the events on December 19, 2016. Headlines are dominated by the reactions of eyewitnesses, relatives to victims, and the citizens of Berlin. It is a mixture of shock, fear and grief that finds its expression on the front pages. “Terror on Berlin Christmas market,” titles Bild, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel speaks about an “Attack on Berlin,” “The shock of Berlin” writes Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and, referring to the Christmas song “Holy Night, Silent Night”, the front page of Der Spiegel reads: “Silent night. Christmas in times of terror.”29 Two days after the attack, Der Tagesspiegel claims that the terrorist hit “the heart of the West.”30 It is a headline playing with multiple meanings of the West. The tower of the Gedächtniskirche, the church located right next to the Breitscheidplatz, where the terror attack took place, was destroyed in the Second World War. Its damaged tower has since then served as a symbol for peace and non-violence. The Breitscheidplatz,  Winkler (2000).  Conze (2005), 5; Levsen and Torp (2016), 11f.; Doering-Manteuffel (1999), 21; Gassert (2001), 15f. 28  The analysis is based on all articles dealing with the terror attack published in Bild, Der Spiegel, Der Tagesspiegel, Die Welt, Die Zeit, FAZ, JF, ND and SZ and taz during the period December 20, 2016–January 2, 2017. 29  Bild, “Terror”, 1; Schmidt (2016), 1; Zoch (2016), 1; Spiegel, “Stille Nacht.” 30  Schröder (2016), 10. 26 27



directly next to the famous shopping street Kurfürstendamm and the shopping mall Kaufhaus des Westens, was one of the central places in old West Berlin. In December 2016, the place obviously presented a symbolic target for a perpetrator hating Western culture. To hit a target such close to these symbolic spots, Der Tagesspiegel concludes, proved “that the perpetrator did not only have a viciously optimized plan, but also a feeling for the most vulnerable spots of the Christianly influenced Western society.”31 In the weekly Der Spiegel, journalist and historian Nils Minkmar resonates on the cultural and political effects of Islamist terrorism in Europe and concludes that Islamist terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11 has managed “to shake the fundaments of the United States, indeed of the entire West.”32 According to Minkmar, these fundaments consist in “the liberal society,” “the open society,” a societal model based on “universal human and citizen rights,” a “reasonable welfare state,” a press and a constitutional state acting responsibly and supporting the European integration. Minkmar sees these values threatened both by external and internal enemies represented by radical Islam and German right-wing populists. The open society as a symbol for the West has become the new political utopia to strive for.33 Minkmar thereby refers to the societal model developed by the philosopher Karl Popper. Closely linked to the ideas of liberalism, Popper’s model of the open society focuses on the freedom of the individual and considers the state to be a necessary evil to assure basic rules of social togetherness. In contrast to closed societies presented by all forms of dictatorship, the open society distinguishes itself by the respect for the rights of the individual and equalitarian justice. Political decisions are following the guidelines of human reason and are freed from ideological taboos. Discourse in an open society allows for questioning existing power structures and a reverse of ruling political mindsets.34 Direct or indirect references to Popper’s model of the open society can be found in several big German dailies and weeklies such as Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ), SZ, Die Welt, or Der Tagesspiegel. An article in the latter one even carries the headline: “The open society and its enemies.”35 Confronted with terrorism, the “open society” is said to be  Matthies (2016), 11.  Minkmar (2016), 30. 33  Ibid., 31. 34  Popper (1947), especially 153, 165, 166 and 177. 35  Flade (2016), 1; Di Lorenzo and Wefing (2016), 1; Münkler (2016), 42; Kohler (2016) 1; Truscheit (2016), 1; Deckers (2016), 1; Kister (2016b), “Hass”, 4; Emcke (2016), 5; Jansen (2016), 2. 31 32



threatened not only from the outside but equally by domestic politics turning the open society into a closed one. The main conflict, chief editor of Die Zeit Josef Joffe argues, cannot be described as “the rest against the West.” Instead, European domestic politics was “poisoned” by fear and the call for a police state. What is at stake is “the liberal state of law” [Rechtsstaat].36 Likewise, SZ-journalist Kurt Kister argues: “It is astonishing over and over again, how xenophobes and Islamist fanatics promote each other.”37 When Popper wrote his famous text, he did so against the background of Hitler’s aggressive expansion policy and the spread of fascism in Europe.38 Nevertheless, Popper identified totalitarian tendencies in the works of Marx, too. At the beginning of the Cold War, his harsh critique of the Soviet system as a totalitarian, closed society provoked the anger of the intellectual European left. This skepticism against Popper remained very much alive among the members of the student rebellion of 1968. Positive references to Popper’s societal model in Germany’s most influential left-wing daily die tageszeitung (taz) are therefore remarkable: on the front page of its issue of December 21, taz calls the attack in Berlin an “attack on the open society.”39 A leading politician of the party Die Grünen expresses his worries that right-wing populists might take advantage of the terror attack: “Those, who want to split our liberal and open society and to damage the state governed by law [Rechtsstaat], are going to try to exploit the attack.”40 And the day after, taz-journalist Jan Feddersen makes another positive reference to Popper, when criticizing the traditional aversion of Germany’s political left, which he himself belongs to, toward state-­ security measures: “Especially the friends of an open society have to engage for a public life which is secure.”41 The open society serves as a synonym for a West which is to be protected against the external threat of terrorism but also against domestic attempts to limit individual rights—attempts which in this understanding are presented to be non-Western. This understanding of the West is hence closely connected with the image of the societal “us” and the “free Western world” Merkel, Gauck and Müller are referring to. It furthermore appears  Joffe (2016), 43.  Kister (2016a), “Tod”, 4. 38  The first edition was published in 1945. 39  taz, “Herausforderung,” 1. 40  taz, “Interview,” 2. 41  Feddersen (2016), 1. 36 37



to be just another reproduction of Winkler’s definition of the West as a normative project based on the values of democracy, human rights, the dignity of the individual and a state of law. A different interpretation of the West can be found in the socialist newspaper Neues Deutschland (ND), the former press organ of the state party Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED) in East Germany, which outlived both the political system of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its party. Commenting on the attack in Berlin, also ND considers the West to have been the target. However, in contrast to the quoted print media above, ND does not consider the West a societal model to be worth fighting for. Instead, ND focuses on foreign politics and considers the West to be an imperialistic global player. Due to its aggressive foreign politics, ND argues, the West is partly responsible for violence and misery in the world: “One would like to agree with the morally steadfast guardians of values of the West who warn against populists, since they were—no less than the perpetrators of terror—crisis profiteers,” ND states. “However, this is only one part of the truth. […] The overwhelming political consensus says that the world is not acceptable until it is shaped according to the Western model—violently.”42 Following a Marxist approach, ND declares modern terrorism to be the expression of an international class struggle: “It is still a fight between the owners of means of production and those who are depending on them or have already been outdistanced by them.”43 Terrorism could only be prevented for good if the West was ready to abandon its role as imperialistic player and to meet with Muslim states on an equal basis, “free from regulatory missionary work.”44 Another exception from the mainstream media coverage represent the articles of Bild, organ of the yellow-press with the highest press circulation in Germany. These articles differ in so far as they do not refer to the West at all. Instead, Bild identifies Germany and the Germans as targets. “Germany and the Germans are being tested,” concludes the commentator on December 21, 2016.45 Besides describing brutal details of the attack and the horrors of terrorism as such, Bild focuses on mistakes made by

 Kalbe (2016), 3.  Schweppenhäuser (2016), 9. 44  Seifert and Winter (2017), 10. 45  Blome (2016), 2. 42 43



state organs in preventing the attack.46 “Make our country more secure,” Bild demands on December 22, 2016.47 In an interview with the priest of the Gedächtniskirche, Bild refers to the Germans as a Christian community. The interview bears the title: “Only God can forgive this,” a rough paraphrasing of one of the answers of the priest. Bild continues: “As the attack targeted a symbolic place, one can state: It was also an attack against our values.”48 By means of intertextuality, both Islam and immigrants, in general, are pointed out as threats to these alleged Christian values. “A partial ban of the Burka is coming,” Bild prints on the same page as an article on Germany’s alleged “failure of deportation.”49 “How is it possible that Anis Amri was released so quickly in summer from prison?” Bild writes and continues on the following page: “How is it possible that we do not get rid of criminal refugees but take back so many?”50 A clear reference to the West, however, can be found on the extreme right. Let us, hence, have a look how Germany’s New Right reacted to the terror attack.

Another West? Argumentative Structures Within Right-Wing Populist Circles One of the latest national parliaments in the European Union where a right-wing Populist Party has managed to take seats, the German Bundestag today includes the right-wing Populist Party AfD. AfD is trying to change the political tone in German public debate, which according to the party is controlled by taboos set by the political establishment. These efforts concern, not the least, the concept of the West. A charismatic representative of the New Right who gained wide attention in connection with the Berlin-attack is Marcus Pretzell, then the head of AfD in Nordrhein-Westfalen, and a member of the European Parliament. The same evening the Christmas market was hit, Pretzell published a tweet causing strong reactions. Pretzell wrote: “When does the German state of law [Rechtsstaat] strike back? When does this damn hypocrisy finally stop? 46  Compare, for example: Bild, “Abschiebe-Versagen,” 1; Bergmann et al. (2016), 2; Bild, “Land sicherer,” 4; Bild, “Wie kann es sein, dass Anis Amri,” 2; Bild, “Schließt endlich,” 2; Bild, “Wer trägt Schuld,” 3. 47  Bild, “Land sicherer,” 4. 48  Link and Solms-Laubach (2016), 5. 49  Bild, “Teil-Verbot,” 1; Bild, “Abschiebe-versagen,” 1. 50  Bild, “Wie kann es sein, dass Anis Amri,” 2; Bild, “Wie kann es sein, dass wir kriminelle,” 3.



They are Merkel’s dead! #Nice, #Berlin.”51 With this tweet, Pretzell referred to Merkel’s reaction to the European migration crisis of late 2015 and her decision to open German borders for about one million refugees mainly coming from the Middle East.52 By the time Pretzell posed his message, the perpetrator of the attack was still unknown. With his accusation of Merkel, Pretzell nevertheless presumed that an immigrant had committed the murders. Frauke Petry, then party leader of the AfD, today member of the right-­wing splinter party Blaue Partei and married to Pretzell, supported this judgment. On Facebook, she commented: “This [the terror attack] is not only an attack on our freedom and our way of life, but also on our Christian tradition. Regarding the question of immigration Germany is politically a divided country […] Germany is not secure anymore. It would be the duty of the chancellor to tell you this. Since she is not going to do it, I am telling you.”53 Pretzell was supported even internationally. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen of the French New Right tweeted: “#Berlin: the Islamist terrorist is an immigrant. #Merkel responsible. In France and in Europe, let’s stop these ignorant political leaders!”54 The Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders published a photo-collage on his Twitter account showing Angela Merkel with blood on her hands.55 In his tweet, Pretzell did not mention the West. A couple of weeks earlier, however, on occasion of October 3, Germany’s national holiday celebrating German-German reunification, Pretzell had outlined his idea of how the West, Islam and immigration were intertwined. In his speech, Pretzell connected the oppression of the East German people in the former GDR with the alleged suppression of the European peoples by the European Union and the alleged loss of European identity due to Muslim immigration. While Pretzell partly used the notion of Europe when referring to the European Union, he also utilized the notions Europe, West and Western Europe synonymously. As their opposite and enemy, he

51  Pretzell, “twitter-account.” By “Nice” Pretzell refers to the Islamist terror attack which had been taken place in the French city in July 2016. 52  The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) names a net migration of 1.1 million for 2015. BAMF, “Migrationsbericht 2015.” 53  AfD, “Facebook-account.” 54  Maréchal, “twitter-account.” 55  Wilders, “twitter-account.”



named “the Oriental world,” “the Arab world” and Islam. “Today,” Pretzell stated, the great colonial power of Europe […] is about to let itself being colonialized—by people who to a major part consider the laws of their religion to be more mandatory than the laws of the states they [these people] have immigrated into. About half of them lives mentally in the 7th century. Many of the immigrants from the oriental world do not think anything of democracy, a state of law, gender equality, religious freedom and the freedom of speech. Instead, most of them consider the Western lifestyle to be decadent. […] They bring neither aqueducts nor wine [as the Romans], but analphabetism, veiled women and the jihad to Europe.56

Pretzell outlines an opposition between the West on one side, which he connects with democracy, a state of law, gender equality, religious freedom and freedom of speech, and immigrants from “the oriental world” on the other, whom he considers as the opposition to these allegedly Western values. A differentiation between several migrant groups (be it due to their home country, their religious or social background, their age or sex) is missing. Instead, it is a collective other, “the” migrant from Muslim countries who is said to threaten Europe and Western culture. Just as other voices quoted above, Pretzell warns about the decline of the West. However, while media and politicians of the political establishment see the West threatened by restrictions to the “open society,” Pretzell identifies Muslim immigration as the major threat. As Pretzell states in the quote above, the typical migrant is uneducated, fanatically religious, willing to use violence, and male— the “veiled women” whom this migrant supposedly brings to Europe, appear just as objects. Female migrants as actors are missing in Pretzell’s speech—a contradiction to his supposed concern about gender equality. The request by mainstream media and politicians to show tolerance and openness toward multiculturalism, Pretzell calls to be an expression of “Western cultural self-hate.” Praising the Hungarian head of state Viktor Orbán for his decision to hold a plebiscite on immigration, Pretzell states: “While the Eastern European rediscover their will for self-preservation, many Western European mistake the elementary desire of a people, that is  Pretzell, “Rede.”




to stay alive, for racism.”57 This line of argumentation reflects an argumentative pattern commonly used by the New Right. The so-called concept of ethnopluralism conceives peoples as groups with specific characteristics which need to be protected against foreign cultural influences. The New Right also speaks about “the right to difference”—a right being suppressed by political actors creating multi-ethnical and multicultural nation-­ states.58 Building on ideas of Germany’s Conservative Revolution during the interwar period, ethnopluralism rejects the assumption that multicultural societies can be functional. By presenting the separation of different ethnic groups as a natural desire of humanity, ethnopluralism presents itself less aggressive than racism. Thereby the ideas of ethnopluralism are attractive not only for right-wing extremists but also for broader circles of society.59 Following the logics of ethnopluralist thinking, Pretzell’s understanding of the West is not compatible with the idea of a multicultural and pluralistic society but stands in clear opposition to Popper’s model of the open society. Instead, Pretzell draws up a scenario of a social Darwinist struggle taking place between Western and oriental culture. Outside the social media, Germany’s New Right commented on the terror attack in Berlin among others in the weekly Junge Freiheit (JF). Founded 1986  in the Federal Republic, JF has advanced to one of the most influential press organs of the German New Right. The newspaper has successfully reached out to the academic spectrum of the political extreme right. According to the paper’s own judgment, their readers are “educated, high-income and politically interested.”60 The paper has a close political affiliation to the AfD.61 The article commenting on the attack in Berlin was written by the chief editor of JF, Dieter Stein. Stein, who has a past in several right extremist political parties, criticizes the reactions of the German public: “The silence after the terror,” reads the headline and Stein continues: “Odd, almost spooky is the tranquility with which the people of Berlin, the Germans react to the terror attack in the heart of their capital. It seems as if one has expected it long-since—and taken into account. However, has the sympathy not already been greater  Ibid.  Eckert (2010), 26ff. 59  Pfeiffer (2004), 55–57. 60  JF, “Leser der JF.” 61  Alexander Gauland, party leader of the AfD, stated: “If you want to understand the AfD, you need to read Junge Freiheit”. Erk and Schirmer, “Journal national.” 57 58



in other cases?”62 In this formulation, Stein clearly keeps his distance to the—according to him—calm public reactions by avoiding the usage of the formulation “we.” The common “us,” however, comes into the picture when Stein identifies the target of the attack: “Our nation, our society, our way of life has been the target of this attack.” It is remarkable that Stein, when talking about “our way of life,” uses the identical formulation as Gauck, Müller and Merkel. It is furthermore close to Merkel’s formulation of “defending the life as we want to live it in Germany.” In addition, Stein addresses a collective larger than Germany when drawing a parallel to other Islamist terror attacks in Europe: “A bloody trail leaves its marks through over the continent: Paris, Brussels, and Nice. […] Germany, however, has been spared a major attack so far. Until December 19th, 2016.”63 Hence, equally to Merkel, Gauck and Müller, Stein refers to a cultural community larger than the nation-state which was targeted in Berlin. It is, however, not only Stein’s political background, which makes it obvious that the cultural community he has in mind does not equal the notion of the “free world” Merkel, Gauck and Müller are referring to. Also, in the article itself, Stein marks a clear distance to the worldview of the three representatives of German political mainstream. Stein writes: So far the growing danger of terrorism has not caused the implosion of the illusion of the “colorful, open society” decades of uncontrolled immigration policy of former federal governments should lead to. However, the country gets creepingly out of control: With a mixture of lax justice, cuddling pedagogic at schools, neglected authorities, contempt for the own religion, a disrespected sense of community—in other countries to be called patriotism—Germany helplessly faces the challenge of a culture, which is patriarchal, male, not peaceful, and traditionally and religiously marked.64

Considering Stein’s academic education, it is reasonable to assume that he chose the formulation of the illusion of “the colorful, open society,” and thereby the reference to Popper, on purpose. The adjective “colorful” is furthermore a reference to multiculturalism, non-heterosexuality, and left-wing political point of views. Stein clearly takes his distance from a society marked by such a colorfulness, which he sees represented and cre Stein, “Die Stille.”  Ibid. 64  Ibid. 62 63



ated by all German governments in power during the past decades. As both conservatives, liberals, social democrats and the greens have been in power during this period, Stein criticizes the entire political establishment. Instead, he proposes an authoritarian society in order to keep “control” and defend itself against the culture of Islam. It is, indeed, an entire culture, which Stein identifies as the enemy, not political groups or nation-­ ­ states. And, likewise Pretzell, Stein claims that it is due to an “uncontrolled immigration policy” that a “clash of civilizations” in the spirit of Samuel Huntington is already taking place. That Muslim immigration does not only threaten the German nation-­ state but the fundaments of Western civilization, JF claimed already in April 2016. “Finally electable: The defense of Western values,” the right-­ wing weekly states referring to the AfD. “Thank you, AfD,” the author continues. “This is […] the first word one should dedicate to the AfD for their declaration of war on Islam.”65 AfD had indeed made it clear already in its party program that it was their main goal “to preserve […] our occidental Christian culture.”66 While also conservative politicians and researchers like Winkler connect the West with Christianity, references to Christian values and culture are more outspoken in comments by the New Right. The main function of these references, however, seems to be to establish an opposition to Islam. In an interview with JF in April 2017, Beatrix von Storch, deputy chairman of the AfD in the national parliament, stated: “I have said several times that for me our main topic is Islam. […] Islam means Stone Age. […] There must not be any compromises with Islam. We have to and we are going to defend our culture—against Islam.”67 And Björn Höcke, head of the AfD in Thüringen, stated on Facebook: “There are simply certain cultures, which are less compatible with our Western values than others. And one can clearly name them. […] No asylum for Muslims in Germany!,” Höcke concludes.68 Another reaction by the German New Right to the attack in Berlin took place in a symbolic form. The right-wing extremist movement Ein Prozent (one percent) called for a picket in front of the Federal Chancellery in 65  Fest, “Endlich wählbar.” The author is the son of Joachim Fest, a famous conservative German historian and journalist who passed away in 2006. This may serve as one example for the close connection between the conservative establishment and the New Right in Germany. 66  AfD, “Programm für Deutschland,” 6. 67  Krautkrämer, “AfD-Vize von Storch.” 68  Höcke, “Facebook-account.”



Berlin, which took place on December 21, two days after the attack.69 Responsible organizers were Philip Stein and Götz Kubitschek, two front figures of Germany’s New Right. Among the protesters attending the picket were, among others, Björn Höcke, the AfD-politician named above, and Alexander Gauland, party chairman of the AfD. Their presence was promised by the organizers already in advance in order to advertise the event.70 The picket demonstrated an alleged connection between Christianity, Western values and German nationalism. No long speeches were held at the meeting, the organizers had decided to express their grief for the victims and their protest against Merkel’s migration policy by their plain presence in front of the Chancellery. “We will be silent and look at the Chancellery,” it said in the call of the organizers.71 Apart from AfD-politician Franz Wiese, who guided through the event, the only person talking for a longer time was a Protestant priest. As he noted in the beginning of his sermon, he was not sent by his superiors but had “followed his conscience.”72 The priest commented on the attack the following way: “When innocents are attacked and threatened with murder and manslaughter, the word of Jesus to turn the other cheek does not apply.” Instead, the priest suggests another Bible passage to be more accurate: “What you have done to one of the least, you have done to me. When our fellow human beings are being killed and injured, also we as Christians do have the right to resistance.”73 It is the parable of the judgment of the Son of man over the peoples (Matthew 25:31–46) the priest is referring to. His interpretation of the parable matches with the ideology of the New Right in several ways. Firstly, the priest calls for protest and activism, instead of acceptance and passivism. Secondly, the parable builds on a clear dichotomy, as Jesus divides the peoples into those who are blessed and those who are damned. Also, the ideology of the New Right builds on clear dichotomies and othering-processes, a friend-orenemy conceptualization in the spirit of Carl Schmitt. Thirdly, and this point corresponds directly with the dichotomist thinking, in his interpretation of the parable the priest constructs the image of a supranational community, the community of all Christians, which fell victim to the ter Ein Prozent, “Morgen.”  Ibid. 71  Ibid. 72  Guten Morgen mit Sat 1, “Aktuell.” 73  Ibid. 69 70



ror attack. He explicitly addresses “us, the Christians,” who have the right to resistance. German Muslims are thereby excluded from this societal “us.” Furthermore, the participants of the picket were listening to the German national anthem. German and Christian identity were thereby indivisibly intertwined. The West was not literally mentioned at the picket. However, if one takes into consideration the promise of the AfD-party program to preserve occidental Christian culture and the comments made by well-known ­right-­wing populists (such as those quoted above), the notion of the West needs to be added to the semantic web created by the New Right. The vagueness and the blending of the notions West, Christianity and Germany are intentional. They open up—just as the concept of ethnopluralism—for voters beyond the right extremist circles. From a historical perspective, the fact that Germany’s New Right is talking about the West with a positive connotation is remarkable, indeed. As the West was associated with France, Great Britain and the United States, Germany’s “conservative revolutionaries” of the 1920s and 1930s expressed strong hostility against the West. Germany’s New Right, however, has chosen a different path. Instead of constructing the West as the enemy, German right-wing extremists of today are trying to take over the concept. German right-wing ideology is not about rejecting the West anymore—it is about owning the West.

Conclusion By analyzing reactions to the terror attack on the Berlin Christmas market on December 19, 2016, this chapter has shown that the West is a contested concept in recent German debate and less stable than both the media, politicians and the historiographic narrative of Germany’s Westernization make it appear to be. Different actors attach different meanings to the West—depending on their political affiliations and motivations. Both leading representatives of Germany’s political establishment, such as Angela Merkel, Joachim Gauck and Michael Müller, and the majority of the German press interpret the West along the lines of Popper’s concept of the open society. This interpretation is furthermore reflected in Winkler’s definition of the West. This West is characterized by democratic values, the rule of law, the protection of human rights, the



respect for the dignity of the individual and tolerance toward difference within the frame of constitutional boundaries. As Winkler put it, this West is a normative project to strive for. In recent German discourse, this interpretation of the West has been so dominant that even Germany’s most influential left-wing daily die tageszeitung refers positively to Popper, the former bogeyman of Europe’s intellectual left. Furthermore, as a short transnational comparison has shown, it appears to be a typical German feature to downplay national identity and to refer to this interpretation of the West instead. To representatives of Germany’s political establishment, the construction of a societal “us” embedded in supranational structures serves as a self-­ assurance that Germany has left all national Sonderwege leading to dictatorship and fascism. The German interpretation of the West as an open society hence includes the normative impetus to “learn from history” and prevent national sentiments from growing. It thereby distinguishes itself from other European interpretations of the West such as the French or British ones, where features of the open society are not only represented as Western but also connected with the idea of the nation. A different definition of the West as the one of an open society can be found in Germany’s leading socialist newspaper ND which criticizes the West as an imperialist global player. It is, however, above all the New German Right which presents an influential alternative understanding of the West. Germany’s New Right constructs the West in opposition to Islam and considers Muslim immigration to be a threat to the fundaments of Western civilization. This argumentation is based on the concept of ethnopluralism which focuses on the protection of single national cultures and regards multicultural and pluralistic societies to be doomed to break apart. The model of a closed society, involved in a social Darwinist struggle with societies representing different cultures, replaces the idea of an open society. Just as conservative and left-wing voices, also representatives of the New Right claim to protect the West. However, as they reject the idea of a pluralistic society—a key word in the understanding of the West as the established parties are using the concept—they are referring to a different model of society, though with the same signifier. Semantically intertwined with the notions of Christianity and Germaneness, the West, as the New German Right uses the concept, mainly serves the function to define an enemy—the non-Western world that is represented in an alleged dangerous Islam.



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Kister, Kurt. 2016a. Tod eines Mörders. SZ 4, December 24/25/26. ———. 2016b. Hass auf das Leben. SZ 4, December 21. Kohler, Berthold. 2016. Die Saat des Terrors. FAZ 1, December 21. Krautkrämer, Felix. 2017. AfD-Vize von Storch: Islam bedeutet Steinzeit. JF, April 24. Levsen, Sonja, and Cornelius Torp. 2016. Die Bundesrepublik und der Vergleich. In Wo liegt die Bundesrepublik? Vergleichende Perspektiven auf die westdeutsche Geschichte, ed. Sonja Levsen and Cornelius Torp, 9–28. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Link, A., and F.  Solms-Laubach. 2016. Das kann nur Gott vergeben. Bild 5, December 21. Löfven, Stefan. 2017. Uttalande av statsminister Stefan Löfven med anledning av händelserna i Stockholm. April 7. Maréchal, Marion. Twitter-Account. us/811125658621509632?lang=de. Matthies, Bernd. 2016. Die Stadt bewahrt Fassung. Tagesspiegel 11, December 21. May, Theresa. 2017. PM Statement Following London Terror Attack: 4 June 2017. Merkel, Angela. 2016. Pressestatement von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel zum mutmaßlichen Anschlag am Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. December 20. https:// Minkmar, Nils. 2016. Die neue Übersichtlichkeit. Spiegel 30, December 23. Müller, Michael. 2016. Rede des Regierenden Bürgermeisters Michael Müller zum Terroranschlag auf dem Breitscheidplatz am 19. Dezember 2016. December 21. Münkler, Herfried. 2016. Die Vertrauensfrage. Die Zeit 42, December 29. Osterhammel, Jürgen. 2017. Was war und ist ‘der Westen’? Zur Mehrdeutigkeit eines Konfrontationsbegriffs. In Die Flughöhe der Adler. Historische Essays zur globalen Gegenwart, Idem, 101–114. München: Beck. Pfeiffer, Thomas. 2004. Avantgarde und Brücke. Die Neue Rechte aus Sicht des Verfassungsschutzes NRW. In Die Neue Rechte—eine Gefahr für die Demokratie? ed. Wolfgang Gessenharter and Thomas Pfeiffer, 51–70. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Popper, Karl. 1947. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. 1. London: Routledge.



Pretzell, Markus. 2016. Rede zum Tag der deutschen Einheit, 3.10.2016. https:// ———. Twitter-Account. 51258580992. Rajoy, Mariano. 2017. Declaración institucional del presidente del Gobierno con motivo del atentado terrorista en Barcelona. August 18. http://www.exteriores. NOT01.aspx. Sarrazin, Thilo. 2018. Feindliche Übernahme. Wie der Islam den Fortschritt behindert und die Gesellschaft bedroht. München: FBV. Schäuble, Wolfgang. 2016. Der Westen ist jetzt im Stresstest. Die Zeit 6, December 21. Schmidt, Michael. 2016. Anschlag auf Berlin. Tagesspiegel 1, December 20. Schröder, Christian. 2016. Das Herz des Westens. Tagesspiegel 10, December 21. Schweppenhäuser, Gerhard. 2016. Nennen wir es Krieg. ND 9, December 24/25/26. Seifert, Arne C., and Heinz-Dieter Winter. 2017. Mitten im Terrorismus-­ Dilemma. ND 10, January 2. Spiegel. 2016. Stille Nacht. Weihnachten in Zeiten des Terrors. Spiegel 1, December 23. Statistik-berlin-brandenburg. Stein, Dieter. 2016. Die Stille nach dem Terror. JF, December 21. taz. 2016a. Die Herausforderung. taz 1, December 21. ———. 2016b. Interview with Konstantin von Notz. taz 2, December 21. Trautsch, Jasper M. 2017. Was ist ‘der Westen’? Zur Semantik eines politischen Grundbegriffs der Moderne. Forum interdisziplinäre Begriffsgeschichte 6 (1): 58–66. Truscheit, Karin. 2016. In den Spuren lesen. FAZ 1, December 22. Verfassungsschutz. zuf-is-uebersicht-ausgewaehlter-islamistisch-terroristischer-anschlaege. Wilders, Geert. Twitter-Account. Winkler, Heinrich August. 2000. Der lange Weg nach Westen. 2 vol. München: Beck. ———. 2009–2015. Geschichte des Westens. 4 vol. München: Beck. Zoch, Anette. 2016. Der Schock von Berlin. SZ 1, December 21. https://www. vice/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2018/04/ PD18_133_12521.html.


Imagining the West in the Era of America First Henna-Riikka Pennanen and Anna Kronlund

After the US presidential elections in November 2016, NBC News turned to Twitter to find out the world’s reaction to Donald Trump’s victory. Among a collage of front pages, the headline of the German tabloid B.Z. proclaimed the election as “the night the West died.”1 Fareed Zakaria, journalist and a member of the Berggruen Institute, was more refrained in his assessment in the Washington Post: “Trump might not cause the end of the Western world,” he wrote, but “he could end the United States’ role at its center.”2 Stewart Patrick, from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), did not portend the demise of the West but warned that Trump’s foreign policy would “unleash forces beyond his control, sharpening the crisis of the Western-centered order.”3 From these excerpts we learn that  Smith (2016).  Zakaria (2017). 3  Patrick (2017), 52. 1 2

H.-R. Pennanen (*) Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland e-mail: [email protected] A. Kronlund University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




the West, Western world, or a Western-centered order is in crisis, and that the Trump presidency not only coincides with it but directly contributes to the crisis. Yet, what exactly is the West, and what kind of crisis is it facing? This chapter analyzes the crisis narratives in the setting of debates on Trump administration’s “America First”-foreign policy in the United States. Our analysis covers approximately the first year and a half of President Trump’s term and concludes at the June 2018 G7 summit in Quebec, in which one of the narratives culminated. Three overlapping crisis narratives, in particular, stand out: crisis of Western values, crisis of the liberal international order, and crisis of US leadership. We will examine each of these in the pages that follow. Our second focus is on the idea of the West present in these narratives. In 2002, Jacinta O’Hagan published her treatise Conceptualizing the West in International Relations Thought, which has become one of the key studies in the usage of the idea and concept of “the West” in discussions on international relations and world politics. O’Hagan notes that the concept is frequently deployed, but that it has no single specific and uncontested definition.4 We treat the West as a concept, idea, and rhetorical tool. The questions we ask are: how is the concept of the West utilized, in what kind of contexts is it used, and what kind of meanings and definitions are ascribed to it? To understand the meanings of the concept, and what the author is doing with it, requires contextualization.5 In this case, relevant contexts are, for example, US foreign policy traditions, politics, and rhetorical commonplaces as well as the audience of the speech. The sources of the analysis include speeches and documents presented by President Trump and the representatives of his administration, the speeches and documents of former and current US politicians, and political commentary in US newspapers and magazines. The selected sources do not present a comprehensive overview, but they give a glimpse of the actors engaged in discussions on US foreign policy. The US Constitution grants responsibility for framing and formulating foreign policy to the executive branch—the president, his advisors, and the bureaucracy—and to a lesser extent, to the legislative branch, the Congress. Congress has the powers of the purse, oversight, and balancing the president. Public opinion, too, plays a part, and media amplifies the voices of the public. Media provides a platform also for political influencers and commentators,6 some of whom  O’Hagan (2002), 8–9.  See for example O’Hagan (2002), 16; Skinner (2006), 42, 86–87; Whatmore (2016), 100. 6  Kaufman (2017), 2, 14, 19–20, 22. 4 5



are also members of think tanks. Arguably, think tanks constitute a major actor in the making of US foreign policy. As Howard Wiarda explains, they shape the debate, propose policies, advice the executive administration, attend White House briefings, and testify before the Congress.7 However, the most influential actor is the president, who is perceived to head, personify, and speak for the nation. He or she is not only specially positioned to set foreign policy priorities and articulate the policies that will best serve the national interest but also, as the head of the government, the president decrees those policies to be implemented. The documents and speeches of US presidents and their administrations form a corpus of texts that are expected to express more or less coordinated and coherent views of the world and politics. Accordingly, in the texts presented by the Trump administration, we have recurring policy slogans, such as “America First,” “peace through strength,” and “principled realism.” However, we also have a steady flow of tweets, official documents, speeches, and comments with diverging and occasionally contradicting messages, which prompts the question: which one of these embodies the administration’s views and foreign policy doctrines? Take, for example, the National Security Strategy (NSS). Michael Anton, former spokesman for the National Security Council, has explained that the document is based on the major speeches Trump held during his campaign and first year as a president. Yet, can we be certain that the NSS accurately reflects Trump’s views, considering that Anton could not affirm whether the president had “read every line” of the document?8 Moreover, the document was the handiwork of National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and his team, and McMaster has now stepped down possibly due to his views not aligning with Trump.9 This is the caveat that must be kept in mind, when analyzing the president’s and his administration’s foreign policy rhetoric and use of concepts.

Crisis of Western Values In July 2017 in Warsaw, on his second international trip, President Trump delivered a speech which attracted a great deal of attention. Trump commenced the speech by recounting the history of Poland. He congratulated the Polish people for seeking freedom, defending civilization, and main Wiarda (2010), 29–30.  WH adviser (2017). 9  Glasser (2018). 7 8



taining their national identity and spirit throughout the hardships of the twentieth century. In all their struggles, Trump added, Poland had been supported “by a strong alliance of free nations in the West.” However, just as during the Cold War, the West is again confronted by “dire threats to our security and to our way of life.”10 The question then, according to Trump, is: Do the Americans and Europeans have the desire to defend their civilization like the Polish have done? Do they have the courage to protect this community of nations, in which people honor God, empower women, and treasure art, innovation, rule of law, and freedom? Does the West still have “the will to survive?” The survival and triumph of the West and “our civilization,” Trump emphasized, depends on the patriotism of the people: their confidence in inherited values and readiness to protect their borders.11 The profuse use of the concepts of the West, civilization, and national spirit has prompted speculations as to who wrote the Warsaw speech. Analysts have detected the imprint of Stephen Miller (Trump’s chief speechwriter), Steve Bannon (White House strategist at the time), and H. R. McMaster. The influence of McMaster is thought to show in the excerpts emphasizing US commitment to NATO and allies, the influence of Miller in the emphasis on nationalism, and that of Steve Bannon in the overall theme, which bordered on the “clash of civilizations”-theory popularized12 by Samuel Huntington. Journalists also uncovered that the administration had received help from a Polish historian and right-wing commentator in writing the speech.13 Reportedly, the Polish audience of the speech in attendance consisted mainly of supporters of the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), who were likely to be receptive to a nationalist message. Yet, the mixture of nationalism and the much more overarching idea of the West in the speech is intriguing. How can the two be reconciled? Steve Bannon has a track record of emphasizing the inalienable sovereignty of states, national cultures, and identities. He has combined them with a marked disdain for intergovernmental organizations with supranational features, particularly the European Union, and then throwing into the mix a message that the Judeo-Christian civilization is under dire  Trump (2017c).  Ibid. 12  Jackson (2017), 90. 13  Glasser (2018), Krastev (2017), Nazaryan (2017), Porter (2017). 10 11



threat.14 Michael Anton, too, had no qualms about uniting nationalism and Western civilization in an article he wrote for American Affairs. In pressing the importance of prestige as an element in international politics, Anton wrote that People like to be a part of something greater than themselves. This emphatically includes their nation. Patriotism is thus a natural phenomenon—A related aspect of prestige is the fate and health not just of one’s nation but one’s civilization, religion, or “sect” (in the Machiavellian sense of overarching cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, “civilizational” framework). Western ennui today stems partly from the sense that our “sect” is going down.15 Thus, both Anton and Bannon seem to conclude that people feel affinity not only with their nation but with a larger civilization, and thus the two go together naturally. Moreover, if nations are confident and strong, so is the greater civilization. By the same token, in the declinist narratives of Anton, Bannon, and Trump, the Western civilization is in danger because of the weakening spirit, power, and sovereignty of Western nations. President Trump’s speeches abroad have been targeted just as much at his audience back home as at the audience present in the event. In the case of the Warsaw speech, the home audience quickly seized on Trump’s words, and opinion pages of US newspapers and magazines flooded with debate. David Frum, the editor at The Atlantic and affiliated with the R Street Institute, found fault not with the speech itself, but with the speaker. Frum pointed out the hypocrisy of Trump defending the idea of the West when so much of his previous comments and acts were clearly intended to push aside and undermine the Euro-American unity of the West. Moreover, the Western values Trump brought up were precisely the same values “he has put at risk every day of his presidency—and that he will continue to put to risk every day thereafter.”16 Journalist Alexander Nazaryan, in Newsweek, was on the same page, arguing that Trump defending the values he treads on every day was “preposterous.”17 Ivan Krastev noted in the New York Times that the speech effectively redefined the meaning of the West. According to Krastev, Trump no longer seemed to adhere to the political notion of the Cold War West as a  See for example Crowley (2017) and Panda (2017).  Anton (2017). 16  Frum (2017). 17  Nazaryan (2017). 14 15



liberal-democratic order but instead espoused a notion based on culture. The speech envisioned a very dark future for the West, being surrounded by threats both from within and without. Krastev concluded that building this new Western identity around the idea of a fortress under siege risked the fate of a man “who, so panicked by death, decides to commit suicide.”18 Journalist and political commentator Peter Beinart, on the other hand, opined in The Atlantic that the West is not a geographical, ideological, or economic term but a racial and religious one. A Western country or person is Christian and white. Thus, Beinart concluded, when Trump characterized American identity as Western at its core, he excluded a large part of US citizens from his vision of what is American.19 These interpretations of the Warsaw speech drew the ire of more conservative and right-wing commentators. The conclusion many of these commentators arrived at was aptly summarized in John Hinderaker’s headline in the Power Line blog: “It’s True: Liberals Hate Western Civilization.”20 Journalist Robert Merry, for example, denounced in The American Conservative the “anti-Western” attitude of Beinart and all the others who attack “the West” or label talk of “our civilization” as “white nationalism or tribalism.” According to Merry, there are “elements within the West bent on destroying any civilizational consciousness,” and these polemical assaults on “the American and Western heritage” are daily occurrences. However, he reminded that “many Americans, perhaps most, hate to see their national and civilizational heritage coming under attack.”21 Merry noted that such attacks against “the Western heritage” were a relatively recent phenomenon. Also, John Fonte from the Hudson Institute recalled in the American Greatness that during the twentieth century, liberal presidents had attached “the possessive pronoun ‘our’ to concepts such as nation, religion, civilization, culture, and freedom” with pride and at the time no one had thought of accusing them of being Alt-­ Right or white nationalists. But then, during the past few decades, the elites and intellectuals of the Left had turned against such rhetoric. They had become not so much anti-Western, but post-Western, as they had “‘deconstructed’ the idea of the West using the ideological tools of postmodernism and multiculturalism.” Fonte observed that in this intellectual  Krastev (2017).  Beinart (2017). 20  Hinderaker (2017). 21  Merry (2017). 18 19



climate, Western leaders had become hesitant to defend—let alone celebrate—the Western civilization. Moreover, Fonte continued, as the reception of Trump’s speech demonstrated, this hesitance has spread to even “mainstream liberals.”22 Such analyses resemble the conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism,” expounded by US conservative and far-right circles alike since the 1990s. The theory claims that Cultural Marxist elites, namely academics representing the Frankfurt School, are imbued by a totalitarian ideology seeking to destroy Western culture and values. The weapons of the academic attacks are political correctness, denouncement of white males and Christians, and hurling epithets such as “racist” and “fascist” at their enemies.23 Essentially, these opinion pieces debated the definitions of the West: whether it is a political association, community of values, or a civilization. However, another set of writers focused on an equally controversial question: is Western civilization unique or universal? One of the authors to present the question was journalist Damon Linker in The Week. Linker noted that the critique of the Warsaw speech flowed from the fact that Trump was clearly speaking about the West as “a place on a map, with an inside and an outside, with specific languages, achievements, and a common history;” not about the West as a set of cosmopolitan principles. Adherence to universalism, according to Linker, is in itself a very Western view, based on the proneness of the Westerners to identify the highest ideals of the West “with the negation of its own distinctiveness.” In this view, the only elements of Western civilization to be championed are those which have universal appeal, such as democracy and egalitarianism.24 Some of the opinion texts drew a contrast between the Warsaw speech and rhetoric of previous US presidents.25 For example, when George W.  Bush visited Poland in 2001, he described Europe and the United States as sharing a common history and civilization. The values of that civilization, Bush argued, were universal, even if they did pervade the transatlantic community and alliance “in a unique way.”26 Barack Obama, on the other hand, utilized the term “West” speaking at Cairo University in 2009. Amid tense relations between “Islam and the West,” Obama  Fonte (2017).  Jamin (2018), 1, 5–7. 24  Linker (2017). 25  Beinart (2017), French (2017), Hanson (2017). 26  Bush (2001). 22 23



noted the debt of Western civilization to Islam and argued that the two shared common principles. In fact, Obama announced his “unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:” freedom of speech, rule of law, equal administration of justice, and a transparent and uncorrupt government. He added that these were not just American ideas, but human rights, and thus universal.27 Two years later, giving a speech to the joint Houses of Parliament at Westminster Hall, Obama declared that “the longing for freedom and human dignity is not English or American or Western—it is universal, and it beats in every heart.”28 And again, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, he reiterated that freedom and self-determination are “not simply American values or Western values—they are universal values.”29 David French, a fellow at the National Review Institute, rejoiced in the National Review that in contrast to Bush and Obama, Trump firmly relocated Western principles and values to the context of the West—the context in which these values were born and where they belong. He continued that the “universalist view of human nature and human freedom” was “totally and completely wrong,” describing universalism as a “false ideology” and “a burden and a cancer on our body politic.” For, according to French, “not all people have the same desires, and not all faiths teach the same things. Some cultures are superior to others.”30 This view of civilizations as unique bears affinity with Samuel Huntington’s thesis of civilizations. According to Huntington, peoples of different civilizations have: different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy.

These differences have formed throughout centuries, and they are “far more fundamental than differences among political ideologies and political regimes.”31 In defining Western civilization as unique, Huntington, French—and Trump himself in the Warsaw speech—end up refuting the  Obama (2009).  Transcript in Landale (2011). 29  Obama (2012). 30  French (2017). 31  Huntington (1993), 25. 27 28



triumphalist narrative of Westernization. According to this narrative, Western civilization and values are universal and destined to spread all over the world. Once the process is complete, Western civilization has ceased to be Western and become global instead. In other words, when everything is Western, the West will disappear.32 The Huntingtonian idea of the clash of civilizations may have vanished from serious US foreign policy debates after its heyday in the 1990s, as Patrick Thaddeus Jackson has argued,33 but it has not entirely loosened its grip of the popular imagination. Quite the contrary. As the Warsaw speech and the ensuing opinion pieces suggest, the Huntingtonian themes of unique Western values and ideals, of the moral decline of Western civilization through divisive multiculturalism, and of potential clash with other civilizations are alive and well. Despite the Trump administration’s emphasis on Western ideals and values, they seem to play second fiddle in the America First-foreign policy. As (now dismissed) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained to his staff in spring 2017, this policy is characterized by the separation of values from policies. Tillerson acknowledged that the fundamental values of freedom and human dignity underlie US foreign policy, but he emphasized that when they conflict with national security or interests, values cannot condition policies.34 In this regard, the America First-policy appears to conform to the realist view of states pursuing their core national interests: wealth and the “protection and continuity of the state and people.” They also pursue power, because it translates into security. Realists define power in mainly material terms, and in the strive for maximizing power, values tend to get ignored.35 Realism is certainly flexible enough to accommodate America First-principles, but more generally, analysts have struggled with the question of how to categorize and theorize Trump’s foreign policy orientation, except for the notions that it is transactional, based on bargains, and sees world politics as a zero-sum game.36 The self-assigned label of the Trump administration—“principled realism”—adds to the confusion. In December 2017, President Trump unveiled his NSS, laying out the administration’s view of world politics, security, and US foreign policy goals. The administration describes the  Delanty (2006), 1; Ifversen (2008), 240.  Jackson (2017), 83, 98. 34  Tillerson (2017a). 35  Barnett (2018), 9–11; Kaufman (2017), 10–11. 36  Barnett (2018), 8; Jervis (2018), 5. 32 33



strategy as being imbued with first “realism,” since it recognizes that the world is made up of sovereign states, that power is the key element in international politics, and that it spells out US national interests. The strategy and the foreign policy emanating from it are also “principled,” because they are “guided by our values and disciplined by our interests.” Interestingly, the administration affirms that “America’s values and influence” make the world more prosperous, secure, and peaceful, and thus the government commits to “championing” American values.37 In his speech at the Wilson Center in November 2017, Tillerson delivered a similarly mixed message. The United States and Europe are being tested, he declared, and their way of life and “core Western principles” are being challenged by outside forces. To survive, they need to remain strong, prosperous, and sovereign. But they must also be committed to cultivating and defending the shared, foundational principles on which the “Western civilization is built: Liberty, equality, and human dignity.”38 Also McMaster specifically emphasized such shared values and ideals as democracy, liberty, individual rights, free enterprise, equality, and rule of law when he spoke at the Munich Security Conference in 2018.39 As already noted in conjunction with the Warsaw speech, the ideals, principles, and values McMaster, Tillerson, and Trump are referring to are held to be specifically American, Euro-American, or Western. They are particular, not universal. In the president’s speeches, what we often hear is that all strong, sovereign nations have the right to “chart their own path.” Nations with different values, different cultures, and different dreams can—and should—coexist, respect each other, and cooperate. The United States,. as Trump and his administration have repeatedly stressed, does not seek to impose American values or way of life upon any other state. Instead, it will serve as an inspiration and example for others.40 In his Foreign Policy Speech during the presidential campaign, Trump promised to “work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions,” again implying that these were in decline and in crisis. He underlined that this “strengthening and promoting Western civilization” would be vastly more beneficial than trying to spread universal values—which “not everybody shares or wants.”41  NSS (2017), 38, 55.  Tillerson (2017b). 39  McMaster (2018). 40  NSS (2017), 4; Trump (2017a, b, e). 41  Transcript: Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech (2016). 37 38



Crisis of the Liberal International Order According to some politicians and political analysts, the West is in jeopardy also in the sense of the liberal international order, as the two are often treated as synonyms for each other. First, there is the post-Second World War regional international order, or as G. John Ikenberry elucidates, “the West” as a “transatlantic order or security community, embodied as it is in the Atlantic alliance.”42 This order—already fractured during the George W. Bush presidency43—is seen to be under great duress. Misgivings about the durability of the order began before President Trump’s inauguration. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017, the then vice president Joe Biden called the Europeans and Americans to resist “small-­ minded” nationalism, protectionism, isolationism, and xenophobic political rhetoric and instead to invest in the transatlantic alliance. He especially made the case for reinforcing universal liberal values, because the transatlantic superiority and hegemonic position are entrenched in them. He explicitly claimed that these values were the foundation of “the West’s historically unprecedented success,” and “paramount to retaining the position of leadership Western nations enjoy and preserving the progress we have made together.”44 The anxiety over the transatlantic alliance has built up during Trump’s term and came to a head at the G7 summit in June 2018. The summit convened among tensions and disputes over trade policies and tariffs, and it ended with Trump withdrawing from the joint communique and calling Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as weak and dishonest in his tweet. Again, journalists and political scientists took to writing. The opinion pieces had alarmed headings such as “Trump plunges West into crisis over summit spat,” “Trump Tries to Destroy the West,” and “The ­Murder-­Suicide of the West.” In his contribution to the CFR blog, Stewart Patrick even characterized Trump as “one of America’s most consequential foreign policy presidents,” who is clearly intent on abandoning both the notion of the transatlantic alliance and order, and the concept of the West.45

42  Ikenberry (2008), 5. Also “the North Atlantic community, the Atlantic political order, or the Western system.” p. 6. 43  Ikenberry (2008), 1–3. 44  Transcript in Chan (2017). 45  Patrick (2018).



Journalist David Leonhardt, in his opinion piece in the New York Times, entertained the idea that perhaps President Trump had a “secret plan to break up the West” or the “Western alliance,” while his CNN colleague Stephen Collinson concluded that the “West is in crisis” as the summit brought to the fore the immense ideological divisions between Trump and the Western allies.46 Like Biden in his Davos speech, the writers also brought up the theme of shared values. Patrick argued that Trump had betrayed “the notion of the ‘West’ as a collection of like-minded democracies, united in their defense of human liberty and the rule of law rather than the law of the jungle.” According to the analysts, nowhere was Trump’s perceived contempt for the West more visible than in his proposition to readmit Russia—which was suspended from the G8 after its annexation of Crimea—to the group. In New York Times, David Brooks, a member of the radical centrist public policy institute New America, described Trump’s “embrace of Putin” as “a victory dance on the Euro-­ American tomb.”47 Leonhardt urged his readers to keep in mind that this alliance and the ideals on which it was based were the real stakes in the 2018 midterm elections.48 A month after the G7 meeting, President Trump was set to travel to a NATO summit in Brussels. Before the summit, the Congress attempted to take back some control over US foreign policy and its rhetorical representation. The Senate passed a nonbinding resolution with a 97–2 vote reaffirming US commitment to NATO’s Article 5 and to the NATO “alliance as a community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”49 The transatlantic West is held to be the core of the liberal international order, but since the Cold War, that order has assumed global pretensions. Even this more global order is often conceptualized and represented as “Western.” Arguably, this is partly because the order carries within it an ultimate aim of shaping “the world in the West’s image,”50 a strive for cultural hegemony in a sense, and partly because this order is still largely “Western-led,” and thus embodying Western political, economic, and military hegemony. Lately, a considerable number of political scientists  Leonhardt (2018).  Brooks (2018), Collinson (2018), Patrick (2018). 48  Leonhardt (2018). 49  Congressional Record (2018), S4863; Jones (2018). 50  Leonard (2017). 46 47



have argued that this more global liberal international order is wavering, remarkably because parts of the West are rejecting the Western order. Authoritarian and anti-liberal ideas attract followers, and such values and principles underpinning the liberal order as democracy, free trade, tolerance, open societies, transparent governance, and an independent judiciary are increasingly being challenged.51 According to Amitav Acharya, the decline of the American—or liberal—world order is a long-term structural process, which was not set in motion by Trump. But, Acharya adds, he could very well hasten the downfall and further encourage illiberal trends along the way.52 Late Republican Senator John McCain echoed these worries in the speech he held at the 2017 Munich Security Conference. His address opened a panel titled “The Future of the West: Downfall or Comeback?” and forcefully fended not only for the idea of the West but also US support for a Western world order. Born from the ashes of the Second World War, McCain narrated, was “a new, and different, and better kind of world order.” This order, the West, was not based on “blood-and-soil nationalism, or spheres of influence, or conquest of the weak by the strong, but rather on universal values, rule of law, open commerce, and respect for national sovereignty and independence.” The order had succeeded because of the appeal of Western values. This was largely the same argument that Biden made at Davos. Even more importantly, McCain stressed, the order had endured to this day because Americans had backed up those values with their army, navy, and weapons. Upholding the Western order required constant effort, but now, McCain lamented, “many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West.” They reject universal values, and with their thoughts and actions, they are calling the “rightness and goodness of the West” into question. Consequently, whether the West will survive has become an urgent question to be treated with “deadly seriousness.” Ultimately, McCain portrayed this as a question of decline and fall of the world order.53 Rather than countering the pessimist assessments regarding the crisis of the liberal international order, Trump’s NSS appears to be built on them. First, the document notes, in the 1990s it was assumed that the US military superiority was unchallengeable and that the inevitable spread of  Ikenberry (2011), 68; Walt (2016).  Acharya (2018), xiii–xiv; Ikenberry (2017), 2. 53  McCain (2017). 51 52



democracy would replace competition with cooperation. However, this assumption, the document states, has proved to be entirely unfounded. Instead of democratic peace, great power competition returned. Political, economic, military, and strategic competition is now being waged between the United States and “authoritarian states,” or between “free and repressive visions of world order.” The United States is facing three main sets of challengers: “the revisionist powers of China and Russia, the rogue states of Iran and North Korea, and transnational threat organizations, particularly jihadist terrorist groups.”54 Thus far, the strategy reads much like The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008), in which Robert Kagan declares the post-Cold War glimpse of a free, just, and democratic world to have been an illusion. Great power competition has reemerged as a force in history, and so has the age-old rivalry between liberalism and autocracy. Thus, Kagan claims, the world has “become normal again.”55 One thing that separates these two visions, however, is the choice of words. It is hardly an accident that the NSS does not identify the rivals of authoritarian states as “liberal.” In fact, the term liberal appears in the text only twice, and in both those instances, it is connected with failure—failure of the “liberal economic trading system” and failure of the “liberal-democratic enlargement” to deliver peace and cooperation.56 This contrasts with the National Security Strategies of presidents Barack Obama, George W.  Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, in which the principles of economic and trade liberalization were a staple. In Clinton’s 1994 strategy it is proclaimed, for example, that “Our national security strategy is based on enlarging the community of market democracies—. The more that democracy and political and economic liberalization take hold in the world, ­particularly in countries of geostrategic importance to us, the safer our nation is likely to be and the more our people are likely to prosper.”57 Trump administration’s strategy largely dismisses the notion of the liberal order as a source for wealth, security, and peace. Moreover, as compared to the two NSS documents produced by the Obama administration, in 2010 and 2015, the document of the Trump administration does not  NSS (2017), 3, 25, 27, 33, 45.  Kagan (2008), 3–4, 53. 56  NSS (2017), 17, 27. 57  See NSS (1988), 31; NSS (1990), 1; NSS (1994), 2; NSS (1998), 34; NSS (2002), 19; NSS (2015), 17. 54 55



stress the ideal of a “rules-based international order,”58 nor does it express the idea that “a just and sustainable international order” is to be sought as an end in itself.59 States are in fierce competition with each other and in the last resort, the United States can only rely on itself, not on international rules and institutions. To get ahead in the struggle, the government has announced that it will strengthen the sovereignty of the country and put the American people and homeland first, just as other states do. After all, “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” as Trump maintained in his inaugural speech. Thus, the government will protect US borders, reform the immigration system, promote American prosperity, address trade imbalances, maintain regional power balances, and preserve “peace through strength” by ensuring that the US army remains the strongest in the world. The last point is also where the United States expects its allies and partners to step in, to “shoulder a fair share of the burden.” It should be in their national interests to do so, since the threats are common.60 Amid a prolonged economic crisis, unemployment, disappearing industries, and widening disparity of income, US citizens have increasingly felt betrayed by the government. The government is believed to serve the interests of elites and big corporations alone, while the ordinary citizens have experienced the American Dream eluding them.61 One could argue that the unequal distributions of the fruits of globalization and the international economic order is largely a result of domestic political decisions— tax and fiscal policies, and lack of investment in health care and education.62 Yet, a segment of disappointed voters has turned to foreign policy in their search for a remedy. They have yearned for a foreign policy reintroducing a sense of national purpose,63 serving US national interests, and relinquishing excessive and unfair responsibilities abroad.64

 NSS (2015).  NSS (2010), 5, 40. Nevertheless, in the Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), signed and enrolled by then Secretary of Defense James (Jim) Mattis, it is noted that one of the most formidable security challenges for US defense is the “decline in the longstanding rules-based international order.” NDS (2018), 1. 60  NSS (2017), 2–4, 25–26, 28, 45; Trump (2017a). 61  Schoen (2012), 5–6, 8. 62  Chaudoin et al. (2018), 62; Norrlof (2018), 64. 63  Schoen (2018), 65–66. 64  Kagan (2017), Nye (2017b), 15–16. 58 59



The Trump administration is hoped to deliver just such a policy. Randall Schweller claims that this is precisely why someone like Trump was elected at this moment in history: the world is fast becoming more competitive and the electorate senses that the United States cannot fare in the competition if the definition of national interest is not narrowed down, if the country does not adopt economic nationalism, and if the country does not pursue a more self-interested foreign policy.65 However, it is debatable how much the Trump voters were weighing in the merits of deep engagement in the context of shifting the global distribution of power. Moreover, it should be noted that researchers have reached contradictory conclusions through their selection and analysis of public opinion polls. While John Peterson cites 2016 polls suggesting that a majority of the US voters wanted a president, who would concentrate on domestic rather than foreign policy and who would steer the country to the direction of more unilateral conduct in world politics, Joshua Busby and Jonathan Monten cite polls showing that there is a “relatively robust support” among the US public for “elements of liberal internationalism, including multilateral institutions, globalization, and a willingness for America to play an active role in the world.”66 Yet, more than the public, it is the representatives of the US foreign policy elite who advocate for internationalism and engagement. Many, but certainly not all, of them have been vocal in their concern that the United States is about to retreat from the norms and institutions of the liberal international order and—as we will see next—that “America first” will supplant “American leadership.”67

Crisis of Leadership Richard Haass, president of the CFR, notes that international orders are not self-sustaining. An order is fortified by a balance of power and economic interdependence, but these can only go so far. International order benefits from talented statesmen providing guidance, but a strong and stable order should survive without the diplomatic acumen of its leaders. What any international order most desperately needs is widely shared rules and principles, as well as accepted processes for applying them.68 To sur Schweller (2018), 22–23, 28–29.  Busby and Monten (2018), 51; Peterson (2018), 37. 67  Alexandroff (2017), Guidetti (2017), Kagan (2017). 68  Haass (2017), 26–28, 103. 65 66



vive, the current liberal international order needs all these, but in addition, analysts advocating different versions of the Hegemonic Stability Theory would argue that it also requires a hegemon.69 It needs a state, or a group of states, with enough hard and soft power resources to guarantee peace, deter threats, secure stable economic development, and intervene in humanitarian crises. A state with an ability to provide global public goods so that the world may escape the Kindleberger Trap. Since the immediate postwar era, this state has been the United States—whether in the role of a “benevolent hegemon” or a “reluctant sheriff.” After the Second World War, this idea of a unique and vital American responsibility to build and steer the liberal order has played a significant part in US foreign policy thinking.70 Accordingly, Joe Biden has called for the Trump administration and Congress to fulfill the “historic responsibility” of the US to act as “the indispensable nation.”71 Also Senator McCain characterized the US as “the last best hope of earth” and the defender of “a liberal world order” in his speech at the Liberty Medal Award Ceremony in 2017. McCain argued that it has been—and still is—the moral obligation of the United States to lead and champion its ideals abroad.72 The former president George W.  Bush chimed in, too. In October 2017, Bush noted in his “Spirit of Liberty” speech the “trend in western countries” of moving “away from global engagement and democratic confidence” and instead toward nativism and protectionism. Bush contrasted this movement with US postwar history, during which “the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world,” and they knew that “the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership.” Bush brought up the strong belief in the American mission to advance democracy, free markets, and free societies in the world, and he emphasized that these had not served only idealistic goals, but raw national interests.73 The possibility that the Trump administration is about to abandon US engagement and global leadership has elicited sharp criticism across party lines from both Republican and Democrat politicians. In these critiques  Strange (1987), 554–555.  Alexandroff (2017); Haass (2017), 287, 299; Kagan (2008) 51; Kagan (2017); Norrlof (2018), 12; Nye 2017a; Walt (2016). 71  Transcript in Chan (2017). 72  Transcript in Lui (2017); Congressional Record (2016), S3646. 73  Transcript in Blake (2017). 69 70



we can detect affirmations of liberal internationalism, of neoconservative foreign policy stance, and also of traditional conservative and Republican rhetoric on the obligation of the United States to “follow moral principles” in its foreign policy.74 We even hear echoes of the idea of a civilizing mission, which was based on the belief that the United States represented the latest stage in the universal process of human, social, and civilizational progress, and hence it was their responsibility to share their enlightenment and prosperity with the less fortunate.75 While some US politicians and scholars have concentrated on coaxing the Trump government to maintain the country’s traditional leadership position, other commentators have begun the search for a new caretaker for the international order, setting their hopes especially on China. China is indeed presenting itself as a committed, proactive, and responsible stakeholder, ready to assume leadership in the face of global challenges.76 The Trump administration, however, could not disagree more. In the NSS, China is characterized as a repressive and revisionist state. The administration views China—together with Russia—as an ambitious state, growing and refining its military and weaponry, striving to destabilize its immediate regions, creating spheres of influence, and attempting to spread its authoritarian system. According to NSS, China operates on the fringes of international law and maneuvers just “below the threshold of open military conflict.” In doing so, the Chinese challenge US power projection, security, prosperity, and geopolitical advantages.77 The document criticizes previous governments for basing their policy on the assumption that if the United States engages with China, supports its rise, and integrates it into the international order, China will become a liberal, benign, and reliable partner. This premise has proved to be false, the NSS states, and instead China has violated the sovereignty of other states, discredited democracy, and advanced “anti-Western views and spread false information to create divisions among ourselves, our allies, and our partners.”78 The Trump administration rejects the idea of the liberal order having the power to attract and integrate non-liberal states. 74  See for example “Foreign Policy Attitudes Now Driven by 9/11 and Iraq. Part Four;” Peterson (2018), 37; Republican Party Platform (2008); Republican Party Platform (2016), 46; Pletka (2013). 75  Iriye (1967), 6–7. 76  Guidetti (2017), Huang (2017), Tao (2017), Xi (2017). 77  NSS (2017), 2–3, 25–28, 38, 40, 46. 78  NSS (2017), 3, 25.



They also reject the traditional US policy of “engage but hedge,” in which the State Department and Department of Treasury have welcomed China to international institutions and arrangements, while the Intelligence Agencies and the Department of Defense have made preparations for a potential conflict between the two countries. For example, in President Obama’s 2015 NSS it was stated that the United States “welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China” and seeks cooperation with it, yet closely monitors that the Chinese act according to international rules and norms. The goal of this policy, according to Graham Allison, has been to urge China to follow the same road that Germany and Japan treaded after the Second World War toward becoming responsible democracies.79 In Trump’s NSS, China is portrayed as a threat to US economic, political, and strategic interests, and ultimately to world order.80 But the NSS also represents China as a competitor and states that “Competition does not always mean hostility, nor does it inevitably lead to conflict.”81 Thus, the document appears to fuse two different narratives: a narrative of rising China challenging the United States and a narrative of rising China threatening the United States and world order. The “China threat” theory of a rising China, intent on seriously imperiling the United States or the “West,” has known advocates in and around the Trump administration. At the time of writing this chapter, one of the main formulators of the “China threat” theory, Peter Navarro, serves as Trump’s economic advisor and Director of the White House National Trade Council. For example, in his book Death by China (2008), coauthored with Greg Autry, Navarro first denounced the engage but hedge policy: “For far too long, we in the West have waited for a growing Chinese economy to somehow magically transform a ruthless totalitarian regime into a free and open democratic nation.” And then he declared that it was time to confront China.82 In March 2018, before his nomination, current National Security Advisor John Bolton echoed Navarro’s stance in a Breitbart interview. “For a long time, the West has bought into the argument, China’s illusion of a ‘peaceful rise’—the buzz phrase that you hear that they’re going to be a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in world affairs,” Bolton noted, and continued that in his  Allison (2017), 219–220; NSS (2015), 24.  These views accord with the 2016 Republican Party Platform, suggesting that overall, a harder US line on China has the backing of the party. Republican Party Platform (2016), 2, 15, 41, 48, 53. 81  NSS (2017), 3, 21. 82  Navarro and Autry (2011), 259–260. 79 80



opinion this scenario was unlikely, considering the “belligerent conduct” of the Chinese.83 However, the China threat theory has not been particularly popular in the United States,84 and altogether it seems that China has not taken the place of the Soviet Union as the antagonist of the West in the US imagination. However, the view of China striving to reorder the world into a shape “antithetical to U.S. values and interests,” and vying for influence and leadership in multilateral institutions of the liberal international order, prompted the Trump government to clarify its position regarding US leadership. “We learned the difficult lesson that when America does not lead, malign actors fill the void to the disadvantage of the United States,” the NSS states. And when these “malign actors” take over international leadership, the United States misses the opportunity to shape global developments to its own advantage. Thus, the United States will join the competition also in the arena of multilateral, international organizations and seek authority within them. But not all international organizations are deemed relevant. The United States is going to prioritize those that serve national interests, do not impinge on US sovereignty, and do not conflict with the constitution.85 This conforms to traditional conservative skepticism toward multilateral cooperation and agreements, and the outright rejection of multilateralism when it is considered to decentralize power and undermine US sovereignty or self-determination.86 This is “America First” in the liberal international order. The United States will assume leadership and shape institutions, agreements, and rules, but only in ­relevant instances and strictly according to its own interests. Some practical applications of this policy are the Trump administration’s rejections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, Paris Agreement, and Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as well as the withdrawals from UNESCO and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Questions of leadership, responsibilities, formal alliances and agreements, and of integration and engagement with the international order are contested and persisting ones in the United States. In effect, they are inherited from the early days of the federal republic. Answers to these questions have depended on the contexts and political leaders, and in  Hayward (2018).  Weber (2017), 183. 85  NSS (2017), 3, 25, 38, 40. 86  Hendrix (2016). 83 84



practice, the US foreign policy orientations have fallen somewhere in between the ideal types of isolation, unilateralism, and internationalism. They have been further affected by tensions between realist and liberal stances and debates on how these stances should be applied to the military, political, commercial, and financial spheres.87 Yet, as Robert Jervis explains, after the Second World War, there has been a general consensus on certain pillars of US foreign policy: the significance of alliances, involvement in world politics and international institutions, emphasis on human rights to a certain extent, and lowering barriers on trade.88 In these respects, the Trump administration’s foreign policy appears to go somewhat against the grain of the traditional consensus.89 This, in turn, has inspired scholars to turn to theories on agency and structure, in a bid to find out to what extent structures can limit and condition the president’s freedom of maneuvering regarding foreign policy. Jervis, for example, promotes Trump as a valuable theoretical test case of Kenneth Waltz’s theory of three images: individuals, the state, and the international system.90 The first step is to identify the potentially meaningful structural constraints on the agency of US president. The US political system with its checks and balances is one. The legislative branch oversees the executive branch, and the Congress can steer foreign policy, for example, through opposition to the president’s executive actions, legislation, and the ­appropriations process. The judicial branch may also step in when it comes to executive orders, passing of laws, and interpretations of the Constitution. Moreover, political and economic actors within and below the federal government may continue their support for certain international accords, such as the Paris climate agreement, despite president’s disengagement. There is also the pressure of the conservative bureaucracy, foreign policy professionals, and establishment politicians from both leading parties, combined with institutions, such as universities, think tanks, and media.91  Kaufman (2017), 1, 15–18; Strange (1987), 553–554.  Jervis (2018), 4. The consensus has not been perfect, though, for some strategists have advocated for mercantilism while some have denounced values as the basis of foreign policy. Wright (2017), 193. 89  Kagan argues that the turn toward the United States behaving more like a “normal country” in its foreign policy and refusing to shoulder abnormally “great moral and material burdens,” came already with the election of Obama. Kagan (2018), 13–14, 100–103. 90  Jervis (2018), 3–4. 91  Chaudoin et  al. (2018), 62; Jervis (2018), 6; Kauffman (2017), 20; Parmar (2018), 156, 171; Peterson (2018), 38–39. 87 88



Domestic politics can play a role, as well as the extent of public support for the chosen foreign policy. Furthermore, global power politics and interdependence cannot be escaped. International institutions and agreements have restricting effects, making complete isolation impossible and multilateralism a prevailing feature of the system.92 Overall, as Carla Norrlof and Stephen Chaudoin et al. argue, also the US position as the primary beneficiary from the liberal international order acts as a structural restraint.93 None of these structures, however, curbs the rhetorical power the president wields over foreign policy. Considering that the President of the United States occupies a central position in the politics and ideology of the country, presidential rhetoric is “a potent force and a significant political resource,” as Mary Stuckey argues. The president has the power to make national definitions and redefinitions, and this rhetorical power has concrete ramifications on policies.94

The Rhetoric of the West, Crisis, and “America First” Utilizing such political concepts as the West allows politicians to argue their perspective and convince their audiences of the truthfulness and rightness of that perspective. It allows them to try and persuade both those whose support they need and those who will carry out the policies.95 Political rhetoric, representations, and emotions shape people’s perceptions and misperceptions, which then affects the way people interpret and analyze the situation at hand, and finally the policies they are willing to support.96 Two factors make the concept of the West eminently useful and effective in political rhetoric: its familiarity97 and its plasticity. US politicians and political commentators may ascribe a vast variety of meanings to the concept depending on the setting, audience, and the argument they are striving to make. They can draw from the lengthy and variegated history of the concept, and reasonably expect  Hill (2003), 239, 242.  Chaudoin et al. (2018), 63; Norrlof (2018), 64. 94  Stuckey (2010), 40–41, 48. 95  Finlayson (2004), 530, 532, 538–539. 96  Allison (2017), 39, 54; O’Hagan (2002), 2. 97  Jackson (2017), 95. 92 93



that their message is understood. The concept can be utilized to identify and classify regions and peoples, as well as to articulate and structure thought. The West can be used to create “Us versus Them” divisions and to build transnational identities around the perception of shared culture, values, and interests. It strengthens the idea of belonging to a political and/or cultural entity, and it potentially generates allegiance and engagement in that specific community.98 Arguably, this is what the writers of President Trump’s Warsaw speech were seeking to do: to define a collective called the West in their own terms and to foster feelings of affinity and loyalty toward that collective. The argument was all the more emphatic, as the writers envisioned the West to be surrounded by enemies, who threatened the whole way of life and even the existence of the Westerners.99 Calling nations to stand up for the West and fight “our” enemies is a familiar rhetorical tactic, as it was frequently resorted to during the Cold War.100 Moreover, the speechwriters were utilizing the concept of the West to further Trump’s political agenda: to denounce the ideas of universal civilization, values, and principles of government. At the same time, they rejected the foreign policy options often going hand in hand with the universalist ideology, such as the option of the United States acting like a “crusader nation” and imposing its values on other states. Similarly, commentators of the Warsaw speech as well as (often neoconservative or liberal) critics of the Trump administration have found the concept useful, as the concept has yielded to redefinitions and reinterpretations which accommodate a whole variety of different arguments, ideologies, and foreign policy stances. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson has argued that after the Cold War, there has been little room for the West in the US political vocabulary, as it has fit neither the foreign policy strategies of the neoconservative camp nor the Obama administration.101 Nevertheless, instead of disappearing, the concept has resurged in the narratives depicting the crises of values, the transatlantic alliance, the liberal international order, and global leadership. However, politicians such as Biden, Bush, and McCain have employed the concept of the  Bonnett (2004), 6; Jouhki and Pennanen (2016), 2, 5; O’Hagan (2002), 9, 13.  This emphasis on dangers, forces of chaos and destruction, and threats to “everything we cherish and value” is a recurring feature in Trump’s speeches. See for example Trump (2017d). 100  Jackson (2017), 94. 101  Jackson (2017), 104. 98 99



West only when they have deemed it relevant to their argument and suited to the context of their speech. Similarly, in most instances, the Trump administration clearly finds the concept less useful. Consequently, in the NSS embodying the government’s “America First”-foreign policy and view of world politics, the relevant political actors are great powers, not the West. The foreign policy orientation of the Trump administration—as well as the rhetoric surrounding it—has been relatively unsettled. However, there has been one stable element at the heart of Trump and his administration’s rhetoric: Trump’s own crisis narrative of the United States being in decline. Hence the drive to “Make America Great Again” through the policy of “America First.” The whole idea of a crisis opens a window of opportunity for redefinitions and reconceptualizations, and the administration has seized upon it by reverting to a narrower, realist interpretation of the national interest—the survival of the United States. In this, US leadership and dominance in the world order is still called for, but otherwise it seems to be of little import whether that order is Western or liberal,102 or even “American” in the sense of the US project of shaping the world according to its values and norms. In turn, the declinist America First-narrative has triggered crisis narratives regarding the liberal international order and the idea of universal values. In all these narratives, it is sometimes difficult to discern whether the real issue is, in fact, the downfall of Pax Americana and US hegemony. Curiously, the United States may be in a similar situation which Susan Strange detailed in 1987: “pessimism, despair, and the conviction that, in these inauspicious circumstances, the only thing to do is to ignore everyone else and look after your own individual or national interests.” These “bouts of declininism,” as Robert Keohane calls them, have recurred over and over again during the past decades. All caused, Strange notes, by the relentless fear and “myth of lost hegemony.”103

102  Outside the scope of this chapter is Secretary of State Michael (Mike) Pompeo’s keynote speech at the German Marshall Fund in November 2018, in which he attempted to redefine a “new” US-led liberal international order. See: Pompeo, Michael. “Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order.” U.S.  Department of State, December 4, 2018. 103  Keohane (2012), 1; Strange (1987), 552.



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Resilience of the Humanitarian Narrative in US Foreign Policy Noora Kotilainen

At the brink of the end of the Cold War Francis Fukuyama famously declared the triumph of the international liberal order, or the “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”1 The victorious order, which Fukuyama was celebrating, was the liberal international order (LIO), the US-led world order that has strongly marked post-Second World War international politics. The order is habitually presented by commentators, politicians, strategists and academics—who explain the world order and, in particular, liberal internationalists—as building on rule-based internationalism, multilateral institutions, democracy, security cooperation and economic openness.2 This chapter was written while working in a project “Multilayered Borders of Global Security” (GLASE) funded by Strategic Research Council (STN) at the Academy of Finland, decision numbers 303480 and 303529.  Fukuyama (1989).  The LIO is often presented as such in political discussions and described as such by many international relations theorists, as well as by proponents who believe in the system. See, for 1 2

N. Kotilainen (*) University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




In addition, noble values such as the rule of law, pluralism, regard for individual freedom, equality and human rights are habitually presented to be at the core of the LIO. Liberalism and progressive internationalism are in many ways entwined with the modern international proliferation of the ethics of human rights and humanitarianism. The ideas of a common shared humanity—a global human polity with universal rights and moral commitments toward each other—are inherent to the modernist liberal project.3 In the post-Second World War era, institutionalization of international, transboundary care for humanity and protection of human lives, spread of global NGO humanitarianism and developmentalism became increasingly apparent components of the liberal, US-led world order.4 After the Cold War the standing and emphasis of human rights and humanitarianism within the liberal international orientation further fortified. The post-Cold War period, during which human security and humanitarianism have been emphasized in foreign political settings, has been termed the “age of liberal humanitarianism”5 as well as the “age of humanitarian World politics.”6 This period witnessed the fortification of international interventionism in the name of liberal principles—the protection of humanity, human rights and liberal democracy—in the foreign political toolbox of the Western states. Watersheds in this respect are the NATO Kosovo bombings 1999, the 2005 setup of the UN Responsibility to Protect principle (R2P), as well as the military interventionism of the United States and its allies during the so-called war on terror era. As scholars critical of the tendency have argued, during the post-Cold War era humanitarianism and human security emerged as central causes that became to legitimate foreign policy, even military interventions and war. Humanitarianly legitimized military interventions of the Western states into global crisis zones, breeding instability—terrorism, sickness, military threats and irregular migration—became a central feature of Western international politics. Increasingly after 9/11, political and rhetorical utiexample: Ikenberry (2012, 2017, 2018), Nye (2017), Jahn (2018), Wolf (2018), Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b), Speck (2016), Kagan (2018). However, many taking a critical view doubt the discourse of such order and take a doubtful stance on its foundations and the existence of such a liberal order. See, for example: Parmar (2018), Garfinkle (2017), Allison (2018), Rothkopf (2009), Staniland (2018). 3  Aaltola (2009), Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b). 4  Barnett (2011). 5  Barnett (2011). 6  Barnett (2011), Aaltola (2009). See also, Kotilainen (2016).



lization humanitarianism became entangled with the outright political, strategic objectives of state actors.7 During the post-Cold War era humanitarianism became a world political key frame through which multifarious world actors started to evaluate each other’s legitimacy and determine their roles in the world.8 During the time US foreign politics became to be habitually rationalized in the name of a moral obligation to protect human rights and co-opted the rhetoric of saving fellow humans from oppressive, undemocratic leaders, poverty, gendered oppression, terrorism and instability globally.9 Scholars critical of global humanitarian politics have argued that political co-option of humanitarianism by (Western) states has been a significant form of global governance, designed to benefit the “West,” the core of the LIO itself.10 Therefore, humanitarianism in world politics has been seen as a central instrumental tool of legitimization, a politically convenient rhetoric and a narrative practice under which also interest-orientated acts have been carried out. The ever-stronger integration of humanitarian rhetoric in the international political vocabulary became the liberal international norm, constitutive for the upholding the international order.11 The chapter derives from this critical tradition and identifies the political utilization of humanitarian rhetoric as a narrative practice and central form of legitimization within the LIO. Now less than 30 years after the declaration of the end of history by Fukuyama, there is a virtual unanimity about the demise of the US-led LIO, especially among “liberal internationalists,” the proponents of the order.12 Concerned tones have noted that the contemporary rise of the populist, anti-liberal, isolationist trajectory—represented in particular by Donald Trump’s presidency—contests, even marks a crisis of the liberal order. Liberal internationalists, such as Kagan, Nye and Ikenberry, pin7  Belloni (2007), Barnett (2011), Chandler (2006), Douzinas (2007), Aaltola (2009), Duffield (2007), Bentley (2017), Fassin (2011), Hunt (2002). See also McCormack and Gilbert (2018). 8  Aaltola (2009, 1). 9  Belloni (2007), Barnett (2011), Chandler (2006), Douzinas (2007), Aaltola (2009), Duffield (2007), Bentley (2017), Fassin (2011), Hunt (2002). See also McCormack and Gilbert (2018). 10  Ibid. 11  Ibid. 12  On the recent discussion on the crisis of the liberal internationalism, see, for example: Ikenberry (2018), Speck (2016), Wolf (2018), Nye (2017), Jahn (2018), Ikenberry (2017), Kagan (2018).



point the trajectory headed by Trump, as producing an endogenous crisis for the LIO, and marking America’s stepping down from the role of the interventionist world power, strong “leader of the liberal world order.”13 This, according to the proclaimers of the crisis of the LIO, denotes a turn away from multilateralism, regard for human rights globally and overall a liberal humanitarian orientation, and a turn toward an “America First” program abroad in which protectionism and non-interventionism are paramount. In particular, Trump’s presidency has been seen to signal a rhetorical turn from the cosmopolitan humanitarian narrative toward a storyline of exclusivity that emphasizes caring for “ourselves” first. This involves disregarding the needs and rights of others, especially the rights of geographically, culturally or politically distant global others, and abandoning the humanitarian spirit that has hitherto characterized US international politics.14 For instance, the release of the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) in December 2017 was widely seen to concretize the rejection of US humanitarian precepts as well as the narrative character that upheld the liberal order.15 This chapter asks whether the trajectory headed by Trump means abandoning the liberal practice of co-opting humanitarian rhetoric to legitimize foreign political acts and ends. And, on the other hand, the chapter inquires, whether the humanitarian narrative frame of international political discourse still proves useful to legitimize US foreign policy during the Trump era? Is the narrative of transboundary care and regard for human well-being being reframed and altered in President Trump’s rhetoric? What implications might these possible alterations have in (re)defining the international duties of the United States, and understanding humanitarianism more broadly in the global setting? To investigate whether the narrative practice of framing US politics as global humanitarian is contested, or even abandoned, and to trace and evaluate the persistence, resilience and possible reframing of humanitarian narrative in President Trump’s foreign political rhetoric, I use an empirical approach. Donald Trump’s rhetorical choices are compared namely with the wording and framing of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and assessed  Ikenberry (2018), Kagan (2018), Nye (2017).  Ikenberry (2018), Speck (2016), Wolf (2018), Nye (2017), Jahn (2018), Ikenberry (2017), Kagan (2018). 15  Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b). Stokes (2018), Garcia Encina (2018), “The Trouble with Trump’s New National Security Strategy” (2017), “Trump’s National Security Strategy isn’t much of a strategy at all” (2017). 13 14



by means of narrative analysis16 and rhetorical framing analysis.17 Trump’s resort to humanitarian narrative frames is analyzed in two contemporary cases. First, references to the rhetorical frame of liberal international humanitarianism are assessed in the Trump administration’s December 2017 NSS,18 which has been said to mark a clear break from the liberal, humanitarian internationalist ethos of previous Security Strategies.19 In order to trace possible revisions and alterations, the rhetorical choices of the Trump administration’s NSS are compared with the Obama administration’s February 2015 Security Strategy.20 Secondly, Trump’s humanitarian narrative framing is analyzed in a case of actual military intervention, namely the US April 2017 air strike on Syria. President Trump’s statements and speeches when rationalizing the April operation are compared with those of President Obama in relation to the planned humanitarian military strike on Syria in the aftermath of the 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons attack. My empirical analysis indicates that humanitarian narrative frames still seem to be convenient and persistent during the Trump era. There is some modification of the humanitarian narrative used to legitimize US foreign policy, more emphasis on national interest and weight on domestic political addressing and reframing of the discourse of the humanitarian subject and narrowing down of the frames of protectable life toward global exclusivity, even exclusion. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Trump administration’s rhetoric is often labeled as emblematically illiberal in ethos, it still principally adheres to the humanitarian frame on the level of narrative practice.

Humanitarian World Politics and Narrative Framing As defined by Roberto Belloni, “Humanitarianism describes the worldview, aspirations, professional vocabularies and actions affirming the common dignity of humankind regardless of differences in race, gender, religion, national belonging, political creed, or any other accident of birth

 Pierce (2008), 279–306; Kim (2016).  Kuypers (2010), 286–311. 18  National Security Strategy of the United States (December 2017). 19  Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b), Stokes (2018), Garcia Encina (2018), “The Trouble with Trump’s New National Security Strategy” (2017), “Trump’s National Security Strategy isn’t much of a strategy at all” (2017). 20  National Security Strategy (February 2015). 16 17



or contextual circumstance.”21 Modern ideas of a shared human community with rights and the birth of modern international humanitarianism are habitually traced to mid-eighteenth-century enlightenment thinking. From the Enlightenment onward, internationalist humanitarianism has enlarged the progressive narrative of the human polity to include, for example, the moral obligation to save others in need and alleviate the suffering of those in despair. This chronicle leads from the fight against slavery and the vindication of the rights of minorities and women to the development of the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions, the founding of the Red Cross, the UN declaration of universal human rights, the expansion of global humanitarian NGOs and the adoption of the R2P.  The Western humanitarian narrative is inherently modernist, and often highlighting rationality, as well as the ethical, universalist, neutral and apolitical nature of the project. Consequently, humanitarianism in everyday thinking is often understood to be the practice of neutrally and altruistically attending to the needs of those in despair: a practice of doing good. However, instead of an altruistic aspiration to help, humanitarianism may alternatively be perceived as an influential system of political power relations and global hierarchies.22 Modern Western humanitarianism has emerged as a combination of conflicting ambitions: self-interest, social improvement, scientific, religious and moral objectives, philosophical ideas, as well as economic and political aims. Humanitarianism tends to be a mixture of moral and ethical imperatives and political stain.23 As with actual practices, so too the legitimizing rhetoric, narrative practices, forms of speech and meaning making of global humanitarianism have changed according to the surrounding political, societal and cultural atmosphere and therefore poignantly exemplify the political ethos and global power relations of particular points in time.24 The history of international liberalism and humanitarianism is in many ways entangled. Simon Reid-Henry argues that humanitarian reasoning is constitutive of the political rationality of liberalism and that humanitarian discourse has always been central to liberal global governance. The ways in which humanitarian ethical imperatives have been formulated through time are central for the narrative of Western liberalism.25  Belloni (2007), 1.  Aaltola (2009), 6–10; Sliwinski (2011), 35–47; Barnett (2011), Kotilainen (2016), 25. 23  Reid-Henry (2014). 24  Barnett (2011), Douzinas (2007), Duffield (2007), Kotilainen (2016). 25  Reid-Henry (2014). 21 22



The ties of humanitarianism and liberalism lead from the Enlightenment to the nineteenth-century international system, the hybrid of liberal ideas and Western interventionism manifested in Western imperialism and ­colonialism.26 At the start of the era of imperial humanitarianism (1800–1945), humanitarian rhetoric was invoked to discuss civilizing the “savage” and “uncivilized” populations of the colonies. The colonial powers justified their conquest of new areas and peoples in terms of a civilizing mission. The French had their mission civilisatrice, the British the white man’s burden and the US manifest destiny. It was then believed that developing, “civilizing” and governing—even forcefully—underdeveloped areas, and taking care of the Indigenous people, was a benevolent act in the long run. Paternalistic ideologies, accompanied by racial theories based on the notion of the inferiority of non-white races, formed new kinds of hierarchies of humanity and were very much part of the colonial humanitarian project.27 The colonial project points to the inherent violence of humanitarianism. Violence is integral to humanitarianism, rather than humanitarianism being a response to the suffering inflicted by violence. Violence is in-built in the logic of humanitarianism itself. Humanitarianism may be—and often is—used to legitimize bloodshed: the use of violence is regularly justified by claiming to improve or protect the lives of those who are at immediate risk. This contradiction is evident and ever-present, for instance in the case of humanitarian military intervention.28 The institutionalization of international humanitarianism and global safeguarding of human rights accelerated in particular after the Second World War. Michael Barnett dates the age of neo-humanitarianism as starting from the end of the Second World War (1945) and spanning all the way up to the end of the Cold War (approximately 1989). The end of the Second World War, and the pain and horrors induced by the war—the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust in particular—led to the affirmation of “Never again,” and new international endeavors to protect a fragile humanity from perils and human rights violations. The founding of the United Nations in 1945 and the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights (1948) marked a new era in the apprehension of universal humanity and the institutionalization of human rights, and the same era saw the rise of the U.S.-led LIO.  In addition to its benevolent and altruistic  Vick (2018), 939–960; Barnett (2011); Aaltola (2009).  Barnett (2011), 60–64. 28  Barnett (2011), 171. 26 27



motives, the liberal international system sought to safeguard the political, strategic and economic interests of the Western states in particular through humanitarianism and development. The humanitarian sector expanded, and state and NGO humanitarianism intertwined. In the politically and ideologically divided global settings of the Cold War, humanitarianism and the rhetoric of regard for the suffering other was often harnessed to advance superpower interests. During the era of neo-humanitarianism, new ideologies and forms of global governance emerged: the global rich and powerful were felt to have obligations to the less fortunate, and those in the “Third World” needed to be taught to help themselves. Developmentalism became the new watchword.29 The strategic utilization of the humanitarian narrative frame to legitimize foreign political ends has a long tradition in Western liberalism. After the Cold War, Western states became increasingly committed to saving “failed states,” in order to create the liberal peace, security and development. Barnett calls the era starting from the end of the Cold War (1989) the age of liberal humanitarianism. He argues that toward the end of the century and increasingly after 9/11, saving and securitizing states and areas in turmoil became a human security issue, one that was far too important for the Western powers to leave to humanitarian NGOs to handle. During the era, domestic conditions, such as poverty and despotism in fragile states in the global south possibly fostering future terrorism, came to define the orientation of the international actions of Western states. The regime of interference led to interventionist humanitarian military operations and military operations legitimized by humanitarian rhetoric, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the 2011 international military intervention in Libya.30 Intervention in order to advance the liberal order, rationalized and legitimized as a fight against human suffering caused by undemocratic leaders and illiberal forces mostly in “non-­ Western” areas, became a core feature of US foreign policy and the world order. In particular, during the post-Cold War era of liberal humanitarianism, as Roberto Belloni states, humanitarianism became “a part of the control strategy designed to prevent the transmission of disorder and chaos from the global war zones, and poor peripheral countries to the Western  Barnett (2011), 30–31; See also Duffield (2007).  Barnett (2011), Belloni (2007), Douzinas (2007), Aaltola (2009), Chandler (2006), Duffield (2007), Bentley (2017). 29 30



world.”31 Scholars critical of the political utilization of the humanitarian and human security frame within the US (Western) foreign policy have claimed that especially after the Cold War era, the so-called liberal states started to use humanitarian reasons and rhetoric to justify their strategy to expand influence and control over allegedly illiberal regimes at the global “borderlands.” International political acts, including military intervention justified by resorting to a humanitarian legitimizing narrative, functioned as a core liberal strategy of global governance.32 Mika Aaltola argues that during this era, which was seen as emblematically liberal, humanitarianism became a world political key frame through which multifarious world actors started to evaluate each other’s legitimacy and determine their roles in the world.33 The success of this orientation has also been sustained by the dominant position of humanitarian discourse—a general popular belief in human rights and the virtues of liberal humanitarianism—vibrant among the citizens of Western liberal societies in recent decades.34 Consequently, interventionist humanitarianism has been a pivotal mode of operation and a central source of moral legitimacy within the liberal international system but also a convenient and effective rhetorical strategy and narrative practice used to gain support, also for interest-oriented political acts.35 The humanitarian narrative practice in legitimizing foreign policy has been constitutive in and at the heart of the LIO. This order has now been widely presented as facing a severe crisis due to the rise of a political trajectory that is seen to be illiberal and is represented by, for example, President Trump. For example, John Ikenberry sees that the populist authoritarian statements and alignments of President Trump, on trade, alliances, international law and human rights, if acted upon, would “bring to an end America’s role as leader of the liberal world.”36 Robert Kegan sees that, in particular, Trump’s withdrawal from its global responsibilities—especially the inward-looking, isolationist and protectionist “America First” and “Make America great again” policies—mark a break from the liberal internationalist tradition and therefore jeopardize whole LIO.37  Belloni (2007).  Duffield (2007), Reid and Dillon (2009), Chandler (2006). 33  Aaltola (2009), 1. 34  Chouliaraki (2013). See also Kotilainen (2016). 35  Duffield (2007), Kotilainen (2016). See also Parmar (2018). 36  Ikenberry (2018), 7. 37  Kagan (2018). 31 32



The crux of this chapter is that the discourse on the so-called crisis of the liberal, humanitarian West actually reveals an acceptance of the fact that the US-led global governance system has really been all that is claimed to be by liberal internationalists: a liberal, humanitarian, international order.38 The point of my departure, therefore, is that lamenting the crisis of the liberal order discloses a West-centric perspective on the world order of the past 70 years. The crisis narrative is based on a naïve and romantic confidence in the moral excellence of the US-led global order.39 Therefore, following Inderjeet Parmar, this chapter argues that the humanitarianly framed LIO of recent decades has primarily been a legitimizing ideology. Parmar suggests that the concept, theory and thinking of liberal internationalism provides a convenient rationalizing rhetoric and narrative justification for interest-oriented and interventionist acts, rather than a theoretical explanation or a description of an actually existing system, as suggested by many IR researchers and commentators, in particular Liberal Internationalists.40 Therefore, the widely reiterated idea that the recent international political trajectory—represented in particular by President Trump—is in crisis, appears ideological in nature.41 Consequently, in this chapter, I approach the practice of legitimizing contemporary politics by humanitarian virtuosity as convenient legitimizing tools, as a rhetorical strategies and narrative frames that have been central within the LIO.42 Within liberal international foreign policy, the humanitarian narrative, themes and rhetoric are used to create a specific, preferred view—a humanitarian frame—of decisions and actions to convince a specific audience to support their views and gain legitimacy.43 As Kuypers defines it, “framing is a process whereby communicators act—consciously of not—to construct a particular view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be viewed in a particular manner, with some facts made more noticeable than others.”44 I perceive resorting to the narrative practice of liberal humani Garfinkle (2017).  Parmar (2018), Garfinkle (2017). See also Duffield (2007), Belloni (2007), Douzinas (2007). 40  Parmar (2018), Staniland (2018). 41  Ideology is here understood as “a fairly coherent and comprehensive set of ideas that explains and evaluates social conditions, helps people understand their place in society, and provides a program for social and political action.” See Weber (2010), 4. 42  See also: Belloni (2007), Tictin (2011), Bentley (2017). 43  See Bentley (2017), 558. 44  Kuypers (2010), 300. 38 39



tarian order to be an indicator of the vibrancy of the humanitarian frame within current US foreign politics. Therefore, I set out to examine ­empirically how the narrative frame of humanitarianism is referred to and used in US foreign policy rhetoric during the Trump era. I analyze how the framings of President Trump and his administration adhere to the narrative of the Liberal International Oder, traditionally promoted by liberal internationalists. This is done in order to assess the alleged crisis, in the LIO represented by President Trump on a narrative level. According to Kuypers, a rhetoric frame is constructed of themes, subjects of discussion, which are then framed in certain ways by communicators in order to encourage a particular interpretation of those themes.45 I look for humanitarian themes that reside in the analyzed speeches and texts and analyze how those themes are framed. As central humanitarian liberal themes within the US international political contexts, I have identified, for example: the role of the US in the liberal international system, the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and human welfare (abroad), international alliances, economic openness, protection of humans (and humanity) against forces seen as illiberal, undemocratic or threatening to peace and security, the alleviation of human suffering, the use of force to combat forces that induce human suffering and insecurity, the allocation of humanitarian assistance to the needy, the prevention of atrocities and punishing the regimes and leaders that threaten peace, security or human lives and assistance/support for organizations/actors that promote “the Liberal Order.” I monitor how (and if) these themes are referred to, framed and possibly reframed by Trump and his administration and compare the framing of these themes with that of Trump’s predecessors, mainly President Obama and his administration, habitually seen to represent the ideals of the LIO.

The Trump and Obama National Security Strategies: A Break with or Reframing of the Humanitarian Narrative? The NSS is a periodically prepared document, which in a general manner outlines the topical concerns, challenges and alignments of the administration, and drafts plans to deal with the current challenges. The document  Ibid.




communicates strategic visions of the administration and aims at achieving an internal accord on foreign and defense policy.46 The release of the first NSS by the Trump administration in December 2017 has been widely seen to signify the United States turning away from a liberal international toward an illiberal, protectionist and isolationist “America First” doctrine.47 The ceremonial narrative style of the NSS makes the document interesting to examine the narrative construction and framing of the US position in relation to international cooperation, foreign policy, and the international humanitarian approach of the United States. In essence, the NSS is a document that represents how things are framed and narrated by the administration in question rather than how things are actually done. As argued above, in the context of liberal internationalism and especially humanitarianly framed interventionism, how things are named, framed and narratively represented in order to gain political legitimization is crucial. As Parmar phrases it, liberal internationalism is primarily a legitimizing ideology.48 In this sense, the mode of narrative depiction of liberal global humanitarian politics and the text of National Security Strategies is similar. In both cases, it is primarily about how the objectives of the United States are presented and legitimized on the level of lofty aspirations, noble ideals, ceremonial ethos and value-based legitimization, and how, for instance, the often reiterated “American values” are referred to in customary ways. I analyze the rhetoric, narrative choices and framings of President Trump administration’s 2017 strategy49 and compare it to the NSS of the Obama administration released in 2015.50 This is done in order to investigate whether the narrative practice of framing US politics as humanitarian is contested in the Trump administrations’ NSS and to trace possible differences and alterations in narrative positioning of the two presidents toward US foreign policy and the humanitarian imperative of helping distant others in need or those who are at risk from violence or abuse. First, I compare and assess the opening words of the president in the two strategies from the perspective of international political orientation and sec National Security Reports overview (2018).  See, for example: Stokes (2018), Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b), Garcia Encina (2018), “The Trouble with Trump’s New National Security Strategy” (2017), “Trump’s National Security Strategy isn’t much of a strategy at all” (2017). 48  Parmar (2018). 49  National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017). 50  National Security Strategy (February 2015). 46 47



ondly concentrate on the narrative framing of humanitarian issues, narratives of protecting humanity and international intervention. Many commentators on Trump’s Security Strategy have pointed out that it makes a clear break from the US post-Cold War liberal orientation, especially in its “America First” policy.51 The 2017 document builds a narrative of Trump serving the interests of his voters, and from the first sentences, the document makes clear that the impetus is to emphasize the safety, interest and well-being of US citizens and the US state. The preamble states: “I promised that my Administration would put the safety, interest and well-being of our citizens first,” “We are prioritizing the interests of our citizens and protecting our sovereign rights as a nation,” and “We will serve the American people and uphold their right to government that prioritizes their security, their prosperity and their interests.”52 What is interesting in the rhetoric of putting American interests first is that on a narrative level, the text makes the supposition that the United States as a state would have prior to the Trump’s administration prioritized the interests of “others.” However, when we compare Trump’s and Obama’s NSSs, it is apparent that both statements highlight the truism of prioritizing the United States, though Obama NSS does this more implicitly. Likewise, the preamble of Obama’s 2015 NSS states in many places that the safety of the American people and the interests of the United States are priorities.53 Moreover, the LIO and the US foreign policy in its entirety has historically primarily benefitted the United States, its citizens and its close allies, though states and populations at the margins of the “empire” have often payed heavily for the policy.54 In the light of the history of liberal internationalism, when looked at from an actual or even a rhetorical perspective, putting America first does not mark a break but a continuation. The security politics of the United States (or any nation-state for that matter) has always been the first about the security of the state and its citizens. In this respect, to some extent Trump’s strategy can actually be seen as more honest in its positioning. Consequently, as Staniland and Parmar argue, those who proclaim the end of the liberal world order are romanticizing 51  See, for example: Stokes (2018), Duncombe and Dunne (2018a, b), Garcia Encina (2018). 52  National Security Strategy (February 2017), Preamble. 53  National Security Strategy (February 2015), Preamble. 54  See, for example: Garfinkle (2017), Parmar (2018), Barnett (2011).



their position and are failing to recognize the flaws, ambiguities and hierarchical hypocrisy embedded in the system.55 Therefore, commentators who in the light of the 2017 NSS lament the crisis of the liberal order ignore the strategic use of military power, violence and coercion in the interests of America during the past 70 years of US foreign policy. Another point in the 2017 NSS that is habitually presented as a rupture from the liberal internationalist tradition is Trump’s “America First” paradigm, which is seen to point toward illiberal isolationism and protectionism. Nevertheless, although the strategy highlights the “America First” policy and the priority of US interests, and talks about “making America great again,” it also refers—in a liberal international spirit—to the promotion of “American influence in the world,” the importance of partners and allies, as well as the rigor of American global leadership.56 The anticipated break away from the liberal internationalist ethos of previous NSSs does not seem to be in evidence, as the core of the 2017 strategy is firmly grounded in the ideology that promoting American values is the key to spreading peace and prosperity around the globe. Moreover, contrary to the critique of isolationism, the Strategy outrightly states the US commitment to a humanitarianly motivated international role and the willingness to take action, even taking up the option of military interventionism at points.57 The “America First” rhetoric, therefore, seems primarily to be a domestic political narrative turn, directed toward the American public, rather seeming to mark a clear retreat from the liberal international narrative trend. Then, as to US commitment to humanitarian issues, international intervention, international intervention concerning human rights violations and the taming of oppressive regimes, what do the two Security Strategies say? At first glance, the difference between the two seems significant. The Obama 2015 NSS mentions human rights 13 times, while Trump’s 2017 Strategy only mentions human rights once (page 42 of the document). However, in this single mention, Trump’s narrative of the United States as a global guardian of human rights is couched in a humanitarian wording that is customarily found in liberal internationalism and humanitarian world politics. Under the title “Champion American Values” the document states: “We support, with our words and actions, those who  Parmar (2018); Staniland (2018); Allison (2018).  National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017). 57  See also, for example: Cordesman (2017). 55 56



live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom, individual dignity, and the rule of law,” and “We will not remain silent in the face of evil. We will hold perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities accountable.”58 Trump’s NSS also takes up the US goal of globally reducing human suffering and asserts that the United States “will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance.”59 The Strategy also states that the United States will partner with regional (in this case African) partners, to end violent conflict, to encourage reform, improve the rule of law and continue to respond to humanitarian needs and work to address the root causes of human suffering.60 In this respect the Trump NSS does not mark a clear break away from the 2015 NSS, or the habitual humanitarian rhetoric that has been central in the liberal international narrative in recent decades. Also in the rhetoric of Trump’s NSS the United States appears as the global guardian of human welfare rights and as the protector of the people against repressive leaders, regimes and all sorts of grievances and atrocities, either man-made or natural. President Trump’s humanitarian rhetoric and Obama’s Strategy are surprisingly similar in tone, though Obama’s NSS more clearly and more frequently states the US interest in leading the international fight against human suffering and atrocity. The Obama Strategy, for example, strongly supports the US commitment to the UN Responsibility to Protect paradigm and openly and repeatedly states that the United States (and the international community) is ready to intervene in situations where governments fail to protect their populations from mass atrocity. Trump’s NSS likewise not only mentions a commitment to R2P but also demands that US partners “shoulder a fair share of the burden.”61 This unfair burden-­sharing discourse marks a moderation in Trump’s humanitarian grand narrative, which is also manifested in more limited references to human rights, the protection of humanity and humanitarianism. The 2017 NSS repeatedly states that the United States “expects others to share responsibility” in humanitarian assistance.62 Trump has also high National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017), 42.  Ibid. 60  National Security Strategy of the United States of America (2017), 52. (“Strategy in African regional context”). 61  National Security Strategy (February 2015), 22. Also the Trump NSS not only mentions (on page 4) commitment to R2P but also demands the U.S. partners to “shoulder a fair share of the burden.” 62  National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017), 42. 58 59



lighted the unequal burden-sharing narrative in the context of military expenditure and NATO. However, whereas this has been seen as pointing to Trump thinning out of US global, humanitarian responsibilities, it could also be seen as constructing a narrative of a virtuous United States, the sole actor responsibly carrying its fair share of the global humanitarian burden. The alteration in attitude toward international openness and a humanitarian ethos during the Trump era is most clearly manifested in refugee and migration issues. The Obama NSS refers to refugees and migration in the context of terrorism and violent conflict as well as climate change. It frames migration over the US southern border as a consequence of weak institutions and violence and stresses the need of support, American leadership, economic growth and democratic governance in partnership with the neighboring countries in resolving the issue.63 Trump’s NSS, on the other hand, highlights the need to reinforce borders and prop up security standards to keep “dangerous people” out. Hence, the rhetoric of Trump’s NSS frames migrants and refugees primarily as a security risk, and when referring to support for displaced people, mentions that the United States helps “people close to their homes and meets their need until they can safely and voluntarily return home.”64 This sort of phrasing is emblematic of the rhetoric of contemporary anti-immigration populism. Trump’s positioning on migration indicates a clear change in humanitarian wording and framing compared with the Obama administration. The unfair burden-sharing narrative and a stricter attitude toward migration in the 2017 NSS mark a clear and interesting reframing of the humanitarian narrative by Trump. A similar reframing and reversal of the humanitarian narrative is manifested perhaps most strikingly in the wording of President Trump’s January 2019 Address to the Nation on the border wall issue. Trump calls the situation on the US southern border a humanitarian crisis, not on account of the inequality and hardship the people south of the border might endure but because of the suffering and bloodshed migration and migrants cause to the American people. But although this rhetoric marks a break from the customary rhetoric of recent years in some respects, it also indicates the resilience and flexibility of humanitarian rhetoric, coming from the same humanitarian narrative root  National Security Strategy (February 2015), 1, 12, 28.  National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017), 10, 49, 48,

63 64




as Trump used in his “America First” narrative. In Trump’s rhetoric, the objects of humanitarian compassion are redefined as the American people (“us”) and therefore the humanitarian emotions of the audience are redirected from the people aiming to cross the US border, to US citizens suffering because of migration and migrants.65 By this rhetorical move and redefinition of the humanitarian frame, US citizens become humanitarian victims, and it is their lives that are presented as being in need of protection and saving. Trump’s reframing of the humanitarian narrative represents a turn away from universal concern toward the suffering of others, into the direction of exclusive solidarity. This sort of reframing of humanitarian responsibilities for exclusionary ends, as concern only toward certain in-groups, nationalities, ethnicities and identities, that should be protected from “outsiders” is emblematic for right-wing populism.66 Trump’s resorting to such reframing designates the buoyancy of the humanitarian narrative and demonstrates its strategic value and continued usefulness in legitimizing Trump’s migration policy and border wall project. In conclusion, the comparison of the rhetorical framing of the 2017 and the 2015 NSS unveils that the special role of the United States in leading the world order and humanitarianly governing the global world is emphasized in both Strategies. The Trump administration’s document emphasizes the interests of the United States and has a more self-centered and competitive perspective, yet no clear narrative indication of stepping down from the role of the liberal global leader can be found. Trump’s NSS mentions all of the key attributes (and humanitarian themes) of the LIO: commitment to international cooperation, the leadership role of the United States in the world, fighting dictatorship and violations of the international law and conventions, common defense and international alliances, economic openness, the role of the United States as a provider of security and prosperity and global promoter of “American values,” and the aim of a common humanity living peacefully side by side. Although Trump’s alignment with the US humanitarian global role is milder than Obama’s, the US commitment to being a humanitarian global force is still present, and the rhetoric of moral duty and the leading role of the United States in helping those in need is clearly stated. Most explicitly, the rollback from the customary humanitarian frame is expressed in the question of unfair burden-sharing and especially the more rigorous and exclusion “President Donald J. Trump’s Address to the Nation on the Crisis at Border” (2019).  Nikunen (2019), 24–25.

65 66



ary stance on migration issues. Reframing of the humanitarian narrative into the direction of (nationalistic) exclusive solidarity is most explicitly present in the context of migration and the US southern border. Nevertheless, also these issues are framed by referring to humanitarian rhetoric tradition, but Trump’s wording indicates an interesting shift on how protectable and vulnerable life is framed, and whose rights to protection are talked about and presented to be at stake. The reframing of this matter also expresses the contemporary persistence and usefulness of the humanitarian narrative, as well as the strategic ability to shift the frame when politically useful.

The Humanitarian Narrative Frames of the 2017 Shayrat Strike and the Response to the 2013 Ghouta Attack This subsection looks at how actual US (humanitarian) military interventions (planned or actualized) are legitimized and framed in the speeches and proclamations of Presidents Trump and Obama. This is done by analyzing President Trump’s narrative framing and legitimization of the missile attack he ordered against the al-Assad regime in April 2017 in response to a chemical attack in Syria. Trump’s speeches are compared with the wording of President Obama in 2013 when he rationalized and strived to legitimize the military intervention in Syria in order to punish the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the Ghouta chemical attack. The aim of this section is to trace the possible alterations in narrative construction concerning the legitimization and reasoning of the two military operations and to identify a possible illiberal turn in how the 2017 attack is framed, in comparison to the 2013 speech. The two particular cases are selected for scrutiny because in both cases the target of the United States (and its allies in 2013) was al-Assad’s regime, and both times the reason was the same, namely the use of illegal chemical weapons on a civilian population. On April 4, 2017, yet another chemical weapons attack took place in Syria.67 The attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun—apparently committed by the Syrian government forces—was the deadliest since the infamous 2013 August Ghouta attacks. The Ghouta gas attack, killing hundreds if 67  There have been continuous chemical weapons attacks in Syria during the long dragged out war. See: “Timeline of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Activity, 2012–2018” (2018); Almukhtar (2018).



not thousands, mostly sleeping civilians, shocked the spectating world. Soon after the attack, a Western coalition, led by the United States, started planning a targeted humanitarian military strike on Syria to punish al-­ Assad, who was seen as responsible for the brutal act. The Ghouta atrocity was prominently visible in media during the weeks after the attack, and horrific images of the attacks were widely circulated in the international media. Active lobbying for military intervention in the coalition states of the United States, France and Britain increased worldwide attention to the attack. However, in 2013 the Western military solution did not escalate as the British Parliament voted against the strike, and a diplomatic solution— the UN Security Council’s resolution 2118 on the disarmament and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons—later replaced Western plans of military intervention.68 By contrast, on April 7, 2017, US President Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base, which was actually carried out. President Trump rationalized the 2017 attack as a necessary rectification of the unsuccessful politics of his predecessors, saying that “years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.” This is a clear reference to the inability of the former administration to respond adequately to al-Assad’s illegal acts and frames the 2017 attack in terms of a liberal interventionist and humanitarian narrative. Moreover, in his speeches regarding retaliation for the chemical weapons assault, Trump also strongly referred to the suffering of “innocent” civilians, and “beautiful babies” who “were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric act.” Trump represented the attack as being against all humanity and pleaded for “all civilized nations” to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria. The banning of chemical weapons by international conventions and the disregard for UN regulations were also mentioned in the speech as a reason for the attack. Trump also rationalized the military

68  It remains a matter of debate why the US did not carry out the planned military response in 2013. One major reason was that the unanimity of the Western coalition was split when the British Parliament voted against the operation. US domestic politics—war weariness due to the lengthy operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—may also have had something to do with the decision. Moreover, foreign political pressure, especially from Russia, also played a central role in the decision to go along with the disarmament plan. In many ways the decision not to intervene can be seen as a blow to the authority and credibility of President Obama, since prior to Ghouta he had repeatedly stated that the use of chemical weapons was “a red line” after which the US would intervene. See, also: Kotilainen (2016), 364–471.



strike by stating that “no child of god should ever suffer such horror,”69 while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the missile attack clearly indicated Trumps willingness to take decisive action in the face of atrocity when needed. Tillerson said that after seeing the horrific results of the chemical weapons, the President made the decision that the United States could no longer “turn a blind eye.”70 The rhetoric of Trump and his administration in 2017 very much resembles the choice of words and argumentation of his predecessor President Obama in 2013, when Obama strove to make a case of “limited military humanitarian intervention” in Syria. In an attempt to get Congress to back the military strike in 2013, Obama— similar to Trump’s wording in 2017—referred to the illegal status of chemical weapons, the threat of the weapons to all civilized nations and to global security, and most importantly—from the humanitarian narrative point of view—the horrors suffered by the civilians themselves. Obama legitimized the planned military operation by making reference to children “writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor.”71 The suffering of innocent children was used in both presidents’ rhetoric as a strong plea to humanitarian values and was intended to arouse the humanitarian sentiments of their audiences. Both presidents also referred to the deterrent effect of a military strike, arguing that a military solution would show the response taken should chemical weapons be used in the future. This framing also pointed to the protection of civilians and humanity, and the interventionist duty of the United States (and its Western allies) to protect humanity from weapons of mass destruction banned by international conventions.72 The narrative and rhetorical framing of both of the presidents clearly resonate with the core ideas of liberal internationalism and military humanitarianism. Trump’s wording about the international community 69  Gordon et  al. (2017); “Transcript and Video: Trump Speaks About Strikes in Syria” (2017). 70  Gordon et al. (2017). 71  “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Syria” (2013). 72  “Transcript and Video: Trump Speaks About Strikes in Syria” (2017); “Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps” (2013); “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Syria” (2013); “Obama’s shocking case for attacking Syria: Gruesome series of videos taken in aftermath of gas attacks that White House is using in closed-door briefings to persuade lawmakers to back US strikes” (2013); “Statement by the President on Syria” (2013); “Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate” (2013); “Syria Crisis: Obama wins backing for military strike” (2013); “Obama lines up key support in Congress for Syria attack” (2013).



and “civilized nations” points directly toward liberal international ideals of a rule- and institution-based world politics. Trump’s references to ­international institutions, such as the UN upholding shared rules and regulations that were targeted to keep the peace and ensure security, adhere to the core narrative of the LIO.73 Trump, who has been accused of abandoning of the liberal international system, emphasized, however, the legitimacy of the UN and international regulations prohibiting the use of chemical weapons when condemning the Khan Shaykhun attack. This indicates that the narrative framing tradition of liberal international politics and the US-led global order do not seem to be obsolete—at least on a rhetorical level when it is politically and strategically convenient. Having said this, there are differences in the framing of the chemical assaults in Syria by the two presidents, as well as in their rhetorical choices. Trump’s rhetoric is less abstract and more pragmatic, centering more on the national security aspects of the Syrian crisis for the United States. In his speech, Trump also mentions destabilization of the area due to the chemical attack and mentions that such acts will lead to the deterioration of the “refugee crisis,” which he frames as a subsequent threat to the United States and its allies. Trump’s reference to “no child of god” may be read as a Christian reference, but it is also a reference to “mankind,” a singular entity of suffering humans who should be safeguarded from such brutality, and therefore a statement that affirms a key element of cosmopolitan humanitarian thinking.74 However, references to the “slaughter” and bloodshed that claimed innocent lives in a distant area were in the forefront of both presidents’ narrative frames when justifying and rationalizing military acts, enhancing security, upholding the liberal order and saving lives overseas. Despite the very different political leanings and ethoses associated with the two presidents and their administrations, the rhetoric used to legitimize military attacks was fairly analogous. In both Obama’s and Trump’s rhetoric, the notion that “we”—implying humankind and a US-led international community—cannot just stand by and do nothing is recurrent. Referring to humankind and the responsibility of global “onlookers” to respond to the suffering of distant others is at the heart of their argumentation, which clearly adheres to a humanitarian rhetorical framing.

 See, for example: Ikenberry (2018) and Jahn (2018).  “Transcript and Video: Trump Speaks About Strikes in Syria” (2017).

73 74



In 2013 Obama made his case relying strongly on an appeal to universal humanity and the responsibility to act in reducing the suffering of others. Trump also takes up the responsibility of the United States to act in response to foreign atrocities, but perhaps more in line with the realist US tradition; his choice of words marks a rather subtle shift from underlining the universal humanitarian duties of the United States, to emphasizing the national interest and the domestic consequences of the crisis. Nevertheless, the liberal international duty of the United States as the liberal hegemon, obligated to intervene in instances of human suffering and where international norms are violated, is at the forefront of the rhetorical framing of both presidents. The fact that President Trump actually intervened in the situation in Syria by military means, and rationalized the operation primarily on humanitarian grounds (protection of the local civilian population, violation of international humanitarian laws and prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe in the area), indicates that his administration, in this case, seems to resume the narrative as well as the actual trajectory of liberal internationalism, rather than breaking with it. The case of Trump’s rhetoric in regard to the attack on the Shayrat air base indicates a humanitarian rationalization that is in line with liberal internationalist ideals.

Will the Liberal Humanitarian Frame in US Foreign Policy Maintain Its Resilience? If Francis Fukuyama’s statements on the end of history and the universalization of the “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” today sound somewhat naïve, the same can perhaps be said of the currently popular argument on the crisis of liberal international politics. Both standpoints, in their distinct ways, reveal the same underlying assumption, namely an acceptance of the liberal international global system as being the universal humanitarian high point of human governance. This chapter took as its point of departure that, rather than being an explanation or description of an actual existing system of governance, the LIO may be approached as a legitimizing ideology and a central narrative frame through which the US-led international, often interventionist order has been rationalized. This tendency has been especially vibrant in recent decades, but the use of a humanitarian narrative frame goes back further in time, and may be considered a leading legitimizing narrative of Western intervention already in the colonial era. I have argued that the humanitarian ethos and interventionist acts rationalized by a rhetoric of human



rights have been at the core of the post-Second World War LIO.  This chapter discussed how the practice of framing international political, ­interventionist acts as humane and motivated by humanitarian aspirations have, especially in recent decades, occupied a central position in the narrative construction of US foreign policy. I set out to scrutinize whether the liberal humanitarian ethos and a rhetoric of legitimation in Western foreign political settings still prevails in the current age, an age that has frequently been described as marking the crisis of the liberal international orientation. As the facets promulgating the end of the LIO habitually locate the inner threat to the liberal order in the political trajectory headed by US President Donald Trump, I set out to find out whether and how the humanitarian narrative frame is represented and employed by Trump and his administration in their international political wording. This was done by scrutinizing two exemplary cases within which the humanitarian legitimizing frame has been vibrant and essential within the liberal internationalist trajectory, namely in the discourse of National Security Strategies and the legitimization of interventionist military acts. Using contemporary, empirically orientated cases, it would appear that humanitarian rhetoric and legitimization in international political contexts is still widely employed today. President Trump’s NSS does not denote a clear break with the liberal humanitarian ideals and the US global leadership role promoted by former presidents. All of the themes central to the humanitarian legitimizing frame were apparent in the Trump administration’s NSS: US-led humanitarian assistance, resistance to undemocratic tyranny that causes suffering, defense of the global community from offenses against human integrity and welfare and punishing evildoers who threaten the liberal order. The humanitarian rhetorical tradition is also still alive in cases of international humanitarian military intervention and their rhetorical legitimization. In the speeches of both President Trump and President Obama in relation to the use of chemical weapons by the al-­ Assad regime in Syria, the United States is presented as a global power that does not just stand by and watch as illegal weapons are used to inflict a humanitarian disaster and threaten global security. The suffering of innocent victims is mentioned in the rhetoric of both presidents and is the primary legitimization for the use of military force. Therefore, in the light of the two cases under scrutiny here, it seems that a rhetoric of humanitarian internationalist liberalism is still used during an era that has often been represented as undergoing a liberal world order crisis.



The two cases scrutinized in this chapter do not, of course, suffice to conclude whether this narrative frame will continue in the future within the foreign political trajectory represented by President Trump. However, the examples indicate that the humanitarian rhetorical framing has not been abandoned but is instead recurrently referred to and employed by President Trump in ceremonious strategy texts and in legitimizing actual military intervention. The purpose of this chapter has not, however, been to prove that the trajectory represented by Trump would be humanitarian or liberal in essence. Rather, an analysis of the two cases exhibits the resilience, flexibility and persistent political convenience of liberal internationalist humanitarian narrative framing. This examination indicates that within the existing institutional international surroundings, the current foreign political settings and the present high popular acceptance of humanitarian aspirations within international (interventionist) politics make resorting to this narrative practice beneficial and functional. The long tradition of presenting liberal politics as steered by altruistic, moral and ethical considerations—notably the protection of humanity from suffering and rights abuses—rather than presenting politics as advancing self-­ interest power political motivations—makes it rational to resort to a familiar, widely shared, popular narrative. The humanitarian frame is resilient because it works: it addresses people on a deep, emotional level. Who would not want to believe in a narrative that reassures you that there is a strong global force for good, prepared and able to defend humanity around the world? Moreover, institutions central for international relations and law, and multilateral conventions that determine the international political setting, are a feature of the post-Second World War era. The vocabulary, rhetoric and terminology of the existing international system is liberal internationalist in tone and is built upon a humanitarian frame, introduced and proliferated by those who built the liberal world order. Abandoning the reasoning based on the humanitarian rhetorical frame is simply not feasible within the existing system. Therefore, the use of a humanitarian rhetorical frame also by political actors who are seen as illiberal in essence—even actors who are seen to threaten the very global order—can also be seen to indicate the convenience, even the instrumental nature of the rhetorical tradition. Therefore, Trump largely adhering to the liberal humanitarian narrative practice in the cases, at hand, demonstrates the institutional strength of the liberal international system, as well as the flexibility and potential for political instrumentalization of the humanitarian narrative



practice within international politics, rather than is telling of actual political objectives. However, as the cases indicate, within the trajectory seen as representing an illiberal course, there were some shifts and alterations in how the humanitarian frame was referred to and defined, and whose rights, distress and saving were in question. In relation to the military strike on the Shayrat air base, Trump’s choice of words marks a rather subtle shift from underlining the universal humanitarian duties of the United States to emphasizing the national interest and domestic consequences of the crisis, in line with a more realist US tradition. This also adheres to the Trump’s America First-policy and indicates a domestic political motivation in the reframing. Moreover, the rhetoric of putting US citizens’ interests first, as well as the references to the unjust sharing of expenditure among the United States and its allies and the emphasis on the United States as the sole bearer of global responsibility, points to redefining whose rights and distress are being talked about within the humanitarian frame. It seems that in the narrative framing of US foreign policy, US citizens (and the state) have subtly come to occupy the role of the humanitarian victim, an object of pity and compassion. This indicates a shift in what is meant by a protectable life, a shift in how life worthy of protection and rights are understood and outlined, and therefore it also represents a hardening of the borders between the global categories of “us” and “them” and a shift toward solidarity based on exclusions. This also indicates the fluidity and potential for alteration of the familiar and popular humanitarian rhetoric frame. Nevertheless, the current era, seen to mark a crisis in the liberal tradition, is not the first, and probably not the last alteration in the history of the liberal order. Rather than marking the end of the narrative practice of legitimizing political acts on the grounds of global humanitarianism, we are more likely to be witnessing yet another alteration in the long tradition of liberal internationalism and the use of humanitarian framing in international political settings.

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Confrontational Civilizational Identity in the Making? The New Turkey and the West Toni Alaranta

The Republic of Turkey was for decades ruled by a Kemalist modernization ideology that promised to attach Turkey to the Western world. Although the liberal philosophy of history was implied, the Kemalist project never fulfilled its initial promise of political liberalism but instead concentrated on securing the state and building a homogenous secular-national identity.1 The recipe for overcoming this ‘tutelary democracy’2 was seen in an independent Anatolian middle class that would crush the restrictive state tradition and generate the necessary social pressure for the establishment of a pluralist, liberal democratic regime. The incumbent Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP) was for a long time seen as the fulfilment of this process,  See, for instance, Alaranta (2014).  In Turkish scholarship, the ‘tutelary democracy’ is known as vesayet rejimi. It refers to the military-bureaucratic establishment that has allegedly set the limits within which democratically elected governments have been allowed to rule. See, for instance, İnsel (2010). 1 2

T. Alaranta (*) The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




­ riginally started in the 1980s.3 The academic literature on political incluo sion, in this case arguing for the beneficial steps in democratic consolidation once the system absorbed political Islamists,4 and the EU/US practice of pushing ‘democratization-through-market liberalization’ in the non-­ Western context,5 hugely increased these expectations. However, instead of a pluralist liberal democracy, the AKP experiment has during the last five years ended in a crude authoritarian regime that has completely questioned Turkey’s affinity with the West—and political liberalism. This chapter analyses how the AKP leadership, intellectuals close to the party, leading columnists in the pro-government media, and pro-­ government think tanks have recently defined the AKP’s Islamic-­ conservative state transformation project, and to what extent they have simultaneously constructed a confrontational civilizational identity within which the West is increasingly conceptualized as the ‘other’ to the allegedly authentic Turkish-Islamic ‘self’. The article detects key features of the ruling AKP’s political narrative, demonstrating how both the domestic Islamic-conservative state transformation project and Turkey’s new foreign policy discourse use civilizational identity narrative as a central tool in order to build a collective political actor. Both civilization and identity are notoriously vague terms. However, they are also some of the key concepts used by the AKP leadership in their own political narrative. From an analytical point of view, Jacinta O’Hagan provides a useful definition of a civilizational identity. According to her, a civilizational identity is a form of identity that locates an ethnic or national community within a context of a broader, cultural community, often extensive in geographical and temporal scope. Further, it can be perceived as encompassing many languages, ethnicities, and religious denominations but united by shared histories, traditions, values, and beliefs. These shared ideas on their part influence the way people believe the world should be, the goals that should be striven for, and even the things that are at stake. In this way, a civilizational identity is important in helping to form values, goals, and norms. Taken together, civilizational identity provides the opportunity for membership in a normative community, of the kind that is not necessarily fixed but capable of change, evolution, diversity, and  Dağı (2009), 59.  For the inclusion-moderation hypothesis and debates, see Schwedler (2013). 5  For a good overview of EU and US attempts to promote democratization through economic liberalization, see Hassan (2015). 3 4



even inconsistency. Finally, civilizational identities may be an aspect of national or state identity, but they locate the state or nation in a much broader imagined community.6 This chapter will first discuss a prominent theoretical stand within which to analyse the ambiguous relationship between liberalism and nationalism in Western historical experience during the era of popular sovereignty, and how this can be used to contextualize main manifestations of nationalism in Turkey. This is followed by a short account of competing modernization paradigms and their inherent interpretations of the West during the republican era in Turkey. The third part analyses in detail the incumbent AKP’s Islamic-conservative state transformation project currently implemented in Turkey, in particular regarding the construction of a confrontational civilizational identity. The fourth part looks at this same issue in terms of Turkey’s new more active and even aggressive foreign policy. Finally, the concluding section discusses the article’s main findings in relation to the more general debate on the current state of the so-called liberal international order.

Detecting the Affinity Between Liberalism and Nationalism If one aims to analyse the limits of political liberalism in the Turkish context, one first needs to detect the more general mechanism through which liberalism so often is at the same time secured and threatened by nationalism. Liberal-democratic form of government is an outcome of centuries-­ long political struggles. This is relatively well known, although often forgotten in those debates that tend to see current democratic and pluralist societies in the West as self-evident. The blind spot of the debate on the historical formation process of political liberalism as a regime type has always been the relationship between liberalism and nationalism. Regarding this blind spot, it is useful to follow Bernard Yack, who makes a very particular and important distinction between the two concepts of nation and people. According to him, both the nation and the people are ‘imagined communities’ in the sense once coined by Benedict Anderson. However, they are also distinct in terms of time and space. National community is an image of community over time. What binds us into national communities is our images of a shared heritage that is passed 6

 O’Hagan (2002), 11–12.



(and altered) from one generation to another. As a result of this, national communities are imagined as starting from some specific point of origin in the past and extending forward into an indefinite future. The people, in contrast, present an image of community over space. It portrays all individuals within the given boundaries of a state as members of a community from which the state derives its legitimate authority.7 Thus, while national community bridges one generation to another, the people offer a bridge over the chasm that separates individuals from each other in their efforts to shape and control authority of the state. The concept of the nation allows us to imagine the evolving community that precedes our existence and survives our death. The concept of the people allows us to imagine the community that we share at any particular moment in dealing with the state’s coercive authority. The idea of the people as the sovereign implies the idea that it precedes and survives the dissolution of political authority. This, on the other hand, requires that the people share something crucial beyond the relationship based on being participants of the same political authority.8 Further according to Yack, the defenders of the modern concept of popular sovereignty—the liberals and the liberal political theory in the front row—have no consistent answer to the question of what, exactly, is this common prepolitical characteristic. This has opened the door for the close identification of political with national community, of the people with the nation. For the nation provides precisely what is lacking in the concept of the people: a sense of where to look for the prepolitical basis of political community. Thus, by encouraging us to think of political community as distinct from and prior to the establishment of political authority, the liberal conception of popular sovereignty brings our image of political community much closer to national community than it has been in the past.9 These observations provide the key insight on why nationalism, as an enduring political ideology in the modern world, and national sovereignty, as the essential principle of the state system, have remained—and are likely to remain—the main components in the formation of state identities and the overall international system. It also explains why the struggle between different constituencies over the ability to define the national past (of the  Yack (2002), 35.  Ibid., 36. 9  Ibid., 40. 7 8



individual nation-states) constitutes the general framework within which ultimately all national politics coalesce. Yack’s argument also provides a valuable perspective to the Turkish experiment with liberalism, which has always been limited by the parameters defined by competing versions of Turkish nationalism. As such, it is an example of a more general mechanism that allows religiously defined political ideologies to be hosted by nationalism. Thus, nationalism has the ability to provide a platform also to those political ideologies that at first sight seem to reject nationalism’s secular presuppositions. As recently observed by Cesari, political Islam can also be seen as a particular manifestation of nationalism, that is, religious nationalism, especially in those cases where the central state has aimed to create strong, monist national ideologies with Islam at their centre.10 Turkey’s current Muslim-nationalist reformulation of national identity represents precisely this kind of religious nationalism produced in order to consolidate the state. Whether one looks at the previously dominant Kemalist secular-­ nationalism or current Islamic-conservative form of Turkish nationalism, one can find the attempt to preserve state sovereignty at its core, accompanied by an enduring debate regarding on what terms modern Turkey can or should align its political principles with the Western experience. In Turkey’s struggles to determine the meaning and contents of the ‘national’, that allegedly encapsulates the meaning of the people as the sovereign, political liberalism has always been a minor stream, crushed under the overriding attempt to produce a monist political community through a nationalist project.

Outlining the Competing Meanings of the West and the National in Turkey If nationalism has been an inseparable part of political liberalism in the West in the sense argued by Bernard Yack, and I am convinced it has, then one of course needs to ask why this combination has nevertheless allowed the emergence of liberal democratic regimes in the West but crucially limits it in Turkey. At least a partial answer seems to have something to do with the rival, highly antagonistic conceptualizations of the national in the Turkish modernization process. This, on the other hand, is crucially linked  Cesari (2016).




to the struggle over the meaning of modernization and westernization of Turkey. The West as a synonym to the universal civilization of modernity was at the heart of the Kemalist ideology that animated the republican project in Turkey from the 1920s to the 1980s. The struggle over the meaning of modernity and modernization in the Turkish case has always been one of the key dimensions of Turkey’s politics. From today’s perspective, when an authoritarian Islamic-conservative presidential system with few checks and balances is being built in Turkey, it is crucial to understand the long-­ term mechanisms that establish the necessary preconditions to this power concentration. When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, secularism and nationalism became prominent features of the new state. Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk), the leader of Turkish independence war (1919–1922) and the key political figure in the events that led to the establishment of the Republic, radicalized the Westernization (batılılaşmak) project originally started in the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century. The republican nation-­ building project was based on a holistic understanding of modernity, requiring Turkey to absorb what was then seen as the universal aspects of modernity, namely rational-scientific worldview and secularism.11 In direct confrontation with this holistic interpretation, a counter-­ narrative had emerged already in the latter part of the nineteenth century, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II. This can be called Islamic modernism, but it also provided the basis for the first known example of political Islam, in the sense that Islam was now for the first time used as a political legitimation tool and a discourse to create a collective political actor in the context of modernization processes.12 Instead of a total absorption of Western civilization, the Islamic-conservative tradition called for a material-scientific progress along the lines of W ­ estern-­originated  See, for instance, Gülalp (2002), 29.  In a way, Islam has been a particularly political religion from its inception. According to Ayubi, Islam is mainly a shariʽa (a nomos or ‘religious law’), containing principles that regulate man’s relationship to other men (muʽamalat). Islam, thus, has essential instructions regarding not only the faith but also the social relations among the Muslim community. According to Ayubi, this fusion of matters of belief with matters of conduct in Islam makes it difficult to separate religion from politics. Ayubi (1991), pp. 50–51. However, one can argue that as the traditional social order underwent drastic changes due to modernization processes, Islam increasingly became used as a modern political ideology in order to create a collective political actor. 11 12



development but rejected Western values and culture, especially secular humanism, trying to preserve the allegedly authentic Ottoman Islamic, and subsequently also Turkish-Islamic, civilization. This was the answer provided also by the founder of Turkish sociology, Ziya Gökalp, who made a distinction between universal civilization (medeniyet) consisted of material-scientific development, and culture (hars), which referred to the unique national culture of each nation. In Gökalp’s view, the Turks should take the first one (civilization) from the West but jealously preserve their authentic culture.13 Mustafa Kemal, on the other hand, perceived this as an artificial and impossible distinction, supporting a holistic view on modernization. Thus, two alternative modernization paradigms—holistic/ republican versus selective/Islamic-conservative—have competed in Turkey during the twentieth century. Thus, the struggle over the meaning of the West and modernization has always been at the heart of the Turkish nation-building project.14 Whereas the first-generation Kemalist cadres wanted to implement in Turkey a Western-type secular and national project through a state-led revolution, they were also anxious about Western great power intentions in the Middle East. As the Western countries aimed to annex the Anatolian heartlands of the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, the Kemalist strategic culture always saw the West as a possible threat to Turkish national sovereignty. This ambivalence towards the West was then subsequently radicalized by the so-called left-wing Kemalist tradition that became the dominant version of Kemalism during the 1960s. From that period onwards, there has been a strong anti-Western element in the Kemalist tradition.15 The selective, Islamic-conservative interpretation of Turkish modernization, on the other hand, is best understood as a line or continuum with moderate, rather pro-Western conservative centre-right parties in the one end, and strongly anti-Western political Islamist parties in the other end. The most prominent examples of the first group of parties have been the Democratic Party (Demokrat Partisi [DP]) of the 1950s and the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi [ANAP]) of the 1980s. Regarding  Gökalp (1976) [1923], 25–37.  These debates have an intellectual history reaching back to the first modernization attempts in the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the eighteenth century, see Karpat (2010), 93–110. 15  For the competing traditions of strategic culture in Turkey, see Mufti (2009); for the neo-nationalist, anti-Western variant of Kemalism, see Uslu (2008). 13 14



the latter constituency, the so-called Milli Görüş movement—for many decades led by late Necmettin Erbakan—has been the dominant political Islamist movement during the republican era. The incumbent AKP, on its part, emerged from and combined elements from both of these Islamic-­ conservative traditions.16 To a significant degree, preserving the original Kemalist modernization project, with its conviction of one universal civilization of modernity, has obstructed the development of a more pluralist and liberal political regime in Turkey. This is because the Kemalist regime saw the Islamicconservative constituencies as a threat to the cherished modernization project and their own power.17 On the other hand—and as will be demonstrated in what follows—the most ardent champions of the selective, Islamic-conservative modernization have interpreted the Kemalist westernization project as repressive, being eager to crush it once they have been able to conquer the state.18 Within the mechanism where two rival national modernization projects understand the struggle over the meaning of the national community and modernization as a zero-sum game, the individual liberties cherished by political liberalism have been repeatedly compromised by both traditions in their attempt to build a unitary, state-centric national identity.

The AKP and Turkey’s Domestic Restoration Project as a Civilizational Identity Narrative Even though most analysts evaluate that under Erdoğan’s rule Turkey has more or less completely turned its back to liberal democracy, the AKP leadership and many Turkey’s citizens supporting the party strongly argue that Turkey has only now become a genuine democracy. In order to understand this argument in its intellectual and social context, one must notice that the AKP representatives understand Turkey as a country fighting against Western imperialism and domestic authoritarian regime allegedly supported by the West. According to this interpretation, the AKP era and Erdoğan’s leadership is a long-waited emancipation process that ends the tutelary regime imposed by the Kemalist, culturally western-oriented, elite in Turkey. Further, the general socio-political situation is understood  Çakır (2006), 544–549.  Keyder (1997), 46–49. 18  Somer (2016). 16 17



to be similar in other Middle Eastern Muslim-majority societies, and the AKP constituency’s political narrative is full of arguments according to which Turkey, as the most powerful regional actor, will take the leadership role in the whole region.19 Increasingly, the common bond allegedly attaching other Middle Eastern countries and Turkey together is defined as shared Islamic civilization. These views have become the most prevalent way to frame Turkey’s socio-political reality among the AKP constituency in recent years. The interpretation of Turkey being forced to abandon its own culture under the rule of the westernized elite is explicit in the following excerpt by Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, an AKP parliamentarian and columnist in the pro-­ government Star newspaper: In order to rescue ourselves from the imperialist occupation, we abandoned our culture, traditions, language, religion and even our spiritual values that make us who we are. Yes, we abandoned all these, but the imperialists were still not satisfied, and we remained dependent on them. In our schools, our children were taught with the mentality of the occupiers … the explicit physical occupation in 1919–1923 was repelled with our National Independence War, but a more subtle, covered occupation continued for decades, until it was finally overcome with the rise of Erbakan hoca and the Milli Görüş movement.20 (transl. T.A.)

Ending this national alienation process is defined as a domestic restoration project and it functions as the cornerstone in the AKP’s political narrative. The idea of a domestic restoration inherent in the current Islamic-conservative state transformation project has an intellectual pedigree in several locations. The most prominent one is the shared literature produced by specifically Islamic intellectuals that already spans three generations. During the early republican decades, Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904–1983) and Nurettin Topçu (1909–1975) formulated the view according to which Islam constitutes a unique and clearly distinct civilization that had experienced its times of grandeur during the Ottomans. In Kısakürek and Topçu’s texts, it is precisely this kind of Turkish-Islamic civilization that is offered as the only legitimate basis upon which to build a new modern Turkey. In sharp contrast with the westernizing project implemented by the Kemalist elite of the time, the first-generation Muslim  Aslan (2018).  Çamlı (2014).

19 20



intellectuals strongly argued that Turkey’s national identity needed to be established on the foundations offered by an allegedly authentic civilizational tradition provided by Islam.21 Since the 1980s, these views were further elaborated and consolidated by a new generation of Islamic intellectuals, with writers such as Ali Bulaç, Rasim Özdenören, and İsmet Özel in the front row. These writers emphasized that Turkey should not seek a new social contract based on Western political concepts and secularism but should instead develop a whole new epistemology and conceptual map based on Islam and the tradition provided by the Prophet Muhammed and his sunna. Unlike Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, who formulated a complete authoritarian Islamic form of government with a führer-type great leader (Başyüce) guiding the allegedly unified Turkish Sunni nation to salvation,22 Ali Bulaç, Rasim Özdenören, and İsmet Özel base their ideas on individual emancipation through the strict following of the Prophet and his righteous path. The Islamic intellectuals explicitly attack the rationalist and secular worldview cherished by the Kemalists, making it as the threatening ‘other’ of an authentic Islamic ‘self’.23 A noteworthy aspect of the Islamic-conservative narrative that has now replaced the Kemalist one in Turkey is that it does not challenge the existence of the ‘West’ but rather utilizes this as a counter-image for an allegedly authentic and historically distinct (Turkish) Islamic civilization. In this respect, few things are more revealing than dominant conceptions regarding key national and international events and personalities. The discursive practices normalizing the constructed distinction between civilizational entities, such as the ‘West’ and the ‘Islamic world’, become concrete in these historical narratives. In our case, one such key historical figure is Sultan Abdülhamid II, who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909. The meaning of his reign has become a major site in the Turkish struggles over the meaning of history and the national. In the AKP’s discourse, the distinction between Western and Islamic civilization is constructed through the glorification of Abdülhamid II. According to President Erdoğan, the Kemalist westernizers demonized Abdülhamid II and turned him into the ‘other’ of the republican ‘self’. According to this account, the demonizing of Abdülhamid  Yavuz (2003), 114–117.  Kısakürek (1968). 23  Yavuz (2003), 117–121. 21 22



II was the product of westernized elite that saw Turkish history from the distorted perspective caused by a Western mentality.24 Redefining Abdülhamid II as the hero of the Turkish nation in the AKP’s political narrative thus serves as a way to repossess Turkish history after it was distorted through the westernized categories implemented by the Kemalists. In terms of both economic ties and political institutions, Turkey is relatively firmly connected to the West. Further, a political narrative that repeatedly emphasizes an essential civilizational distinction between the West and Turkish-Islamic civilization does not necessarily imply that these two distinct civilizations need to see each other in a confrontational way. However, the political narrative reproduced by the AKP leadership also includes elements that often point to that direction. In Erdoğan’s speeches, the West (Batı) often becomes a hostile, monolithic category that wants to attack and humiliate the Islamic world. This alleged behaviour often leads Erdoğan to describe westerners as despicable, unworthy people.25 To a great extent, the debate on Western liberalism is based on the idea of an individual and his/her inalienable rights. Safeguarding these rights is seen as the function of the liberal state, although more communitarian variants of liberalism also emphasize the individuals’ responsibility towards the community.26 When the AKP came to power in Turkey in 2002, it often based its critique of Kemalist modernization to this kind of liberal tradition, emphasizing individuals’ rights against the repressive state. In this discourse, the Kemalist state was seen as representing political elite that dismissed the people’s will. During these early years, the AKP’s own political narrative rarely emphasized Turkey’s character as an exclusively Sunni Islamic nation, although the party’s so-called conservative democracy (muhafazakar demokrat) programme included, from the very beginning, an attempt to safeguard the ‘national and religious characteristics of our people’ (halkımızım milli ve dini karakterini), often understood in essential, unchanging manner.27 Right from the start the party leadership formulated its mission as the ‘normalization’ of Turkish politics, strongly  Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2018a).  See, for example, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2018b). 26  Eccleshall (2003), 23. 27  See, for instance, the statement by AKP deputy Nureddin Nebati. In his view, the claim that Turkey is becoming more conservative is inadequate. According to Nebati, ‘Turkey is just becoming itself’. In other words, the AKP has created a situation where Turkey can realize its authentic identity. Nebati concludes that Turkey ‘just is this kind of society, our people are religious (dindar) and conservative (muhafazakâr)’. Milliyet (2014). 24 25



suggesting that the Kemalist top-down, state-led modernization project founded on the attempts to control religious institutions and behaviour had produced a social trauma.28 At that time, the Turkish liberals hailed these ideas, as the AKP agenda seemed to lay the foundations for a new social contract, one that could crush the restrictive Kemalist state tradition.29 Reading through the documents published during the early phase of the party formation, when it was crucial for the AKP leaders—who were nearly all well-known Islamists from Erbakan’s Milli Görüş movement— to win public legitimacy in the eyes of both liberals and Kemalists, one can notice that the ‘conservative democrat’ self-description aimed to create an eclectic, flexible agenda. Most important was to convince all outsiders that the new party had abandoned political Islam and was situated in the political centre, continuing the tradition of previous conservative centre-right parties, in particular the Democrat Party (DP) of the 1950s and the Motherland Party (ANAP) of the 1980s. However, in the longer run, the party carried on the legacy of both Milli Görüş tradition and the centre-­ right DP/ANAP tradition. During its 17 years of existence, the party has always been a kind of battleground between these two traditions. The AKP’s experiment with its alleged ‘conservative-democrat’ agenda can be roughly divided into two periods. During the first period (2002–2011), the AKP had to fight against the Kemalist bureaucracy and the old guard in general, in order to take over all state institutions. In doing this, it formed an alliance with the Gülen community, a reformist Islamic brotherhood headed by Fethullah Gülen. After 2010 constitutional amendments and 2011 parliamentary election, which further consolidated AKP’s ‘electoral hegemony’,30 the party was able to take over all state institutions, and soon its alliance with the Gülen community ended. However, one can argue that the central ideas inherent in the AKP leadership’s worldview have been essentially the same during these years. Regarding the domestic restoration project, the AKP political elite shares an understanding of the world in which civilizations (medeniyetler) play a crucial role. This is most noteworthy in Ahmet Davutoğlu’s thinking, but the same civilizational approach is clearly observable among the  Akdoğan (2004), 18–19.  For Turkish Liberals’ critical stance on Kemalism, see Karaveli (2009). 30  For this term and AKP’s enduring ability to form a winning coalition in elections, see Keyman (2010). 28 29



whole AKP elite. Ahmet Davutoğlu’s (Minister of Foreign Affairs 2009–2014) key work Stratejik Derinlik (Strategic Depth) builds a civilizational-­religious framework for international relations and Turkey’s major role in global politics. Within the overall hierarchy established in the book, Turkey is conceptualized as one of the few specific ‘core countries’ expressing a unique religious-cultural/civilizational actorness in world history.31 Especially when read in conjunction with his other writings, Davutoğlu’s cherished idea of ‘restoration’ develops a civilizational approach where Turkey and other Middle Eastern Muslim-majority societies are seen to have suffered from an alienation process due to previous state-led westernization attempts. According to this stance, the westernization projects have been a key cause for the loss of self-esteem and lack of authenticity in Turkey.32 Thus, Davutoğlu and his disciples now working in various Turkish think tanks clearly base their main political views on the tradition espoused by Turkish Islamic intellectuals.33 Perhaps even more important is the fact that President Erdoğan explicitly argues that Turkey represents a unique Islamic civilization and that, unlike Western civilization that is much too individualistic, the Islamic civilization encompasses all dimensions in the community’s experience.34 From these statements, one can detect a critique of liberalism and its individualistic approach, together with an attempt to discover alternative ways to conceptualize modernity and modernization processes. Taken together, these views also tend to challenge the legitimacy of Western-originated modernization process and its contemporary international manifestation, the so-called liberal world order. From time to time, President Erdoğan explicitly uses the concept of the West (Batı) in order to name the civilizational category represented as non-Islamic in the AKP’s political discourse: The increasing Islamophobia in the West leads to an all-out attack against our book, the Prophet and all that we consider sacred. We observe with sadness how the Western societies are experiencing a severe crisis of faith. Sadly, they try to alleviate this crisis by targeting Islam and Muslims. From Osman Gazi to Mehmed the Conqueror, many of our state leaders expressed tolerance that is indeed rarely seen in today’s world. Within the contemporary  Davutoğlu (2001).  See, for instance, Ardıç (2014), 49. 33  For the enduring debate in Turkey, Russia, and Japan of not being accepted as good as the West in the eyes of the West, see Zarakol (2010). 34  Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2017). 31 32



Western system based on the culture of conflict, our civilizational understanding based on dialogue, tolerance, and respect for differences is markedly different.35 (transl. T.A.)

Thus, president Erdoğan here reproduces the very well-known Islamist leitmotif according to which the West is in perpetual moral crisis because it has abandoned faith.36 However, in order to fully comprehend the reproduction of the concept of the West—and the widespread reluctance to associate one’s own political vision with this term in Turkey—it is noteworthy in this context that also many contemporary secular-nationalist (Kemalist) writers do not see their own stance as representing the West in Turkey. Erol Manisalı, for example, explicitly argues that the Turkish revolution (or alternatively Atatürk revolution) that created a modern secular nation-state represents Europeanness (Avrupalılık) in the sense that the Kemalists wanted to implement in Turkey the kind of modern institutions and practices—such as secularism, rule of law, and democracy—that had originally emerged in countries like France and Great Britain. This, Manisalı argues, however has ‘nothing to do with westernizing Turkey’.37 The AKP representatives, however, ignore these views by domestic opponents. To them, the Kemalist secular-nationalists are despicable westernizers who have caused a collective alienation with heir modernist, top-­ down secularizing project. Regarding the AKP’s domestic narrative on normalization and restoration, one can detect a mechanism where the construction of collective political actor by the AKP first utilizes liberal concepts, especially individual rights, in its critique of Kemalism. Subsequently, however, the same narrative engages in the critique of liberalism from an allegedly superior Islamic (civilizational) approach, arguing that liberalism’s excessive individualism threatens the healthy organization of the political community. This way the AKP political narrative constructing an Islamic civilizational identity both utilizes—and in this sense superficially affirms—some of the central tenets of Western liberalism but also rejects them in order to establish a more communitarian and an allegedly superior Islamic civilizational identity for Turkey. As will be demonstrated in the next section, in AKP’s political narrative, this successful domestic restoration also provides Turkey with a unique ability to transform other Muslim-majority societies, especially in the Middle East.  Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2015).  For this kind of argumentation, see Bonnet (2004). 37  Manisalı (2018). 35 36



The AKP and Turkey’s New Foreign Policy: Emotional Revisionism and Civilizational Identity While analysing changes and continuity in US grand strategy, Colin Dueck described its long-term characteristics as being practised by ‘reluctant crusaders’. With this, Dueck referred to a long-term cultural tradition of US foreign policy that desired to spread American freedoms to the rest of the world with almost religious fervour, while the more practical considerations restrained these reflexes, so that the grand designs for social transformations in far-away lands was never given the vast resources these would have required. In other words, the US freedom-exporting foreign policy was always a bit reluctant as many actors saw this much too costly and resource consuming.38 The attempt to export liberal freedoms to non-Western world is at the core of liberal international order. However, as liberalism itself has been transformed, becoming a bit uncertain about its universalism, especially regarding secularism and scientific rationalism in the era of ‘postmodern’ theories emphasizing cultural particularisms, the modernization paradigm framing the liberal ascendancy is also challenged. This is problematic, as there are many, not easily debunked, arguments according to which secularization is a sine qua non of liberal emancipation project. John Rawls, in his major work Political Liberalism, argued along these lines,39 while others have quite credibly asserted that, in the final analysis, liberalism has historically presupposed secularization and scientific rationalism.40 In domestic politics, the Kemalist tutelary democracy could never redeem its promise of liberal emancipation. Nevertheless, in the international field, Kemalist foreign policy was based on the idea of sovereign nation-states embarked on a Western-inspired modernization process, a system of states upon which the liberal international order is ultimately established. Things have in this respect changed rather dramatically with the coming to power of the Islamic-conservative AKP.  Turkey’s foreign policy under the AKP governments has certain characteristics that allow one to describe it as ‘emotional revisionism’. The AKP foreign policy discourse has cherished concepts and slogans such as merkez ülke Türkiye (central state Turkey), düzen kurucu aktör (order producing country), and  Dueck (2006).  Freedman (2000). 40  See, for instance, Susser (1988), pp. 214–215. 38 39



dünya beşten büyüktür (world is bigger than five), referring to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. President Erdoğan and the rest of the AKP leadership have endlessly repeated all these concepts. As the analysts in the pro-government think tanks also explicitly argue, the most enduring change in Turkey’s foreign policy during the last 15 years is the abolishment of Western-centred foreign policy doctrine and the firm believe in the emergence of multipolar world where Turkey is able to acquire a powerful status.41 There indeed seems to be a widespread consensus among the AKP-­ supporting think tanks that multipolarity is the key characteristics of an emerging world order and that Turkey should actively push things to that direction with interest-based approach that gives no priority whatsoever to the West. As one enthusiast supporter of this view, Bülent Erandaç, recently argued: The land route of the new Silk Road goes through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to Europe. One of the sea routes goes through Mersin-Iskenderun. From our point of view, the key question regarding the future is the following: how is Turkey going to position itself in the new world order? Independent Turkey – global leader Erdoğan is now making geopolitical decisions as the leader of the third axis. With multi-­ dimensional policies towards USA, EU, China, Russia, Africa and the Islamic world, he is consolidating Turkey as the central state defining the world.42 (transl. T.A.)

This kind of interest-based approach does not necessarily imply the straining of relations between Turkey and the West nor that Turkey would radically redefine its traditional foreign-policy doctrines, such as NATO membership. However, one can observe that within this new foreign policy discourse, the space has also been opened for a critical evaluation of some of the taken-for-granted and highly institutionalized commitments, such as the NATO Membership.43 At least some Turkish think tankers close to AKP have already argued that both NATO and EU are a ‘­ conceptual captivity’ that unnecessarily restrict Turkey’s choices.44 Further, a signifi-

 Yeşiltaş (2018).  Erandaç (2018). 43  Kibaroğlu (2017), 8–9. 44  Tavukçu (2018). 41 42



cant characteristic of the ruling AKP leaders’ foreign policy thinking seems to be emotional revisionism. In President Erdoğan’s words: We are heirs to an uninterrupted historical civilization lasting for 1400 years. Our first Anatolian state was established in Iznik in 1075, subsequently this became the Selçuk Turkish state with Konya as its Capital. The Ottoman state comprised 600 years and three continents, 7 different climates. The Republic of Turkey, on its part, is our most recent state formation, established on those territories we were able to keep after enormous sacrifices. Let us not cheat ourselves—the Republic of Turkey is not the first state (of ours). We are heirs to a state that ruled over 22 million square kilometers. Even at the eve of establishing the Republic, we still possessed nearly 3 million square kilometers of land, then falling to 780 thousand square kilometers. When I have spoken about the Lausanne Treaty, this has made some people anxious. Why? Unfortunately, in Lausanne our territories were reduced from 3 million square kilometers to 780,000 square kilometers. Lands that were very dear to us were taken. While these lands were taken, some people are still glorifying this treaty. They are saying, ‘We achieved magnificent things with the treaty.’ How is that? You gave away what was in your hands, and claim this was a ‘success’.45 (transl. T.A.)

Erdoğan here explicitly attacks Kemalist foreign policy doctrine—and traditional Turkish national historiography—that cherished the Lausanne Treaty as the highly appreciated moment of international recognition of the new Turkish nation-state. The search for a new international role for Turkey started already during the 1980s with Turgut Özal. This search was then made almost inevitable by the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. The period from 2002 to 2011 is perceived as a reformulated, yet in many parts continuing, attempt to redefine Turkey’s relations with its Middle East neighbours, initially launched already in the 1980s. The idea is often summed up with the slogan ‘zero problems with neighbours’, indicating the idea that Turkey should develop more productive and even fraternal socio-economic and political relations, especially with the Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. This has been described as a transformation in the whole mentality regarding the national security, which was for a long time based on the idea that Turkey was surrounded by hostile states.46  Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2016).  Yeşiltaş and Balcı (2011), 17–18.

45 46



With these kinds of characteristics, one could still argue that the AKP’s new, more active foreign policy was becoming more, not less, compatible with the Western countries’ eagerness to promote economic liberalization and regional integration policies in the Middle East. However, in recent years the AKP leadership has conceptualized the whole Middle East as the foreign policy extension of its domestic state transformation project, both allegedly consolidating each other. The so-called value-based approach in Turkey’s foreign policy, called for by both Ahmet Davutoğlu and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, explicitly maintains that the alleged ‘democratic consolidation’ secured by the AKP governments in Turkey is directly linked to the AKP’s foreign policy narrative, according to which Turkey under the AKP functions as the saviour of Muslim peoples all over the Middle East.47 The AKP’s domestic narrative puts great emphasis on the ideas of ‘restoration’ and ‘normalization’, arguing that the state–society relationship has been dysfunctional and lacking a solid basis. The Middle East as a whole is seen from a similar perspective. In this sense, this narrative clearly implies the idea that the international order established in the Middle East after the First World War not only fragmented the historically structured Ottoman sociocultural and political regional system, turning it into (domestically often highly challenged) territorial nation-states, but also contributed to the situation in which these new political entities were ruled by ‘alienated’ elites.48 It is in Syria that this approach has produced its most controversial and destabilizing results. The ‘order’ Turkey has been after—one where the AKP’s ideological equivalents, the Muslim Brotherhood, take on government responsibilities—required ousting not only the existing Syrian government but also its existing state institutions built around the al-Asads. To this end, Turkey started to arm various Sunni Islamist factions fighting against the Syrian government, especially the al-Qaeda cooperative Ahrar al-Sham, a salafi-jihad organization.49 Further, Turkey allowed international jihadi organizations, such as the Islamic State (Daesh), to use Turkish territory as a logistics and supply centre, a policy that allowed the emergence of the infamous ‘jihadi highway’ on the Turkish–Syrian border.50 47  For a strong statement expressing this view, see Erdoğan’s speech in Tokat on July 9, 2014 during his presidential campaign tour. Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (2014a). 48  Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (2014b). 49  Steinberg (2016), 5. 50  Uslu (2016).



In addition to this, Turkey started to use its Sunni Islamist proxies in its attempt to wipe out the PKK-affiliated Kurdish militias, The People’s Protection Units, from the regions close to its border. These Kurdish groups, on the other hand, have been a major force in the US-backed Syrian Democratic forces. The United States has been arming these groups in its war against the Islamic State (Daesh) terrorist group—the Kurds were chosen as Turkey for a long time refused to fight the Daesh. It is safe to say that any Turkish government—whether Kemalist or Islamic-­conservative— would have reacted, sooner or later, to PKK (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane, Kurdistan Workers’ Party)-affiliated Kurdish groups building initial structures of autonomy right next to Turkey’s borders. However, there is a considerable novelty in how this issue is now placed within the much larger—and transformed—conception of international relations and Turkey’s role in it. Unlike previously, the quarrel with the United States about the Kurdish militias is not a separate issue, but part of the AKP’s new grand strategy based on the domestic agenda, which is now Islamist. The AKP leadership also increasingly sees all these troubles in Turkey’s neighbourhood as being caused by the West. The repressive regimes, like the one in Syria, is seen as the result of Western imperialism and post– World War I decisions by the British and French to draw lines in the sand while partitioning the Ottoman territories in the Middle East. The AKP leadership sees countries like Syria as artificial, originally resulting from Western imperialism. According to President Erdoğan, Turkey is the only country in the world that can reestablish legitimate order in the Middle East.51 On the other hand, the Islamic State terror organization is seen by the AKP leadership as a result of United States aggressive Iraqi intervention in 2003—an assertion being hard to deny, of course, as it is indeed the case that Islamic State would not exist had not the Americans destroyed the very state structures in Iraq. With these kinds of foreign policy decisions, accompanied by an increasingly authoritarian and Islamic-conservative domestic agenda, Turkey can be defined as a revolutionary state that at least to some extent is implementing revisionist foreign policy. It has become increasingly difficult to see Turkey within the Western camp—and it is indeed hard to see why anyone should even try to see it that way during a time when influential AKP actors themselves explicitly argue that the era of Turkey’s Western-­ centred foreign policy doctrine is over.  Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı (2014).




Turkey’s New Civilizational Identity and the Fate of the Liberal West John Ikenberry has characterized the emergence of the post-1945 ‘liberal international order’ by tracing its prehistory in the ascendancy of liberalism in Britain and subsequently in the United States during the nineteenth century. When Ikenberry originally published this account, the debate was still on whether the new rising powers (China, India, Russia, Turkey, and Brazil) desired to crush the liberal order, or only—as Ikenberry suggested—wanted a new bargain regarding its implementation.52 Since then, however, the debate has changed quite a bit, as the liberal order is understood by many to be under attack by the Trump administration. However, another noteworthy debate revolves around the question whether the liberal order as presented in many popularized narratives really ever existed. Paul Staniland, for example, has recently argued that the narrative of post-­ 1945 liberal world order made up by international rules and institutions, free trade and democracy, ignores the violence, coercion, and instability that was part of post-war international relations. The key aspect of this critique asserts, quite persuasively, that coercion and disregard for both allies and political liberalism have been entirely compatible with the ‘liberal’ order.53 Turkey is one of those cases that at least challenges the idea of post-war international order made up of liberal democracies. It was indeed absorbed in the neoliberal free trade regime since the 1980s and has participated, among others, in various Western-originated institutions. However, Turkey’s experiment with liberal democratic practices was short and precarious and is by now replaced by an authoritarian state transformation project. The traditional Kemalist civilizational identity narrative, which imagined the Turkish nation as part of the universal civilization of modernity, has been replaced by the AKP’s new civilizational narrative that imagines Turkey as the leading country within the Islamic civilization. The fact that both these narratives have been strongly nationalist and inclined to authoritarian practices easily obstructs recognizing that the changed state identity in Turkey is in many ways a transformation of a major scale. What has been considered in Washington as a ‘pivotal state’54 has now radically  Ikenberry (2012), 6–7.  Staniland (2018). 54  Fuller (2007). 52 53



switched its self-proclaimed role position in world politics, abandoning its Western-oriented civilizational identity. Obviously, one must be cautious in concluding what this changed identity entails. Unlike the proponents of essentially distinct civilizational entities claim, these civilizations, such as the West and the Islamic world, do not exist independently but instead only as far as human actors reproduce them in social interaction. As was observed in the early section of this chapter, the dividing line between competing interpretations of modernization in Turkey does not run between nationalists and cosmopolitans. The competing modernization projects are both strongly nationalist but differ in their interpretations of Turkey’s civilizational identity and main characteristics of national identity. The analytical definition of a civilizational identity adhered to in this study understands it as a form of collective identity that locates the immediate ethnic or national community within a context of a broader cultural community, often extensive in geographical and temporal scope. The construction of national identity, and in particular the civilizational identity within which this is placed in different eras and historical contexts, is a highly political act, serving the purpose of building an emotionally and intellectually credible basis for a collective political actor, in the context of popular sovereignty. As was observed above by following Bernard Yack, the principle of popular sovereignty that understands the sovereign community having an existence prior to the political authority, almost immediately requires the concept of the nation. The idea of the nation provides the necessary component by demonstrating the existence of the political community before the establishment of the state. To a large extent, then, the reproduction of a particular civilizational identity narrative is used as a tool for political mobilization. The consequences stemming from these narratives are dependent on how these collective identities are framed, and what kind of national projects they serve to legitimize. The Kemalist project that attached Turkey to the universal civilization of modernity simultaneously understood the international order as being dominated by imperialist Western countries that did not necessarily allow to others, especially to non-Western countries, the kind of national sovereignty they themselves possessed. In this sense, the Kemalist project and the civilizational identity narrative requiring Turkey’s participation in the universal scientific civilization of modernity did not need to conceptualize the Western nations as Turkey’s friends. As a matter of fact, and as was demonstrated above, a significant part of the Kemalist discourse interprets



the Western countries as at least potentially unfriendly, and even as potential threats to Turkey. Further, in its usage of Western civilizational identity narrative, the Kemalists always emphasized secularism more than liberalism. Even though there are good reasons to see these as two sides of the same coin, in the Kemalist political practice the concentration on secularism, and the consolidation of the regime as its guardian, often led the Kemalists to restrict, rather than endorse, individual rights cherished by liberalism. Thus, at least in theory, the AKP’s ‘New Turkey’ discourse that narrates the Turkish nation within the civilizational identity defined as the Islamic world, could even allow for a friendlier relationship with the Western world. This, however, would require seeing these different civilizational entities as converging, helping each other to find each other’s best characteristics. However, as was demonstrated above by analysing the AKP leadership’s political narrative, these distinct civilizational narratives are at least now understood to be rather antagonistic, the Western civilization allegedly threatening the Islamic one. To some extent—and this may turn out to be crucial in the long run—the Kemalist version of Turkish national identity and its civilizational orientation anchored Turkey to the same historical experience with the West. That is, even though the West was often seen as unfriendly, there was nevertheless a deep philosophical ‘expectation’ that Turkey and the Western nations were part of a same historical process of universal modernization. This is not the case with the AKP’s desire to locate the Turkish national identity within the Islamic civilization, not as long as these two are in many quarters and discourses seen as rivals and adversaries. Ultimately, most if not all the talk about civilizational identity can be reduced to domestic power struggles within Turkey. As Ted Hopf has suggested, states often understand themselves through domestic others, and in this way, the crucial question often concerns how state identities are constructed at home. Hopf quotes Deniz Kandiyoti, who has observed that, ‘The question of what and who constitutes the West, or any other Other, often has less to do with the outside world than with the class, religious, or ethnic cleavages within the nation itself.’55 In short, regarding the AKP’s civilizational identity narrative, its function is to fight against the domestic other, that is, the domestic representatives of Westernization in Turkey, the Kemalists. The Kemalist westernizing elite  Quoted in Hopf (2002), p. 10.




is the domestic other of the Islamic-conservative ‘new Turkey’. However, even though the main adversary is the domestic one, rather than the Western countries, the fight against the domestic westernizers is inconsistent without simultaneous animosity towards the external other—the West. With this mechanism, where the AKP is building a collective Islamic-conservative political actor by degrading the Kemalists, the party also builds a conceptual frame within which the West is almost inevitably understood as a threat. All these observations raise further questions regarding the kind of interrelationship and intersubjective mechanism that describes the process within which Turkey has changed its civilizational identity narrative at the same time as the so-called liberal international order has come under attack by illiberal and nationalist forces, both within and outside the ‘liberal world’. In other words, how these two help to explain each other, and how does the fate of the liberal international order look like when it is evaluated in terms of what is taking place in Turkey? These, however, are vast questions that cannot be answered in this chapter. What can be said on the basis of the materials analysed here is that the emerging liberal discourse that to some extent spread all over the globe from the 1950s to the early 2000s provided an influential vocabulary that allowed the Islamic-conservative AKP to challenge and delegitimize, both home and abroad, the Kemalist authoritarian modernization practices in Turkey. However, the same liberal discourse has subsequently been seen as an alien and overtly individualistic creed, originating in the Western civilization that is allegedly threatening the Islamic civilization, within which the AKP political narrative now increasingly places the Turkish national community.

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A Russian Radical Conservative Challenge to the Liberal Global Order: Aleksandr Dugin Jussi Backman

In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has increasingly profiled itself in international politics as an “illiberal” and conservative alternative to the Western model of liberal democracy and social pluralism and as a beacon for certain anti-liberal political movements in the West. In the context of international relations, as Anne L. Clunan and Tatiana Romanova point out, Russia has not so much opposed the liberal international order per se but rather highlighted the perceived contradictions inherent in its current

I owe particular thanks to Dr. Timo Pankakoski, with whom I recently coauthored another article on radical conservative thought, learning a great deal from him in the process. I also thank Professor Mika Ojakangas for the opportunity to participate in his Academy of Finland research project The Intellectual Heritage of Radical Cultural Conservatism (2013–2017). Financial support for writing this article came from my Academy of Finland Research Fellow’s project Creativity, Genius, Innovation: Towards a Conceptual Genealogy of Western Creativity (2018–2023). J. Backman (*) University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




form—above all, those between principles of national sovereignty and national or cultural pluralism, on the one hand, and neoliberal globalism, interventionism, and unilateral (American) hegemony, on the other—and sought recognition for Russia’s sovereign status as a regional Eurasian great power with a distinct cultural and political identity.1 Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin (b. 1962) is, in many ways, an intellectual personification of these tendencies. Dugin has been one of the most prominent actors on the Russian right-wing political scene since the breakup of the Soviet Union, first and foremost as the key figure of the international neo-Eurasianist movement. Despite his diverse and sometimes frenzied political activities, Dugin is first and foremost a political theorist whose ideas have gradually gained international prominence and notoriety. In recent years, Dugin’s main theoretical construction has been his “fourth political theory,” distinguished by its attempt to sketch out a vision of a postliberal, genuinely multilateral world order. Dugin situates his thought within the legacy of the German “conservative revolution” of the Weimar period, drawing particular inspiration from the geopolitical and legal theories of Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). This attempt at formulating a novel type of conservative ideology makes him an actual and potential key influence for the international New Right. Rather than a purely Russian phenomenon, Dugin can thus be characterized as a novel intersection of Western and Russian political thought. This chapter first takes a brief look at Dugin’s ambiguous status in the context of contemporary Russian politics and his international ideological significance. It then turns to the twofold background of Dugin’s political thought: the Russian tradition of Eurasianism and the German tradition of “revolutionary” conservatism. In the latter context, Heideggerian philosophy of history and Schmittian geopolitics are particularly important for Dugin. Heidegger’s notion of an end of modernity and “another beginning” of Western thought, together with the pluralist geopolitical models of Schmitt and Samuel Huntington (1927–2008), provide the foundations for Dugin’s vision of an ongoing late modern turn from an increasingly globalized and unipolar world of hegemonic Western liberalism toward a multipolar world of profoundly different “civilizations”—a vision that is most accurately characterized as radical conservatism. 1

 Clunan (2018), Romanova (2018).



Dugin on the Russian Post-Soviet Political Scene Dugin’s career in politics and political theory started in an unconventional manner, from the Bohemian and esoteric political and intellectual fringe of the final years of the Soviet era.2 Born in Moscow as the son of an officer working in the Soviet military intelligence and a physician, he studied for a time at the Moscow Aviation Institute but was expelled without a degree, either because of poor academic performance, suspected dissident activities, or both, and had to take up employment as a street sweeper.3 Around 1980, Dugin became involved with an esoteric Moscow circle of dissidents known as the Yuzhinskiy circle after the street (Yuzhinskiy pereulok) where it originally met, founded by the eccentric mysticist and novelist Yuri Mamleev (1931–2015) and, after Mamleev’s exile in 1974, centered around the equally eccentric poet Yevgeniy Golovin (1938–2010). The Yuzhinskiy circle, whose experimentations went so far as to flirt with Nazi imagery, took a special interest in traditionalist authors such as the French spiritualist René Guénon (1886–1951) and the Italian right-wing esoteric thinker Julius Evola (1898–1974), some of whose works the members were able to obtain from Moscow’s Lenin Library. Apparently, it was Golovin’s influence that motivated the young Dugin to study foreign languages—he even translated Evola into Russian at a very early stage—and initially introduced him to Eurasianism, radical conservatism, and hermeneutic philosophy. Open political involvement became easier during the perestroika of the late 1980s. Around 1987–1989, Dugin was involved with the ultranationalist and anti-Semitic Pamyat (“Memory”) organization led by Dmitriy Vasilyev (1945–2003). In 1993, he became the cofounder, with the formerly exiled underground writer Eduard Limonov (b. 1943), of the National Bolshevik Party, whose nationalistic interpretation of Bolshevism was modeled on the ideas of Ernst Niekisch (1889–1967), a German politician associated with the conservative revolution. Dugin left the party in 1998 following disputes with Limonov; it was subsequently banned as an extremist group in 2007. In 2000, Dugin became head of the newly founded All-Russian Eurasia Movement, which was registered as a political party in 2002, reorganized into the International Eurasia Movement in 2  The biographical information presented here is based first and foremost on Sedgwick (2004), 221–40, Laruelle (2006 and (2015b), and Umland (2007), 97–141 and (2010). 3  Umland (2007), 138.



2003, and complemented with a Eurasian Youth Union in 2005. The Eurasia Movement remains Dugin’s principal organizational vehicle. The Gorbachev reforms also allowed Dugin to travel abroad since the late 1980s and establish contacts with like-minded groups in Western Europe, the most important of which was the French “ethnopluralist” Nouvelle Droite led by Alain de Benoist (b. 1943), who became Dugin’s most important collaborator outside Russia. In the early 1990s, Dugin also initiated extensive activities as a publicist, establishing in Moscow his own publishing house and cultural association Arktogeya through which he was able to distribute his Eurasianist journal Elementy (1992–98), modelled on de Benoist’s review Éléments. Arktogeya also published his first books and pamphlets, the most prominent of which was Osnovy geopolitiki (Foundations of Geopolitics, 1997), which lays out a proposal for the construction, through strategic territorial annexations and pacts, of a new Russian-led Eurasian Empire to counter the global hegemony of liberal Anglo-American “Atlanticism.” This book, which was subsequently used as a geopolitical textbook by the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian military, brought Dugin considerable prominence with the Russian military and political elites and cemented his position as an ideological mentor to those in power. In 1998, he became advisor to the Chairman of the Russian State Duma, the Communist Gennadiy Seleznyov (1947–2015), and in 1999, the chairman of the geopolitical section of the Duma’s Advisory Council on National Security, exerting a certain influence on figures such as the ultranationalist “liberal democrat” Vladimir Zhirinovskiy (b. 1946) and the head of the Russian Communist Party, Gennadiy Zyuganov (b. 1944). In 2000, Dugin completed a lower postgraduate degree (kandidatskaya)4 in philosophy, and in 2004, he defended his second doctoral dissertation (doktorskaya, in many ways equivalent to the German Habilitation)5 in political science, which gave him the necessary credentials for an academic position. As an academic platform for the dissemination of his ideas, he established in 2008 at the prestigious Moscow State University a Center for Conservative Studies, focused on the adaptation and application of Counter-Enlightenment and conservative ideas of Western thinkers such as Guénon, Evola, Schmitt, and Heidegger to Russian politics and 4  How Dugin completed his basic higher education degree is a matter of some dispute; see Umland (2007), 133–41. 5  Dugin (2004).



­international relations.6 However, after an aggressive comment by Dugin on the 2014 Ukraine crisis attracted unwelcome attention, his position as the head of the Center was discontinued, after which Dugin has returned to the status of an extra-academic independent intellectual.7 His status as a one-man Eurasianist and conservative think tank with connections to those in power brought Dugin within the orbit of Vladimir Putin’s administration, which, especially during Putin’s second presidential term (2004–2008) and his premiership (2008–2012), began to veer more and more explicitly toward conservative nationalism as a new state ideology. Dugin himself was initially ambivalent about Putin, noting critically in his writings the new president’s pragmatism and inherent lack of ideology.8 In a 2014 interview for Der Spiegel, he distinguishes between a “solar” Putin—Putin the conservative, Putin the Eurasianist—and a “lunar” Putin—Putin the pragmatist and Realpolitiker.9 The apparent proximity between Dugin’s and Putin’s political visions was strengthened by Putin’s 2011 public announcement10 of the intent to build a Eurasian Economic Union together with the Central Asian republics and Belarus, and particularly by the 2014 annexation of the Crimea; this encouraged Western media to cite Dugin as a “grey eminence” of “Putinism,” or as “Putin’s Rasputin,” and his book on geopolitics was suspected of being a “blueprint” for Putin’s foreign policy.11 Some went so far as to label Dugin “the most dangerous philosopher in the world.”12 However, as Marlène Laruelle notes, this impression, which Dugin himself welcomed, is largely based on Dugin’s disproportionately great international visibility13; there  Rossman (2015), 65–66.  In a May 6, 2014 interview for the pro-Kremlin Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA News), Dugin voiced his shock at the death of several pro-Russian activists in a fire at the Trade Unions House of Odessa on May 2, 2014, declaring that “what we have seen on May 2 is already beyond all limits. And I think: kill, kill, and kill. There should be no more discussion. This is my opinion as a professor.” A video extract from the interview is available at This comment led to an anti-Dugin petition in June 2014 by Moscow students: a translation of the text of the petition is available at This, in turn, apparently resulted in the somewhat ambiguously framed termination of Dugin’s contract; see Fitzpatrick (2014). 8  Dugin (2014c). 9  Neef (2014). 10  Putin (2011). 11  MacCormac (2015). 12  Ratner (2016). 13  Laruelle (2015a), 15. 6 7



is no evidence of any immediate links or personal contact between Dugin and the president, and in the 2014 Spiegel interview, Dugin himself admits that he does not “know” Putin and has no influence upon him.14 The loss of his position at Moscow State University shows that his status in Russia is not sufficient to make him immune to disciplinary measures. While Dugin’s ideology clearly resonates with many of the aspirations of Russia’s current political elite, from the point of view of Russian political power he is at most an unofficial ideological attaché among others, hampered to some extent by his rather marginal background and by the complexity and inaccessibility of his theoretical contributions.

Dugin and the International New Right The most significant aspect of Dugin’s immediate ideological impact is thus clearly the way it is disseminated through the extensive international networks that he has been building for three decades. Laruelle distinguishes two main phases in Dugin’s European networking activities: his trips to France, Italy, and Spain in the early 1990s and the establishment of contacts in Turkey, Hungary, and Greece during the late 2000s.15 France—where, as Klaus von Beyme points out, the ideas of the Weimar conservative revolution have “much more open and sophisticated advocates” than in Germany16—has clearly been Dugin’s most important European arena. In the first phase of his travels, his main contact was de Benoist and people associated with GRECE (Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne, Research and Study Group for European Civilization), an ethnonationalist think tank founded by de Benoist in 1968 as the main platform for his Nouvelle Droite, distinguished from other French right-wing factions by its cultural focus, its search for intellectual respectability, and its manner of incorporating anti-liberal ideas from the New Left of the 1960s.17 Through GRECE, Dugin became acquainted with figures such as the French “national revolutionary” writer and activist Christian Bouchet (b. 1955), currently a member of the Front national, and the Belgian geopolitical theorist Robert Steuckers (b. 1956).  Neef (2014).  Laruelle (2015a). 16  von Beyme (2017), 152. 17  Bar-On (2010) presents the Nouvelle Droite as a synthesis of the ideas of the New Left and the conservative revolution. 14 15



Another Belgian right-wing politician who became acquainted with Dugin late in his life was the “Pan-European National Bolshevik” Jean Thiriart (1922–1992). In Italy, Dugin befriended the far-right writer Cladio Mutti (b. 1946), who later converted to Islam and is, since 2011, the editor-in-chief of the Italian geopolitical review Eurasia.18 In Turkey, an initially favorable interest in Dugin’s work among anti-Western circles was damaged after the 2003 publication of a Turkish translation of Osnovy geopolitiki, which describes Kemalist Turkey in harsh words as a secularized and antitraditionalist outpost of American Atlanticism.19 However, the conservative and authoritarian presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since 2014 has apparently changed matters, as Turkish sources reported Dugin acting as an unofficial go-between in brokering a rapprochement between Putin and Erdoğan in 2015.20 In Greece, Dugin has had some contacts with some of the older, pro-Russian cadres of the left-wing Syriza party, such as the former Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias (b. 1950), as well as the extreme-right Golden Dawn.21 In Poland, Dugin’s neo-Eurasianism has been picked up by Mateusz Piskorski (b. 1977), one of the cofounders in 2007 of the Eurasianist think tank European Center for Geopolitical Analysis and head of the pro-­ Russian Zmiana (Change) party. In 2016, Piskorski was detained by Polish security officials under suspicion of cooperating with Russian intelligence services.22 In the United Kingdom, Dugin’s influence is centered around the main publisher of English translations of his works, Arktos Media, a New Right and alt-right publishing house formally based in London but operating mainly in Budapest, launched in 2010 by the Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg (b. 1978) and the American John B. Morgan (b. 1973).23 In Germany and the Nordic countries, Dugin’s networks are limited to a few individuals, such as the extreme-right publicist Dietmar Munier (b. 1954) and the journalist and editor-in-chief of the Zuerst! magazine Manuel Ochsenreiter (b. 1976) in Germany and the pro-Russian “human rights activist” Johan Bäckman (b. 1971) in Finland.  Shekhovtsov (2015b), Camus (2015), Savino (2015).  İmanbeyli (2015). 20  Meyer and Ant (2017). 21  Laruelle (2015a), Shekhovtsov (2015a), Tipaldou (2015). 22  Shekhovtsov (2018), 113–17, 255n17. 23  Schaeffer (2017). 18 19



Although Dugin has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency, his ties to the American alt-right seem, for now, to be rather indirect. While Dugin and Trump’s former chief strategist and former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon (b. 1953) have favorably acknowledged each other, they do not appear to have met or to have any direct links.24 Dugin’s connection to the American “white nationalist” leader Richard Spencer (b. 1978) seems more substantial: Spencer’s former spouse, Nina Kouprianova (b. 1988, pen name Nina Byzantina), is the English translator of Dugin’s Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning, published in 2014 by Spencer’s Washington Summit Publishers, and of shorter texts by Dugin. Spencer’s webzine Alternative Right (since 2018 Affirmative Right) has also published several interviews with Dugin and reviews of his books.25 On the whole, looking at Dugin’s international connections, we note that he is affiliated mainly with theoretically and intellectually oriented conservative groups and individuals, many of whom are influenced by either Russian Eurasianism or the German conservative revolution, rather than the extreme right in the sense of neo-Nazis or right-wing populists. Moreover, he tends to be connected to think tanks, publications, and publishing houses rather than political power or major established political parties. This further underlines the fact that Dugin is first and foremost a conservative political thinker whose main contribution is theoretical. In sum, he is best seen as a facet of the wider European New Right that Roger Griffin describes as “[b]y far the most sophisticated disguise assumed by the fascist radical right since the war,” characterized by a “right-wing Gramscianism” which recognizes that cultural hegemony must precede political hegemony; the extensive use of intellectuals associated with the “Conservative Revolution,” notably Nietzsche, Ernst Jünger, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt … the belief that that the dichotomy of left and right can be transcended in a new alliance of intellectual energies opposed to the dominant system of liberal egalitarianism, capitalist materialism, and American consumerist individualism … and the celebration of ethnic diversity and difference (“differentialism”) to be defended against cultural imperialism and “totalitarian” one-worldism.26

 Nemtsova (2017).  Bertrand (2016), Shekhovtsov (2018), 254. 26  Griffin (2017), 20–21. 24 25



Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism Russian Eurasianism, the main domestic element in Dugin’s political thought, came into existence after the 1917 revolution among the Russian emigrant community of Western Europe. The most prominent intellectuals associated with the movement were the linguist and historian Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1890–1938) and the linguist and literary theorist Roman Jakobson (1896–1982), who were also key members of the influential structuralist Prague Linguistic Circle. Flourishing in the 1920s, Eurasianism was not a coherent unified ideology but rather a broad intellectual platform seeking to redefine postrevolutionary Russia’s cultural, spiritual, and geopolitical status. In contrast to the nineteenth-century Pan-Slavists, for whom the key to Russian identity was the community of Slavic-speaking peoples in Eastern Europe, the Eurasianists distinguished sharply between Europe and Russia. For them, the decisive element in Russian history was the Mongol overlordship over the East Slavic princes during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; the enormous Mongol empire and its successor khanates unified the vast Eurasian landmass and irrevocably connected the fate and mentality of the Russian people with the alleged wider “Turanian” community consisting of the Uralic, Turkic, and Mongol peoples of Inner and Central Asia. Since the retreat of the Mongols, it had become the historical task of the rising Russian Empire to uphold Eurasian unity, and in the eyes of many of the Eurasianists, this task now befell the emerging Soviet Union, which should understand itself not in terms of Marxist internationalism but as a distinct modern Eurasian realm. However, the question concerning the appropriate stance toward Soviet power split the early Eurasianists, and the movement gradually waned in the 1930s with the rise of Stalinism and Nazism.27 The Eurasian idea was revived in the Soviet Union in the wake of de-­ Stalinization by the historian and ethnologist Lev Gumilyov (1912–1992). Son of the poets Nikolay Gumilyov (1886–1921) and Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)—his father was executed by the Cheka on apparently fabricated charges of conspiracy and his mother spent most of her life under Stalin’s close surveillance—Gumilyov was regarded as politically suspect during Stalinism and spent altogether fourteen years in prison camps. After his release in 1956, Gumilyov was able to complete his education in history, teach at Leningrad State University, and publish some of his  Laruelle (2008), 16–49.




­ istorical and theoretical studies, but his idiosyncratic naturalistic theories h of ethnogenesis were regarded as unorthodox by his Soviet colleagues, and he remained in a rather marginal and isolated position until the Gorbachev reforms. Gumilyov’s theories about the development of Soviet ethnicities, like those of the early Eurasianists, emphasize the key role of the Mongol domination in the Russian ethnogenesis, the Russians’ natural affinity with Mongolic and Turkic peoples as well as their natural enmity toward the West, represent ethnonationalism in insisting on the necessity of keeping ethnicities from intermingling, and promote traditional social norms as a means of ethnic self-preservation.28 In the post-Soviet era, Gumilyov’s ideas have gained immense popularity in Russia and other former Soviet republics; in 1996, Kazakhstan’s new national university, founded by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana, was named the L.  N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University to celebrate the idea of a Eurasian Union, and during Putin’s 2000 visit, the walls of the university were reportedly decorated with slogans taken from Dugin’s works.29 This post-Soviet resurgence of the Eurasian idea is normally referred to as neo-Eurasianism; its chief theorists are Dugin and the internationally somewhat less famous philosopher Aleksandr Panarin (1940–2003).30 Dugin and Panarin developed Eurasianism into a conservative and traditionalist direction. Dugin, in particular, was able to fuse the cultural relativism and ethnic particularism inherent in the Eurasianist tradition with the cultural relativism and ethnic particularism characterizing the German Counter-Enlightenment tradition of conservative thought. In general, Dugin differs from the earlier Eurasianists in his strong reliance on Western intellectual traditions—a somewhat paradoxical fact, given Eurasianism’s insistence on the fundamentally non-European character of Eurasian mentality. Dugin’s achievement was also to combine Eurasianism with ideas borrowed from the European tradition of geopolitical thought represented by Friedrich Ratzel (1844–1904), Karl Haushofer (1869–1946), Friedrich Naumann (1860–1919), Rudolf Kjellén (1864–1922), and Halford Mackinder (1861–1947). Dugin specifically picks up Mackinder’s idea of the area stretching from the Volga to the Yangtze and from the  Laruelle (2008), 50–82.  Kullberg (2001). For Dugin’s own theory of “ethnosociology” and the ethnos (Russian narod) as well as his comments on Gumilyov’s theory of ethnogenesis and passionarity, see for example Dugin (2018). 30  Laruelle (2008), 83–106. 28 29



Himalayas to the Arctic as the “Heartland” that forms the geographical center of the “World Island” comprising the Eurasian and African land masses.31 According to Mackinder’s dictum, whoever rules the Heartland— traditionally, Russia—rules the World Island and, thus, the entire world.32 This, of course, gives a vital geopolitical importance to the Eurasian zone and to Russia, which, using Haushofer’s distinction, is essentially a land power (in Dugin’s terminology, “tellulocracy”) in contrast to the Anglo-­ American “Atlantic” sea powers (Dugin: “thalassocracies”). Dugin superposes this distinction upon other binary oppositions (Orthodoxy/Western Christianity, ideocracy/democracy, collectivism/individualism, traditionalism/dynamism) that he uses to characterize the fundamental differences between the Eurasian and the Atlantic civilizations.33

Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory: Radical Conservatism In Dugin’s eyes, after the end of the Cold War and with Soviet communism gone, Eurasia is in need of a new ideology, suited to its particular traditions, to counter and rival the dominant Atlantic ideology, political and economic liberalism. Liberalism, the oldest of the great modern ideologies, emerged victorious from the twentieth century after having militarily and economically defeated its chief rivals, fascism and communism, in the Second World War and the Cold War. Having thus gained hegemony, liberalism ceases to be a consciously embraced ideological option. Its distinctive key tenets—for Dugin, the self-interested individual as the fundamental subject of politics, the sacrosanct character of private property, the equality of opportunity as the moral law of society, the contractual basis of sociopolitical institutions, and the priority of civil society and the market economy over political institutions and collective (ethnic, cultural, or religious) ties—develop into the dominant framework of the Western mindset as such, ushering in the kind of post-, late, or “liquid” modernity described by Zygmunt Bauman as a condition of extreme social fluidity and nomadic individualism in which the individual is no longer an autonomous, rational, and self-identical subject but rather constantly redefining

 Mackinder (1904, 1919).  Mackinder (1919), 194. 33  See for example Dugin (2015). 31 32



and reinventing herself.34 However, hegemonic liberalism has still not become the universal “end of history” proposed by Francis Fukuyama in 198935—it remains a “Western” phenomenon that has never properly taken root in non-Western spheres such as Eurasian Russia.36 Articulating a viable ideological alternative to liberalism as well as its now-defunct twentieth-century competitors is Dugin’s key pursuit in his most important mature work, The Fourth Political Theory (Chetvertaya politicheskaya teoriya, 2009, English translation in two volumes 2012 and 2017). Dugin’s “fourth” ideology claims to incorporate the most viable elements of the three previous ideologies—freedom in liberalism, the critique of capitalism in Marxism, and ethnic particularism in fascism—while rejecting their respective individualism, materialism, and racism, in short, their universal teleological narratives of history as a process of individual emancipation, class struggle, or racial conflict.37 The result is a combination of spiritualist, communitarian, and particularist approaches emphasizing the significance of cultural and linguistic traditions—particularly their different religious, spiritual, and intellectual ways of relating to dimensions of ultimate meaningfulness—and the importance of preserving intercultural differences. Dugin’s fourth ideology rejects the modernistic grand narratives common to the great twentieth-century ideologies and the secular-­teleological, progressive, and utopian conception of time underlying them.38 In this sense, it draws its “dark inspiration” from the “postmodern” critiques of Enlightenment modernity and of the autonomous, rational, and individual Enlightenment subject. At the same time, however, Dugin also calls for a “crusade” against postmodern culture, seen as the nihilistic culmination of liberal modernity.39 The strategy of the fourth ideology vis-à-vis postmodernity is characterized by Dugin with an expression borrowed from Evola: “riding the tiger,”40 that is, exploiting the strength of the beast and at the same time discovering its weak points and hacking them, rather than attempting to avoid or ignore it or confronting its fangs and claws directly.  Bauman (2000).  Fukuyama (1989). 36  Dugin (2012), 139–55. 37  Dugin (2012), 43–54; (2014a), 101–14. 38  Dugin (2012), 83–94; (2014c), 145–53. 39  Dugin (2012), 12, 23. 40  Evola (2003). 34 35



It is not possible to just walk past postmodernity…. Hence why the Fourth Political Theory must turn to the precursors to modernity and to what modernity actively fought, but what became almost entirely irrelevant to postmodernity. We must turn to tradition, to pre-modernity, archaism, theology, the sacred sciences, and ancient philosophy.41

Exploiting postmodernity’s indifference to premodernity by retrieving the latter in a transformed sense—this strategy makes the fourth ideology a postliberal conservatism. Dugin carefully distinguishes it from the “fundamental” conservatism or traditionalism of thinkers such as Guénon and Evola, which advocates a reactionary return to premodern values and social institutions such as religion, spirituality, hierarchy, and patriarchy, as well as from the liberal or “status quo” conservatism that he attributes to Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929), which endorses Enlightenment modernity but opposes its unfolding into extreme, postmodern manifestations.42 The particular strand of conservatism within which Dugin situates his own work and which he seeks to develop theoretically is the German “conservative revolutionary” movement of the Weimar period, which broadly encompasses thinkers and activists such as Ludwig Klages (1872–1956), Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (1876–1925), Othmar Spann (1878–1950), Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), Niekisch, Hans Freyer (1887–1969), Edgar Julius Jung (1894–1934), Ernst Jünger (1895–1998), and Ernst von Salomon (1902–1972)—and, most importantly for Dugin, Schmitt and Heidegger.43 Like Russian Eurasianism, the German conservative revolution was not a monolithic ideological program but rather a shared mentality and an intellectual platform for the purpose of reconsidering and redefining Germany and European society in general after the destruction and social upheaval brought by the First World War. The conservative revolutionaries were first and foremost united by their antagonism toward the liberal democracy represented by the Weimar constitution, perceived by them as a weak, fragmented, and atomized political entity that reduced its citizens to faceless masses without shared identity or purpose and exposed them to civil strife and extreme movements such as Bolshevism. This basic attitude brought the conservative revolutionaries into a certain proximity with Nazism. Some of them, notably Schmitt and Heidegger,  Dugin (2014c), 286.  Dugin (2012), 83–94; (2014c), 145–53. 43  Dugin (2012), 94–98; (2014c), 153–59. 41 42



later became party members and did their best to nudge the Hitler movement into a conservative direction during the early years of the Third Reich, soon becoming disillusioned by their patent lack of success; others, like Niekisch and Jung, did not conceal their distaste for the racist and totalitarian mass movement and often ended up killed or imprisoned. In spite of the fundamental hostility to central manifestations of Enlightenment modernity—individualism, rationalism, utilitarianism, liberalism, and materialism—that connected them to the older tradition of German conservatism, Dugin emphasizes that the conservative revolutionaries were not nostalgic reactionaries: they did not see modernization as an unfortunate mistake but rather as an inevitable development that cannot be cancelled in order to return to a traditional type of society, but should not be conceived in terms of universal teleological progress either. In the spirit of the Nietzschean “eternal recurrence of the same,” the revolutionary conservatives believed in the necessity of historical change and renewal without the assumption of a final aim or end of history. The conservative notion of “revolution” is thus to be understood in terms of a cyclic, rather than linear, conception of time, in the literal sense of a rolling back (Latin revolvere) to a point of departure or origin that is recaptured, albeit in a new temporal sense.44 As Moeller van den Bruck puts it in his Das dritte Reich (1923): The conservative … seeks to discover where a new beginning may be made. He is necessarily at once conserver and rebel…. Conservative thought perceives in all human relations something eternal and recurrent that, now in the foreground, now in the background, but never absent, ever reasserts itself, and does not simply recur as the same…. But even this eternal principle must be recreated from the temporal, ever anew.45

However, since not all revolutionary conservatives were actual revolutionaries and not all of them used the concept of revolution, the most accurate and comprehensive term for describing this new, radicalized version of conservatism is “radical conservatism.”46 This term is also the most appropriate for describing Dugin’s approach and is occasionally employed by Dugin himself.47  See Mohler (1989), 78–129.  Moeller van den Bruck (1931), 189, 206; (1934), 203, 219–20. Translation modified. 46  Dahl (1999), 2–3. 47  Dugin (2014c), 157. 44 45



Dugin’s Heideggerian Model of the Conservative Revolution In his book Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning (Martin Heidegger: filosofiya drugogo Nachala, 2010, trans. 2014)—the first of altogether four volumes on Heidegger’s philosophy48—Dugin presents Heidegger as the quintessential thinker of radical conservatism. He argues that in terms of systemic connections and contacts, intellectual influences, and political sympathies, Heidegger must be regarded as an “integral part” of the German conservative revolution.49 Heidegger, as read by Dugin, is concerned precisely with an intellectual and spiritual “revolution” in the radical conservative sense: an impending culmination and end of Western modernity and the possibility of a new beginning that would not be simply a return to the past but rather a retrieval or reappropriation of the foundations of the Western tradition in a new, transformed framework, no longer situated within the confines of modernity. Heidegger was a, if not the, philosopher of the conservative revolution as the thinker of “another beginning” of the West.50 As the title of Dugin’s book on Heidegger indicates, it is the notion of the “other beginning” (der andere Anfang) of Western thought, introduced by Heidegger in the later period of his thought since the mid-1930s, that makes him, in Dugin’s eyes, the founding figure of the philosophical twenty-first century, which “will start when we truly begin to grasp Heidegger’s philosophy.”51 In his later thought, Heidegger develops a historical narrative of Western philosophy and metaphysics that includes an account of the emergence of Western modernity since the seventeenth century as well as its culmination and end in the contemporary era of global technicity.52 For Heidegger, the modern, post-Cartesian metaphysics of subjectivity—and Western metaphysics as a whole—attains its completion in Nietzsche, an “ultramodern” thinker. Nietzsche articulates the metaphysical framework 48  Dugin’s other books on Heidegger—Martin Heidegger: vozmozhnost’ russkoy filosofii (Martin Heidegger: the possibility of a Russian philosophy, 2011), Martin Heidegger: posledniy bog (Martin Heidegger: the last god, 2014), and Martin Heidegger: metapolitika, eskhatologiya bytiya (Martin Heidegger: metapolitics, the eschatology of being, 2016)—remain untranslated. On Dugin and Heidegger, see also Love and Meng (2016). 49  Dugin (2014b), 23–26, 171–73. 50  Dugin (2014b), 172. 51  Dugin (2014b), 277–78. 52  For a more detailed account of this narrative, see Backman (2015), 19–68.



for the subjective domination and extreme instrumentalization that decisively determines the late modern human being’s technical and technological relationship to reality. In this reality, empirical sciences and social ideologies function as means of controlling and configuring nature, society, and the human being herself as a “human resource.”53 In the contemporary situation, philosophy faces the necessity of a profound reconsideration of the most fundamental premises of Western thought—a retrieval and reappropriation of the Greek “first beginning” of Western thinking. This reappropriation would result in its transformation into another beginning, an entirely new point of departure and principle for a new, postmetaphysical form of thinking.54 While the classical metaphysical tradition sought maximal universality and permanence—an absolute, nonrelative point of reference for reality as a whole—the Heideggerian postmetaphysical approach accepts the radical historicity, context dependence, and relativity of all meaningful configurations. In the other beginning of Western thought, the ultramodern, nihilistic technical domination of an inherently meaningless reality gives way to an insight into the way in which all meaningfulness and sense of purpose is constituted and experienced in unique and communally shared historical and cultural situations and ultimately eludes active control. Dugin’s “Right Heideggerian” theoretical project is to “develop the implicit political philosophy of Heidegger into an explicit one.”55 For Dugin, this means interpreting the Heideggerian “other beginning” as a conservative revolution, a turning back to the roots of the Western historical tradition in which the late modern world of subjective liberal individualism is left behind. The fourth political theory is no longer focused on the autonomous and self-sufficient liberal individual, the value-producing working class of Marxism, or the total state or master race of fascism. All of these political agents belong to the culmination of modernity. Rather, the political subject of the fourth political theory is the Heideggerian Dasein, the genuinely “post-modern,” finite, situated, and singular human

53  See for example Heidegger (1991a), 3–6; (1991b), 3–9, 150–251; (1991c), 147–96; (1992), 198–208; (1998c), 1–4, 415–23, 425–32, 585–94; (1998d), 1–22, 177–229, 231–361; (2000c), 61–65; (2002), 55–59. 54  Heidegger (1989), 171, 185; (1991b), 182; (1998d), 21; (2012b), 135, 145–46. 55  Dugin (2014a), 114.



being thoroughly determined and defined by her relations, by a particular historical context, and by a particular cultural community.56

Dugin, Schmitt, and Huntington: From Liberal Global Hegemony to the Multipolarity of Civilizations Dugin’s Eurasianist geopolitics of multipolarity also finds novel theoretical support in the work of Heidegger and Schmitt. For the German radical conservatives, a shared central concern was precisely the perceived homogenization of the human world in modernity, the levelling out of cultural, historical, and geographical differences in favor of a global world order. In 1933, Heidegger enthusiastically greeted Hitler’s decision to withdraw Germany from the League of Nations, maintaining that a true community of peoples cannot be founded upon the “baseless and non-committal world fraternization” of the League any more than on “blind domination by force” but requires each nation to take responsibility for its own particular historical “determination.”57 In 1935, Heidegger describes Europe—Germany, in particular—as being caught in “great pincers” between the Soviet Union and the United States, two global and supranational powers that, “seen metaphysically, are both the same: the same hopeless frenzy of unchained technology and of the rootless organization of the average man.” The only way out of this intense pressure is a radical reappropriation of historical tradition; Germany can “gain a fate from its vocation only when it … grasps its tradition creatively.”58 56  Dugin (2012), 32–54. In his “thought diaries,” the so-called Black Notebooks (Schwarze Hefte), Heidegger views contemporary phenomena such as Nazism, fascism, communism, and liberalism as different symptoms of one and the same historical juncture, the completion of modernity; Heidegger (2014a), 408, 412–13; (2014b), 109, 262; (2015a), 130; (2017a), 318, 321–22; (2017b), 85–86, 208. They are first and foremost late modern modes of manipulating and mobilizing the resources of a fully homogenized and biologized humanity; Heidegger (1998b), 179–214, 223–24; (2015b), 151–80, 188. In the 2015 interview, Dugin notes: “National Socialism is one of three political ideologies rooted in Modernity. Its totalitarianism is absolutely modern (Hannah Arendt has shown that). Heidegger was the most radical critic of Modernity as the oblivion of Being. He denounces the modern aspects of National Socialism, including racism. That is quite logical. And I share these criticisms.” Dugin (2017), 211. 57  Heidegger (1993), 50–52; (2000a), 188–89. 58  Heidegger (1998a), 28–29; (2000b), 40–41.



The theoretically most important articulation of this concern for preserving local differences and plurality was Schmitt’s vision, introduced in his 1939 lecture “The Großraum Order of International Law,” of the geopolitical articulation of the world into a number “large spaces” (Großräume), each with their particular political, geographical, and cultural identities, as an alternative to a universalistic and unipolar global world order.59 This model elaborates the logical consequences of Schmitt’s famous definition of politics as based on a determinate and exclusive political identity that differs from other identities and from which a fundamental “existential” distinction between political friend and political enemy inevitably follows to such an extent that the possibility of war always remains.60 The existential risk presented by liberal cosmopolitanism is a completely depoliticized world in which no one is committed to fighting unto death for a political cause. For both Schmitt and Heidegger, the great initial promise of National Socialism was to create a European “great space,” led by Germany, to counter Europe’s incorporation into the universalistic ideologies of the two emerging superpowers and the loss of its particular political or spiritual identity. For Schmitt, the European-German Großraum was to be distinguished by a particularistic and nationalistic political idea, based on the “respect of every nation as a reality of life determined through species and origin, blood and soil.”61 For Heidegger, who despised racialism and biologism, European identity was to be determined rather by its particular cultural and intellectual tradition crystallizing in European philosophy, whose last great modern representatives, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, had all been Germans. Both visions of a territorially limited or nationally or culturally particularistic German power were definitively shattered at the latest by the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 and the concomitant announcement by Hitler of a coming, supranational “New Order” (Neuordnung) of Europe, organized on racial principles and thus revealing the global scope and the homogenizing and biologistic nature of the Nazi ambitions.62 In 1941 or 1942, Heidegger describes Hitler’s New Order as “a provision for planetary domination” that seeks to obliterate  Schmitt (1995), 269–371; (2011), 75–124.  Schmitt (2007, 2015). 61  Schmitt (1995), 306; (2011), 111. 62  The New Order of Europe was initially announced by Hitler in his speech at the Berlin Sports Palace on January 30, 1941. 59 60



the difference between West and East and thereby to “complete the essence of modernity, an essence which … dominates the Western hemisphere (America) in the same unequivocal manner as the East of Russian Bolshevism.”63 Rather than an alternative or counterforce to the modernity represented by American liberalism and Russian communism, the Nazi vision of Europe is now seen as an extreme consummation of this modernity. Accordingly, the Cold War, described by Heidegger already in 1949 as the “battle for the domination of the earth” by the “two contemporary ‘world’ powers,” is for him a mere continuation of the Second World War.64 Such global struggles, whether hot or cold, are fundamentally conflicts between ideologically opposed but “metaphysically” identical powers competing for the control of the earth’s material resources and populations—in the words of Schmitt, “global civil wars” rather than genuine political conflicts between communities with truly distinct identities.65 Dugin argues that the end of the Cold War has given new relevance to Schmitt’s contrast between a unipolar global system and a multipolarity of great spaces.66 This had now become a contrast between the liberal and democratic “new world order” envisioned by President George Bush Sr. in 1990 and corresponding to Fukuyama’s thesis on the liberal “end of history,” on the one hand, and Huntington’s prediction of the replacement of the Cold War by a postideological “clash of civilizations,”67 on the other. Huntington’s vision, Dugin argues, has in hindsight proved closer to the truth, and his articulation of the world map into seven or eight major “civilizations” or religious and cultural regions has the merit of providing a way of rehabilitating Schmitt’s “large spaces.” However, Dugin sees Huntington’s idea of inevitable intercivilizational clashes as overly pessimistic; the decisive contemporary conflict does not, for Dugin, take place between the individual civilizations but between the multipolarity of civilizations and Fukuyaman liberal-democratic unipolarity as such, that is, between a particularistic or regional continuation of history and a universalistic end of history.

 Heidegger (2009), 95; (2013), 80.  Heidegger (1994), 51; (2012a), 48. 65  Schmitt (1974), 271; (2006), 296. 66  Dugin (2012), 101–20; (2017), 72–87. 67  Huntington (1996). 63 64



[A] multi-polar world … will create the real preconditions for the continuation of the political history of mankind…. Surely, both dialogue and collisions will emerge. But something else is more important: history will continue, and we will return from that fundamental historical dead-end to which uncritical faith in progress, rationality and the gradual development of humanity drove us…. There will be no universal standard, neither in the material nor in the spiritual aspect. Each civilization will at last receive the right to freely proclaim that which is, according to its wishes, the measure of things.68

In Dugin’s multipolar world, history will thus continue—no longer as the universal History of the Enlightenment narratives, but rather in the form of the regional narratives of civilizational great spaces that are capable of living and acting in concert, provided that they adopt a hermeneutic respect for otherness and for the plurality of historical traditions. We see that this vision is entirely in keeping with the spirit of Heideggerian and Schmittian radical conservative geopolitics, with the obvious difference that it is not the possibility and future of the European large space that first and foremost concerns Dugin, but that of the Eurasian-Russian space.69

Conclusion This overview of Dugin’s thought shows that the substance of his challenge to the unipolar aspirations of the liberal global order is first and foremost theoretical and intellectual in nature. Even though his project grows out of Russian Eurasianism and is largely harmonious with Russia’s prevalent policies and aspirations for recognized sovereignty as a regional great power with a conservative cultural identity, in the light of Dugin’s considerable international visibility and networks, it is most fruitful to  Dugin (2012), 116, 120.  Interestingly from Dugin’s point of view, the Eurasian idea itself finds certain resonance in Heidegger. In remarks inspired by the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Heidegger notes that Russia and Japan belong to Eurasia—they are in between the European and Asian spaces; Heidegger (2009), 95; (2013), 80. Hitler’s planetary war campaign, which amounts to a “limitless exploitation of raw materials,” risks depriving both Germanness and Russianness—the metaphysical West and its transmetaphysical Eurasian other—of their historical particularity and of an opportunity for a mutually fruitful encounter and exchange; Heidegger (1998b), 119–20; (2015b), 100–101. Remarks such as this give Dugin all the more reason to regard Heidegger as “the greatest stimulus for our rethinking the West and ourselves [the Russians] faced vis-à-vis the West.” Dugin (2014b), 186. 68 69



consider his work in the wider context of the international New Right, with its emphasis on cultural and national pluralism and particularism, inspired by the anti-liberal ideas of the conservative revolution. In its substance, Dugin’s fourth political theory cannot be characterized as particularly original; it consists almost entirely in a circulation and eclectic recombination of philosophical and political ideas that have been around for almost a century. Its merit is rather the extraordinarily wide scope of Dugin’s erudition and his ability to bring very different intellectual traditions into concert. The theory remains a draft with much important detail and articulation missing, hopelessly vague on key issues such as the precise nature, dynamic, and internal diversity of a cultural tradition, the different types of interaction between civilizations, and different possible modes of political organization. Its current formulation remains so conspicuously nonpragmatic, even esoteric, that it is manifestly unfit to function as the kind of policy blueprint that it has sometimes been suspected of being. Moreover, it is not at all clear that Dugin’s strict distinction between his fourth ideology and all forms of fascism, racism, xenophobia, and other, more traditional far-right phenomena, are ultimately very tenable on the level of actual political practice. However, Dugin has undeniably been able to breathe new life into an old idea, Eurasianism, that clearly has an important influence on Russian geopolitical thinking even among the political and military leadership, and to complement it creatively with Western philosophy and political theory. In a broader and more international framework, Dugin’s perhaps most interesting achievement has been to rediscover and reassert a form of distinctly anti-modern conservatism that has most often been overlooked as an available ideological option: the “revolutionary” conservatism of the Weimar era that was irreparably eclipsed by fascism and National Socialism, even though it did not completely perish with them. From a purely theoretical viewpoint, Dugin’s discovery of a coherent ontological, anthropological, and jurisprudential foundation for this ideology in Heidegger and Schmitt is innovative, even unique, in the contemporary context of political theory in its attempt to produce a postliberal model of geopolitics. Dugin’s radical conservative geopolitical vision of cultural pluralism and multipolarity as a challenge to an alleged “Atlantic” liberal hegemony will undoubtedly have a role to play in the theoretical and ideological discourses of twenty-first-century New Right politics, even though it remains to be seen whether this role can ever fully extend to the concrete level of political movements or international policymaking.



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A Non-world: Chinese Perceptions of the Western International Order Matti Puranen

The ‘liberal international order’ and its core ideas, such as democracy, human rights, or free trade, have been encountering an increasing amount of challenges during the last decade. However, serious challenging models for the order have been lacking. During the Cold War—especially during the first decades after the Second World War—the rapid growth of the communist economies and their leading edge in space technology seemed to prove that Marxist-Leninist doctrine indeed provided a considerable alternative ideology and development model for the whole mankind. After its collapse, challenging powers have not been able to propose any viable alternatives for the current political order, that is, nation-states with market economies and more or less democratic governments. China, however, seems to be attempting to construct an alternative vision. Within China, the decline of the international order led by the Western countries and China’s rise to its traditional position as the leading, ‘central country’ are seen as almost inevitable historical currents.1 1  See, for example: Renmin ribao 7.2.2017. For an academic perspective, see Cheng and Wang (2015).

M. Puranen (*) University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




China’s increasingly self-confident leadership centered around president Xi Jinping is arguing that there is, indeed, a unique ‘Chinese path’ which offers traditional Chinese values and institutions as solutions for our globally shared problems, and which is presented exactly as an alternative for ‘Western ideas’, such as liberal democracy or market economy.2 Yan Xuetong, perhaps the most well-known Chinese scholar of international politics, has similarly argued that because China is the most relevant of the rising great powers, it will also stand as the most likely source for a new global ideology which will, in the long run, replace liberalism.3 The search for a ‘Chinese path’ can be found also within Chinese academic circles of international politics. Chinese scholars are increasingly arguing that international politics should not be studied relying only on Western theories of international relations, such as realism or liberalism, since they are based on Western historical experience and thus only on a narrow ‘Western’ conception of what international politics is and, more importantly, what it can be in the future.4 Instead, ancient Chinese political concepts and philosophies, such as Confucianism or Legalism, are being studied again. They are seen as offering ageless yet temporarily forgotten pieces of political wisdom which should be tapped into now that both China and the world are entering a challenging era of multipolar competition and emerging global threats. These new ideas and theories are not of mere philosophical interest. In the strictly controlled academic environment of China, they can be seen as an enlargement of the official political discourse, dominated by the Communist Party of China. The party controls the broad direction of the academia, yet dominating ideas flow back to influence the political leadership in a dualistic, two-way relationship. China’s intellectuals are thus, as articulated by Zhang Feng of the Australian National University, “more influential than their counterparts in many Western countries paradoxically because China’s repressive political system makes intellectual debates a surrogate form of politics.”5 One of the most influential fruits of this renaissance of Chinese traditional thought is the ‘tianxia theory’. Tianxia theory attempts to utilize an ancient Chinese political/philosophical concept of tianxia (天下, Engl. all  Shi-Kupfer et al. (2017).  Yan (2018). 4  See, for example, Schneider (2014), 683–703. 5  Zhang (2013). 2 3



under heaven) in order to create a cosmopolitan vision for the whole world. At the same time, tianxia theory is used for criticizing the prevailing international order and its institutional framework as well as the ‘Western political thought’ behind it, which are both seen as unable to answer the problems of the globalizing world. From the discussions and debates around the tianxia theory thus emerges an interesting narrative of the ‘West’, both as a historical civilization and as an actor in world politics. Instead of being on the leading edge of modernity, the Chinese narrative depicts the West as offensive, self-­ centered, and unable to understand international politics from a ‘worldly perspective’. This chapter focuses on these Chinese narratives of the West in world politics as developed by Chinese scholars of international politics. The research data consists of monographs as well as articles in leading Chinese journals, such as ‘World Economy and Politics’ (世界经济与政治, Shijie jingji yu zhengzhi), which discuss and develop the tianxia theory and its core concepts.

In Search of a Chinese Worldview After the ‘Great Helmsman’ Mao Zedong died in 1976, China embarked on a project of ‘reform and opening up’, in which the Maoist society was dismantled piece by piece. The socialist economy was privatized and the social order which was based on class background and class warfare was dissolved. Foreign companies were allowed and even invited to invest in China again.6 A similar readjustment has been going on within China’s ideological sphere. As the economic reforms commenced, China began also reforming its ideology of Maoist communism. The rhetoric of ‘class struggle’ was played down in the new state constitution of 1982, and the socialist elements have been further weakened in later amendments. During the 1990s, communism as a guiding ideology of China had become almost like an empty shell. Concepts such as ‘socialist market economy’ or ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ were and still are being thrown around, but their meaning is getting increasingly obscure in the new China of

6  On this process of reform and opening up, see a detailed description in Chaps 4–6 in MacFarquhar (2012).



­littering skyscrapers and busy business people, running around with g Starbucks coffee cups in their hands.7 During the years 1949–1978, Maoism was the sacred doctrine which held answers for almost every question one could ask. It offered a clear identity of who the Chinese were (a vanguard of the world communist revolution), who were they against (capitalists, revisionists, class enemies), and where their country was heading (toward a communist utopia). Importantly, ‘scientific Maoism’ also offered strong legitimation for the governing party and its radical policies.8 During the reform era, the communist ideology has not been able to answer questions of identity, nor can it offer the party much legitimacy. The legitimation has stemmed from the fact that the Chinese economy has developed staggeringly, but it is not hard to see that this development is more due to the pragmatic, market economy-based reforms rather than any guiding socialist principles.9 From the point of view of the world at large, the situation is similar. During the high tide of socialism in China, Chinese brand of communism inspired radical leftists everywhere.10 After the reforms, China has not been able to offer a credible alternative vision for the world, although it is fair to say that it has not been trying to either. In the modern Chinese ‘low profile’ foreign policy, nonintervention and respect for state sovereignty have been very strong principles. All this has been changing. Little by little, the communist ideology has been substituted by a sort of cultural nationalism, in which traditional Chinese ideas, ideologies, and philosophies have been promoted.11 Since the 1980s, the central government has sponsored studies of Confucianism by establishing research institutes and by guiding finances for research projects focusing on Confucianism and other traditional philosophies.12 Furthermore, during the eras of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, even the national leadership itself has increasingly used traditional concepts such as ‘harmony’ or ‘humanity’, to such a degree that Valerie Niquet has invented  Ibid.  For an excellent introduction to Maoism and its historical development, see the essays in Cheek (2010). 9  Kallio (2015), 87–114. 10  Cook (2010), 288–312. 11  Guo Yingjie has proposed that there exists alongside the official party-state sponsored nationalism, a cultural nationalism which is more attached to Chinese culture or Chinese nation than to the current government. See Guo (2004). 12  Brady (2012), 57–76. 7 8



a label for this new brand of party rhetoric: ‘confu-talk’.13 Xi Jinping has also often emphasized the concept of ‘cultural self-confidence’ (文化自信, wenhua zixin), which declares that instead of relying on ‘Western thinking’ or ‘Western values’, China possesses a long and illustrious intellectual and cultural tradition it can rely on.14 This growing interest in traditional culture has often been called ‘traditional learning fever’ (国学热, guoxue re). It hopes to discover a new identity, a new worldview, and a new legitimacy for the postcommunist China from its imperial past.15 Within the academic circles of international politics, scholars are studying the classics in order to create a ‘Chinese theory of international relations’, which would utilize Chinese history and philosophy as its raw material in an attempt to develop an alternative theoretical and normative framework for interpreting and guiding international politics. Theoretical understanding of international politics in China has been heavily influenced by U.S. academic thought. As China opened up, and as its diplomatic networks began to spread out into the world in the 1980s, the country faced a rapidly growing demand of knowledge and expertise on foreign relations and international politics in general. China’s own field of international relations, if there even was such a thing, had languished during the Maoist years, but with the help of Ford, Rockefeller, and Fulbright foundations among others, first generations of Chinese international scholars studied mainly in the United States. China thus basically adopted the American discipline of international relations, with its theoretical mainstreams (realism, liberalism, and constructivism) and even its name (国际关系, guoji guanxi).16 The interest in creating a Chinese theory of international politics stems from this background. According to Qin Yaqing, president of the prestigious China Foreign Affairs University, China cannot rely on American or European traditions of international politics, as their core problems arise from different geographical, historical, and social backgrounds. For Qin, the creation of a Chinese theory of international politics is thereby not only possible but also inevitable.17 In the same vein, Zhao Tingyang, one of the most notable developers of the tianxia theory, has called out for a ‘re-thinking of China’ (重思中国, chongsi Zhongguo) which means  Niquet (2012), 76–90.  See Xinhua (2017). 15  See Kallio (2011). 16  Nielsen and Kristensen (2014), 97–118. 17  Qin (2016). 13 14



recreating a completely Chinese philosophical system that would use Chinese concepts and ideas instead of ‘Western’ ones.18 The development of this theorization has focused around three streams or schools of thought: first, Yan Xuetong’s ‘Qinghua school’ of international relations and its doctrine of ‘moral realism’; second, Qin Yaqing and his ‘relational theory of international politics’; and third, tianxia theory.19 All the three streams apply traditional concepts as their raw matter for theory construction, and accordingly, there are many overlapping ideas between them. For example, all the schools generally emphasize morality and ‘humane leadership’ as guiding principles in international politics and are interested in relational statuses of political units within larger systems. All the schools also see as their core objective to offer some normative guidelines on how to stabilize the international order and on how to incorporate China peacefully in it. This dual function bears the legacy of Marxist thought, in which theory (理论, lilun) was seen principally as ‘guiding political action’, instead of simply analyzing or explaining events. Chinese theory of international theory should thus, similarly, also serve as a guide for Chinese foreign policy.20 The core claim of the currently developing tianxia theory is that for most of its history, China was the center of a unique, East Asian international order, the tianxia system. Tianxia was strictly hierarchic and centrally organized, but it was also a ‘harmonious’ and loose system, allowing cultural diversity within its domain. It was an alternative method for organizing international relations before the Western great powers forced their Westphalian order upon the world. According to tianxia theorists, studying the principles and institutions of this ancient order might offer a lot of insight for reforming the current, troubled liberal international order.21 Whether such a harmonious system ever truly existed is under debate, but most historians agree that the Chinese rulers held a rather coherent and unchanging tianxia worldview.22 From the earliest dynasties on (Zhou dynasty, 1046–256 b.c.e.) the Chinese political elite considered it was ruling the whole world, ‘all under the Heaven’, according to Confucian principles of hierarchical yet benevolent rule. Within this cosmology, the  Zhao (2011), 1–7.  On Qinghua school, see Yan (2011). On relational theory, see Qin (2018). 20  Noessellt (2015). 21  Ren (2014). 22  See Kang (2010). For a more critical assessment, see Perdue (2015), 1002–1014. 18 19



emperor was thought to be the ‘Son of Heaven’ (天子, tianzi), and Heaven itself was believed to be a superior god or a cosmic force. Heaven had given his son, the emperor, a mandate for ruling the terrestrial issues— but only as long as he followed the Heaven’s will.23 Within this cosmology, there were no ‘sovereign states’, as everyone under the Heaven was under the authority of the emperor. Smaller kingdoms or other political units would need to demonstrate their submission by sending tributary emissaries to the Chinese capital every now and then. The Son of Heaven, however, could not act dictatorially, since “All under Heaven” would be in peace and prosper only when he followed the rules of propriety (礼, li) and acted righteously.24 This kind of ethnocentric universal kingdom is of course not unique to China. As other examples, one could mention the well-known distinction between the Greeks and the ‘barbarians’, and the idea of the United States as a shining ‘city upon the hill’ among other nations. Benjamin Schwartz has argued that what was unique in the case of the Chinese civilization was that for most of its history China was almost completely isolated from the rest of the world by natural barriers. Unlike universal kingdoms elsewhere, Chinese empire never encountered any culturally advanced rivals that could deny its sinocentric cosmology. On the contrary, the fact that China’s major neighbors—Japan, Korea, and Vietnam—adopted China’s Confucian ideological system, as well as many other cultural elements, seemed to prove it. Northwestern nomad tribes, although being able to raid China’s border regions and wreak some serious havoc, were still considered to be mere barbarians. They too would be eventually civilized by the moral and cultural supremacy of the central kingdom.25 This tianxia cosmology dominated the worldview and philosophy of the Chinese empire up until the nineteenth century, when the Western great powers arrived with technologically advanced gunboats and forced its downfall. Western political cosmology differed from the tianxia considerably. It was based on an idea of equal and sovereign nation-states that would interact within the international order according to certain ­universal laws and institutions. Competition, diplomacy, trade, and war were all integral parts of this international order, which is usually thought to have been formalized in the treaty of Westphalia in 1648.  Fairbank (1968). See also Ban (2017).  Ibid. 25  Schwartz (1968), 276–288. 23 24



During the nineteenth century, China slowly learned that its worldview of being the center of ‘all under heaven’ had been a delusion. The last dynasty, Qing (1644–1911), was wavering as it tried to orient itself in the quickly changing political conditions. It attempted to adopt some elements of Western power (such as military technology) in order to fight back the intruders, but at the same time it tried to hold on to its Confucian ideas and cosmology. It could not have both. The Chinese empire and tianxia system around it finally collapsed in the Xinhai revolution of 1911, after which the Republic of China was established.26 During these painful years, China acknowledged that instead of being everything under the Heaven, it was simply another state (国, guo) within a larger system of states (万国, wanguo). The concept of tianxia was then replaced with the Western concept of ‘the world’ (世界, shijie). At the same time, many other new concepts, such as nation (民族, minzu), Chinese (中国人, Zhongguoren), or the people (人民, renmin), had to be imported into the Chinese language, as in the all-embracing world conception of tianxia, there had been no place or need for such ideas.27

The Return of Tianxia During the twentieth century, China became a nation-state and, at the end of the century, finally stabilized politically and economically. Now, as the search for China’s postcommunist identity is intensifying, the forgotten concept of tianxia has been revitalized. Historians, political philosophers, and scholars of international politics are studying the concept and its potential for China’s international thinking.28 Tianxia theory in its modern form was first proposed by a liberal economist Sheng Hong in a short but influential article ‘From nationalism to tianxiaism’ in 1996. The idea was brought into the mainstream by Zhao Tingyang, a philosopher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, with his 2005 book: Tianxia System. After the publication of Zhao’s book, a vibrant discussion on the potential of the concept emerged and is still ongoing. Although never becoming a leading theoretical model, Zhao  For a rich and detailed description of these events, see Spence (1999).  See Zheng (2011), 293–321. 28  Various Chinese terms for the tianxia theory are used, such as ‘tianxiaism’ (天下主义, tianxiazhuyi), ‘tianxia theory’ (天下论, tianxia lun) sometimes ‘new tianxiaism’ (新天下主义, xin tianxiazhuyi), and ‘tianxia order’ (天下秩序, tianxia zhixu). 26 27



and Sheng brought the idea of a unique tianxia worldview ‘on the agenda’ and the Chinese scholarship has since explained and analyzed Chinese foreign policy thinking by applying their ideas.29 Furthermore, even the Chinese government has increasingly included concepts from the tianxia theory into its foreign policy rhetoric: Xi Jinping, for example, declared in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 that China’s foreign policy aims to create ‘a world truly shared by all’ (天 下为公, tianxia wei gong).30 What unifies the tianxia theorists is the belief that the hierarchic Chinese tianxia order was more stable and peaceful than the anarchic Western order. It also included many valuable ethical ideals that the globalizing world could perhaps find useful. One of the main claims about tianxia is that it had ‘no outside’ (无外, wuwai). Because it covered all under Heaven, there could not exist any outer borders, and thereby every culture, tribe, or kingdom was accepted within it. Even if there were strange and barbarous cultures living far away from the center, they were not seen as being outside of tianxia, but merely too far away from its civilizing influence. Tianxia, the argument goes, was harmonious and open to difference, as many different religions and thought systems (e.g. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Islam) coexisted peacefully within it. There were no ‘others’ in the tianxia, and also no need to forcibly transform others into one’s own culture.31 Another common metaphor the theorists propose is that tianxia was like a large family (天下一家, tianxia yijia). Instead of fiercely competing nation-states like in the ‘West’, the tianxia was imagined as a large family, with the Chinese emperor as the respected but righteous father, and the smaller states, kingdoms, and tribes as its filial sons and daughters.32 A child state would need to respect the father state, but it would get security, recognition, and economic benefits in return. Hierarchy in the tianxia was thus not comparable to ‘hegemony’ as understood in the Western tradition of international thought. Instead of mere military supremacy, the theorists argue, a true tianxia system can only be based on morally exemplary leadership in which the hierarchy of the system is accepted and even embraced by all its members. According to Zhao: “seizing political power or territory alone is not equal to ‘obtaining tianxia.’ […] ‘Obtaining  Schneider (2014), 689.  See Mokry (2018) and Kallio (2018). 31  Zhao (2011), 34–40. 32  Ren (2014). 29 30



tianxia’ means having the approval of the society, and representing the choice of the public.”33 Tianxia theorists see the current liberal international order of equal and sovereign states as chaotic and unstable. Even if the order functioned satisfactorily for a short period of history, it is now getting obsolete as the ever more deeply globalizing and interlinking world faces increasing problems, such as global inequality and climate change, that no nation-state or even a group of states can handle on their own. The theorists claim that the concept of tianxia is like a philosophical seed which, when cultivated, could develop into a framework for an alternative cosmopolitan world society.34 Instead of an emperor, the new tianxia could have some kind of ‘world institution’ which would oversee the good of the whole planet and act as a mediator in political conflicts. Tianxia theory has met heavy criticism both within and outside China. Especially historians, such as Ge Zhaoguang, have argued that the historical tianxia order was only a utopian fantasy in the scriptures of Confucian scholars, and ordinary logic of great power politics dominated in China just as in anywhere else.35 In the West, well-known sinologists such as William Callahan and June Teufel Dreyer have also offered critical remarks on the historical accuracy of the theory’s basic arguments.36 What is distinctive to the discussion around tianxia theory is that what the ancient Chinese tianxia order was like, and how the new global tianxia should be organized, are matters of heavy dispute. Some, such as Zhao Tingyang, claim that the truest form of tianxia can be found only in the feudal and loose system of the early Zhou dynasty. But for others, such as Sheng Hong, tianxia means the unified Chinese empire after the establishment of the Han dynasty. Many tianxia theorists point to the ‘tributary system’ of Ming and Qing dynasties, and there is even a liberal wing of tianxia theorists (Liu Qing, Xu Jilin, Bai Tongdong) who claim that the new tianxia order should not have a dominating central institution.37  


Zhao (2011), 38.  Ren (2014). 35  Ge (2016). 36  Callahan (2008), 749–761. Dreyer (2015), 1015–1031. 37  Xu and Liu (2015). 34



But even though the concept of tianxia itself is rather muddy and vaguely described, all the theorists agree that tianxia had to be something different from the ‘West’. It could not have been simply another empire like the other historical empires, but it had to be a unique Chinese system of international politics.38 Creating an identity for oneself always needs the ‘other’, a mirror from which to reflect one’s own uniqueness. In the discussion around tianxia theory, tianxia, no matter what it is, is always placed against an imagined Western civilization and a Western thought system. Most of the theorists seem to agree on what the West is like, and the West as a concept (西方, xifang) is not truly problematized or questioned within the tianxia discourse. Geographically it seems to point to Europe and (or) the United States, but the definition is never made very clear. Similar kind of essentialism is applied to the Chinese civilization, and it and its elements are taken for granted. With this dualism, the tianxia theorists are constructing an Occidentalist grand narrative of the Western civilization. In this narrative, the current, chaotic international order is the result and legacy of Western philosophy and Western value system, which are lacking a ‘worldly’ outlook. Occidentalism is here understood as a more or less distorted image and narrative of the ‘West’as a coherent sociocultural entity and as an actor in world politics. Occidentalist rhetoric attempts to compress and essentialize the multitude of cultures, languages, and philosophies under a simple label of the ‘West’, very similar to what Orientalist rhetoric has been attempting with the vast and diverse regions of Asia or the ‘East’.39 Occidentalism can be utilized for drawing an inhumane and brutal image of the West by its enemies, yet it can be also applied for positive and inclusive purposes: Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, for example, has argued how an idealized Western civilization was rhetorically invented after the Second World War for incorporating Germany into the transatlantic alliance against the growing menace of the Soviet Union.40 Occidentalist imagery is not a new phenomenon in Chinese thinking. Ever since the Chinese Qing dynasty and the Western great powers ­collided during the nineteenth century, Chinese intellectuals were forced to rethink China’s position in the larger world. The image of the West had  Li (2016), 1–10.  Jouhki and Pennanen (2016), 1–10. 40  See Buruma and Margalit (2004); Jackson (2006). 38 39



to be similarly updated: instead of red-haired beasts driven by animal-like instincts, the West was later imagined to represent another civilization, perhaps even of an equal standing with China, and possessing, in the words of a contemporary scholar Wei Yuan (1794–1857), “knowledge of astronomy and geography and [being] well versed in things material and events of past and present.”41 In the process of China’s opening to the world, the West as a collective entity became the extreme ‘other’ and a benchmark into which the Chinese intellectuals reflected China’s own achievements. Chinese Occidentalism thus included both the idealization and the enemization aspects of Occidentalism, and the West was seen as either a model to follow or as a menace to fight against. The liberals of the early twentieth-century China saw the Chinese tradition in a negative light, and the modernization and westernization of China was urged as inevitable for China’s very survival. Others, representing more traditionalist viewpoints, argued that even though the West was indeed powerful, it was lacking in spiritual quality. China should therefore apply chosen Western technologies and governmental innovations as needed, but it should leave the Chinese cultural and intellectual substance intact (中学为体 西学为用, Zhongxue wei ti, Xixue wei yong).42 For many, especially traditionally oriented intellectuals, the West served as a device from which China could reflect its own uniqueness. For example, one of the most important Confucian philosophers of the twentieth century, Liang Shuming (1893–1988), dedicated his notable work, Substance of Chinese Culture (中国文化要义, Zhongguo wenhua yaoyi), for the comparison of Chinese and Western civilizations and their cultural origins. In his words: Chinese people will never gain a clear understanding if they only remain within the structures of Chinese society; if only they first look to others and then at themselves, then they will immediately understand.43 During the early decades of the People’s Republic, Occidentalism was temporarily pushed under the all-encompassing rhetoric of a global class struggle. The demonic caricature of an imperialist ‘West’ did exist, but it was used mainly for domestic purposes, for maintaining the legitimacy and the dominant position of the Communist Party.44 Cultural Occidentalism 41  The change in Chinese perceptions of the West during this transformative period is well presented in Ch’en (1979), 59–91. 42  Wang (2013), 103–124. 43  Lu and Zhao (2009), 52–66. 44  See Chen (1995).



reemerged in China after the end of the Cold War when Maoist ideological orthodoxy was relaxed and as the cultural and civilizational models returned to the focus of international politics scholarship on a global scale.45 Especially the publication of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of the Civilizations in 1996 animated traditionalist Chinese intellectuals. The book’s core argument was interpreted to be that the West was simply another civilization among many others and its ideological values and political institutions, even though currently triumphant, were not to be taken as universal. The ominous clash of civilizations argument then, ironically, offered hope and confidence for the Chinese scholars as they once again continued their search for China’s position in the global order.46 Tianxia theory is building its own civilizational argument on this legacy of Chinese Occidentalism. In this narrative, different thought systems of the West and China are presented as opposites facing each other. The Western thought system and its derivative, the liberal international order, are now ruling supreme, but they are not universal solutions and they do not constitute any ‘end of history’. The main argument of Zhao Tingyang and Sheng Hong is that they could—and should—indeed be replaced by their Chinese variants: a modernized tianxia world order and the Confucian value system behind it.47 According to Quentin Skinner, there can be no ahistorical, ‘ageless wisdom’ in political theories, and every theory is simply an attempt to address the political problematics of its day.48 Robert Cox states the same in relation to theories of international politics, which, for Cox, are “always for someone and for some purpose. Perspectives derive from a position in time and space, specially social and political time and space. […] There is, accordingly, no such thing as theory in itself, divorced from standpoint in time and space.”49 Accordingly, in this chapter, Tianxia theory is understood as a rhetorical device, deriving from the context of China’s rise and the West’s relative decline. Tianxia theory is criticizing and questioning the legitimacy of the current Western-led international order and the universality of the Western values and concepts behind it, and with this, it is providing rhetorical support for the Chinese government, which is similarly constructing its own  See Katzenstein (2010).  Jun and Smith (2018), 294–314. 47  Sheng (1996). 48  See Skinner (2002). 49  Cox (1986), 207. 45 46



grand narrative of a uniquely peaceful and harmonious great power China that can challenge Western unilateralism.50 As China grows more powerful, its leadership yearns for more say on how international politics is being framed and understood. A well-known Chinese scholar of world politics, Zhang Weiwei, has claimed that the West currently holds a ‘discoursive hegemony’ (话语霸权, huayu baquan) on how international politics is being interpreted, and on what is thought to be the best for the world. Zhang has urged the Chinese leadership to reinforce its ‘discoursive power,’ so that China will be able to define the dominating values, ideals, and master narratives of the world.51 This is exactly what the tianxia theory is attempting to do, and we will now take a closer look at the arguments on the failures of the Western international order found within it.

Tianxia and the Western International Order Sheng Hong’s52 article ‘From nationalism to tianxiaism’ set the basic parameters of the tianxia theory by suggesting that in its ancient past, China was in a similar situation as the current Western international order. During the ‘warring states period’ (战国, Zhanguo, 475–221 b.c.e.), China was split into smaller, independent kingdoms which fought against each other incessantly. All the states were aware, however, that this was only a temporary state of affairs. The states shared a dream of unifying all under Heaven under one ruling center again, and the traveling philosopher-­scholars of the era offered their services for the kings for reaching this goal. The kings had a historical precedent, as before the warring states era, the Zhou dynasty had been able to unify China under a loose feudal system, which was thought to be a golden era of stability and prosperity.53 According to Sheng, it was Han dynasty (206 b.c.e.–220 c.e.) that was finally successful in uniting all the warring states under the leadership of the emperor. All under Heaven was then pacified and unified. War and power struggles between states became a thing of the past, and peace, stability, and harmony became the leading ideals of Chinese politicians as  Shi-Kupfer et al. (2017).  Zhang (2012), 125–129. 52  Sheng, Hong is currently working at the Tianze Institute of Economics in Beijing. Tianze Institute is one of the rare independent think tanks in China. 53  Sheng (1996). 50 51



well as scholars. This tianxia system, Sheng argues, became the international political order of China and its surroundings, and it remained in place for thousands of years, with some short breaks, during which it temporarily lapsed back into power struggles. In the West, similar unification occurred only briefly during the Roman Empire. After the collapse of Rome, the West degenerated into its own warring states period and it has not been able to recover from it since. One could claim that with the rise of the European Union, the warring states era of Europe had finally concluded, but Sheng sees the EU simply as a larger national state, which is now part of the bigger, global warring states system.54 When the Western warring states system reached China during the nineteenth century, China was still in its harmonious tianxia mode. According to Sheng, tianxia was based on moral, not military supremacy, and the Chinese defenses were helpless against the Western armies. Chinese tianxia thus collapsed, and with the disappearance of the only tianxia culture, which was in China, the whole world returned into the balance of nationalisms. Nationalism was accompanied with the ‘warring states logic’, that is the logic of ‘military might reigns supreme’, which spread from the West to all over the world.55 In the process, China had to suppress its own traditional culture and adopt such harmful Western ideas as social Darwinism and nationalism in order to survive. But it did survive and, Sheng claims, is now playing by the Western, ‘warring states ruleset’ of international politics. However, during the age of nuclear weapons, the global warring states scenario has become all too dangerous.56 Zhao Tingyang agrees with Sheng’s description, but for him, the current international order deserves a stronger metaphor than the warring states. For Zhao it is a ‘chaotic world’ (乱世, luanshi). In Chinese thought, the concept of luan refers to periods of disunity within Chinese history, during which the central government had lost its authority and China had fallen into anarchy. Typically, luan ensued when a dynasty collapsed, and bandits and rebels roamed the land causing great suffering and destruction.  Ibid.



  Ibid. 56  Ibid.



Luan meant that the dynasty had lost the mandate of Heaven, which is a situation that the Chinese dynasties needed to avoid at all costs. A conceptual opposite for luan is zhi (治), ‘well governed’, when the dynasty is stable and prosperous.57 Whether a ‘chaotic world’ or a stage of ‘warring states’, both Sheng and Zhao agree that the current Western international order is in trouble and needs a well-governing, stabilizing central force. According to Zhao, the differences of these conceptions of politics in the West and China derive from the very beginnings of both civilizations: since the political experiences of their early societies were different, both the West and China developed political thoughts, which greatly differed on their values, analytical frameworks and question systems.58

In China, the tianxia conception was born during the Zhou dynasty, when China was united in a loose feudal system called fengjian (封建) under the leadership of Zhou kings. Zhao, like Sheng, claims that the short period of the warring states was simply an anomaly, and all political thought in China evolved from the point of view of a unified world, tianxia.59 Zhao argues that in the West, on the contrary, political activity was born in the Greek system of city-states. Thus, Western political thinking evolved around the concept of competing states, and the concept for the world as a political unit was never invented. The etymology of both the Western and Chinese concepts of ‘politics’ points to this difference: the Western concept of ‘politics’ derives from the name of the Greek city-­ state, polis, whereas the Chinese concept of politics, zhengzhi (政治), means more broadly a correct governance.60 It is as if these two conceptions of international politics had been determined during the Zhou dynasty and the Greek golden age, and neither civilization has been able to change or modify its destiny ever since. Because of these historical roots, Zhao claims, the Western hierarchy of political units can be divided into the levels of

 Zhao (2011), 11–13.  



, Zhao (2010). 59  Ibid. 60  Ibid.



1. individual (个体, geti) 2. community (共同体, gongtongti) 3. nation-state (国家, guojia). In the Western political imagination, above the nation-state there exists only the level of the international (国际, guoji). ‘The world’ is merely a geographical concept. It is a playground or a stage in which the nation-­states can compete and fulfill their destructive tendencies. Another concept Zhao uses for this kind of a divided world is a ‘non-world’ (非世界, feishijie).61 Shang Huipeng, professor of international studies at the Peking University, agrees on the general description offered by Zhao, but develops it further. He argues that the Chinese and Western civilizations, in addition to their differing political systems, have also fundamentally different ethical principles when it comes to relations between individuals, and the way individuals interact is reflected on the macro level: in the other end it creates a tianxia, and in the other end the logic of the warring states.62 Shang suggests that in China, relations between individuals have always been based on differing roles in hierarchic relationships: everyone is, first, a member of a hierarchical unit, for instance a member of a family. Shang calls this the ‘role principle’ (角色原理, juese yuanli), which means that everyone can be expected to act toward other people according to his/her current role in the society. The role principle is similarly found at the international level: within tianxia, the political units under the Son of Heaven acted as subordinates, and the Son of Heaven acted according to his role as the father of nations, being authoritative and demanding, but also by offering security and economic benefits—the public goods of the time. Smaller kingdoms accepted the emperor’s supremacy and the tribute they paid was mainly a material symbol of this relationship. Because of this foundation in individual-to-individual relations, equality or sovereignty between individual political units could not be even imagined within tianxia.63 But in the West, relations between people are arranged among free and equal individuals, which Shang calls ‘equal units principle’ (单位平 等原理, danwei pingdeng yuanli). From this perspective, all individuals are ­considered to be equal and expected to respect each other’s individuality. A Western human being is, first, a unique, individual person, and only after that a member of a larger unit. Like in the case of tianxia, this  Zhao (2011), 11–17.  Shang (2009). 63  Ibid. 61 62



fundamental principle of ‘equal units’ has influenced Western international politics, and the principles and values of the current Westphalian international order stem from it: sovereign nation-states are the core units of this order, and their interests always come first. The states may join international organizations, but only if they can gain benefits from them, and fierce competition between these units is only natural as it is also on the individual-to-individual level.64 Ren Xiao, professor of international studies at Fudan University, has created a similar kind of distinction between individual-to-individual level ethical relations within the Chinese and the Western civilizations. According to Ren, Western relations between individuals are organized as a ‘contract system’ (契约秩序, qiyue zhixu), whereas the relations in tianxia were organized as a ‘status system’ (名分定秩序, mingfending zhixu). Within tianxia’s ‘status system’, relations between individuals were always tightly connected to personal statuses of the individuals: they emphasized rituals (礼, li) instead of strict laws or rules and were always open to interpretation, compromise, and situational awareness.65 There was no international law as such in tianxia, because in principle, the political units were supposed to act only as their statuses within the system allowed. The Western ‘contract system’, however, places the contracts and rules above anything else. Within the West, individuals are equal in face of the law, and there can be no interpretation or situationality when it comes to law. Ren offers an interesting example of these different systems colliding in 1793, when George Macartney visited China as an ambassador for King George III of England. When meeting with the Chinese emperor Qianlong, Macartney declined from the customary ‘kowtow ritual’66 everybody was supposed to perform when facing the Son of Heaven. Macartney thought he represented his own sovereign King, who was an equal with the Chinese emperor. He could not understand the value and meaning of the kowtow, because from his ‘contract system’ point of view, there were no hierarchies or any relationality between the heads of states.67 For the Son of Heaven, however, this was of course an outrage.  Ibid.  Ren (2014). 66  Kowtow (guibai, 跪拜 or ketou 磕头) was a ceremonial bow for expressing deference in face of the emperor, in which one needed to kneel down and touch the ground with his head for several times. 67  Ren (2014). 64 65



The principles of the Western international order, Ren explains, emerge from the ‘contract system’ of individual-to-individual relations: states are equal units and there is no hierarchy in state-to-state relations—at least in principle. Sovereignty for individual states is achieved, but at the price of losing the greater good of the planet from sight.68 Because of these fundamental reasons, the theorists claim, the West has been unable to create a political concept of the world that would transcended the state and the level of the international.69 For Zhao, even such illustrious philosophers as Immanuel Kant have failed to think in tianxia-­ like global terms, since Kant’s cosmopolitan vision, as laid out in the book For Perpetual Peace (Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf) is only a world federation of nation-states, remaining at the level of ‘internationalness’. Even Kant’s conception of politics, Zhao claims, was thus under the influence of the Western, narrow-minded tradition of world politics.70 For Zhao, the current international order operates under the ‘Hobbesian law of jungle’ (霍布斯丛林假定, huobusi conglin jiading), but the West is not interested in changing this logic. It understands the problems of the order and would like to civilize it so that the fierce, Hobbesian competition between the states would be transformed into a more sophisticated economic competition based on rules, but the basic idea of individual nation-states and state-level interest would remain intact. Yet even in this pacified form of state competition, powerful states will emerge and break the rules as they see fit. The West cannot fundamentally change this logic, because it is unable to imagine beyond the level of the ‘international’.71 For both Zhao and Sheng, this kind of mindset is problematic also because when studying non-Western nations, such as China, the West relies on its own, warring states-minded thinking. Thus, misinformed ideas, such as the ‘China threat’ emerge, as the West can only understand world politics as reflections of its own history, seeing the rise and fall of hegemons as inevitable processes.72 Attempting to pacify this luan, the best practical solution the West has been able to create is the United Nations, but its name reveals  Ibid.  Zhao gives some credit to Marxisism, however. For him, it is the only Western philosophy which has a truly worldly outlook. He does not study it any further though. 70  Zhao (2011), 11–17. 71  Ibid. 72  Zhao (2011), 11–17. Sheng (1996). 68 69



its true nature. For both Zhao and Sheng, the UN is only a forum for the nation-states to rush and obtain benefits for themselves, but not for the world as a whole. It is, in essence, an agora without its polis.73 Finally, the theorists claim, the Western worldview is also limited and plagued by its obsessive search for opponents and enemies, which owes its legacy to Christianity. According to Zhao, when Christianity emerged, the Western worldview ceased to develop toward universal happiness of all humans on earth, and the utopian society was moved into the afterlife of the Paradise. But on the planet, a constant battle between the holy and the heathen would continue until everyone would be converted into Christianity.74 Ren Xiao agrees that an important element of Christianity is its offensive missionary attitude as the Western missionaries would brave even the high seas in order to spread their gospel for the pagans. Ren contrasts this with the Confucian tianxia, in which a harmonious multitude of religions and philosophies was allowed, and which followed the principle of “the rites should not be preached upon others” (礼不往教, li bu wang jiao). Instead of spreading the Confucian doctrine, the Son of Heaven expected his subjects to stand in awe of his virtue, and all the peoples under the Heaven would travel to the center to learn its civilized ways. If they did not come, it simply meant that the center’s virtue was weak, and it did not deserve the admiration of its subjects.75 According to Zhao, the Western Christendom never allowed such harmony or diversity within it. It was dominated by an intolerant and discriminating religion, which divided the world starkly into the world of Christianity and the world of pagans. Zhao argues that even though Christianity has lost its influence as a political theory in the West, its legacy of dualist and confrontational thinking has not. It means that the West is constantly searching for ‘others’ to suppress or to transform into its own image: Since Christianity suppressed the Greek civilization, the Western combative logic of dividing the world into us and the heretics, took its shape. The West has since understood the world as a warzone of opposites, and with its

 Zhao (2009), 6–17.  Zhao (2011), 33. 75  Ren (2014). 73 74



mission of conquering the world, the West has extinguished the concept of an ‘a priori whole world’.76

This ‘confrontational’ and ‘dualist’ thinking, originating from Christianity, has since taken various forms in Western thinking. It can be found in Carl Schmitt’s concept of ‘enemy consciousness’ and in his metaphor of ‘politics as warfare’. This same attitude is also influencing Western countries (especially the United States) as they spread their ‘universal values’ and Zhao even mentions the Star Wars movies as an example of this Western tendency to pathologically think of the world in terms of us, the righteous and the pagan/others. Because of the legacy of Christianity and its dualistic worldview, the West sees its own conception of international politics as the only and the universal. The current Western international order is therefore not unlike the Christendom of the old, and every state and culture must be converted according to its ‘universal’ principles and doctrines.77

Toward a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind Tianxia theorists present a rather coherent narrative of the Western civilization and its essential elements. Because of its historical conditions, the West has organized its societies following individualist principles, and thus Western understanding of international politics also reminds this basic setting: it is based on sovereign nation-states which interact like the equal individuals in Western societies. This atomistic state-centeredness has limited West’s capability in achieving a holistic, ‘worldly’ vision of politics. The West is also haunted by its Christian legacy, which remains dominant in Western philosophy of international politics. The West cannot tolerate alternatives to its liberal vision of democracy, human rights, and other ‘universal values’ and the Fukuyaman ‘end of history’ argument, from the point of view of the tianxia theorists, can be understood as a continuation for the spreading of gospel of the one and only true God. 76

  Zhao (2016), 21. 77  Ibid.




Within the narratives of the tianxia theorists, the West is portrayed as the true opposite of the harmonious tolerance and wuwai of the tianxia. This can be understood so that these two world systems are not compatible and cannot exist at the same time. The tianxia theorists are, in effect, reproducing a grand narrative of a clash of civilizations to which Samuel Huntington would probably nod approvingly. The narrative points out that the Western-led international order and its elements do not represent the only and the best possible way for organizing international politics. They are simply products of particular, historical developments in the West and they could be replaced by better alternatives. The narrative can also be seen as a major argument for Chinese exceptionalism and as an answer for the aforementioned search for a new Chinese identity. As the narrative contrasts tianxia to the West, China’s own uniqueness is brought into the spotlight. According to the tianxia theorists, China has always had its own, successful methods for organizing both domestic and international politics, and there is no need for blind acceptance of Western ideas, whether they concern ‘universal values’ or theories of international politics. Similarly, the narrative supports the claim of ‘China’s peaceful rise’: because of the heritage of its unique tianxia worldview, China will not repeat the fatal mistakes of the rising powers of the past. The cosmopolitan world order the tianxia theorists are dreaming of is of course utopian, and the means for constructing such an order are not at all accurately described. Even the strongest proponent of the theory, Zhao Tingyang, claims he is only trying to offer some initial philosophical seeds so that a new, postliberal international order would have a theoretical foundation. All through their arguments, tianxia theorists indeed remain on a highly abstract level. Overall, the theory stands on a rather shaky and loose empirical basis and on a very selective and ‘cherry picked’ readings of history. An argument, however, need not to be factually correct or logically sound to be useful for political purposes, as everyone witnessing the trumpian era is well aware of. Many elements and ideas of the tianxia worldview can be found in the Chinese government’s foreign policy rhetoric. During Hu Jintao’s reign (2002–2012), the concept of a ‘harmonious world’ (和谐世界, hexie shijie) was brought forth, proposing a world order in which all the various civilizations would prosper together in peace and harmony. In the same manner,



the ancient Confucian concept of ‘harmony without sameness’ (和而不同, he’er butong) was emphasized, pointing out that in international politics, a harmony of differences is better than a monotonous sameness.78 During the tenure of president Xi Jinping (2012–), the general tone of Chinese foreign policy rhetoric has become more assertive and confident. At the same time, the rhetoric has gained even more cosmopolitan and, one could say, tianxiaist overtones.79 The main foreign policy concept of president Xi Jinping, and also the best concept to define Xi’s vision for the future international order, is the ‘community of common future for mankind’ (人类命运共同体, renlei mingyun gongtongti). According to this idea, the international community will be more and more tightly tied together during the age of globalization, and all the states should let go of their grievances and concentrate on economic and political cooperation. Although the concept is rather vaguely described, the vision of a harmonious tianxia can be easily recognized as an inspiration for the concept, and Xi Jiping has himself described the community using the concept of ‘all under Heaven as a one family’.80 Tianxia theory then, rather than being a credible scientific theory of international politics, works better as offering quite sophisticated and effective rhetorical devices for the Chinese leadership as it is attempting to challenge Western ‘discourse hegemony’. Underdeveloped as it is, it already possesses considerable soft power value by framing world politics with stark dichotomies of the warlike and chaotic Western model of international politics against the possibility of a stable, harmonious, and peaceful Chinese tianxia order. Especially during the troubled era of our day, when the core elements of the liberal international order seem to be wavering in uncertainty, the promise of the tianxia can be seductive. Interestingly, most tianxia theorists argue that even though the tianxia order was extinguished during the nineteenth century, its worldview and the political thinking around it have remained in China’s mind as unconscious processes. Perhaps China is indeed dreaming of uniting all under Heaven once more, once and for all?

 Keith (2012), 235–252.  Kallio (2018). 80  CCTV (2017). See also Puranen (2019). 78 79



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Balancing Between Narratives of the West and Hindu Nationalism in Emerging India Jukka Jouhki

In the Indian news media, it is difficult to find recent articles about the West without having to read about political populism, the alt-right, Brexit, refugees, military ventures, economic stagnation, and the threat of militant Islam, to name a few. Especially the flamboyance of President Donald Trump, the leader of a country most often viewed as the hegemon of the West, and the center of Western world order has sparked the Indian press to reflect on what the West is or does, and where Trump is taking it. There are narratives where the liberal West is in crisis, and they have created a need for Indians to reflect on the position of their nation in the possible new world order where the West might not have the global prepotency it currently does. In this chapter, I am examining these narratives in the Indian news media. I am focusing particularly on India’s role and prospects in the world system particularly in relation to the ‘liberal West’. To do this, I am examining the recent contents of major daily E ­ nglish-­language

J. Jouhki (*) University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




newspapers published in India together with academic literature on the topic.1 As people identifying as Westerners have looked to India to construct an idea of an Orient vis-à-vis a ‘Western self’, Indians have generated their own Occidentalisms to create grand narratives of Westerners and to reflect on what it means to be an Indian.2 Many Indians believe there are valuable ideologies, values, policies, and innovations in the West that India has benefited from and will continue to do so in the future. Contrastingly, there are nationalist narratives—even by the same people—emphasizing Indian self-reliance from and even superiority to the West.3 Indians may have an uneasy relationship with ‘Western modernity’. As Pankaj Mishra, the author of Age of Anger and one of the most influential analysts of Indian society in the world system observes, there is a ‘growing awareness that the Western history of modernization is just one of several possible courses’.4 Yet, in this millennium, Indian foreign policy narratives have emphasized democracy, pluralism, and, increasingly, economic liberalism. The international forums, as Western-dominated as they might be, are nowadays considered ‘less a threat than an opportunity’.5 In the West, there is a sort of rediscovering of India which applauds a born-again India with liberal democratic values and celebrates what is thought to be India’s new generation of pragmatical ‘doers’ who promote democracy and modern citizenship. Cosmopolitan Indian politicians add to the narrative claiming that India’s soft power, including yoga and Bollywood, will make it a global leader and a beacon of democracy in Asia.6 The ‘New India’ under Narendra Modi has indeed concentrated on taking a more active role in the world. The exotic, spiritual, and traditional—if not mythological—dimensions of Indian tradition have been revitalized for the purposes of international branding as well as domestic 1  To select relevant articles for closer analysis, I have conducted keyword searches using various combinations of words (the West, Western, crisis, India, future, world order, emerging India, etc.) in the online versions of the aforementioned newspapers. The selected articles comprise 120 news reports, editorials, opinion pieces, and essays by mostly the editorial staff but also by expert guest writers such as politicians, book authors, and scholars. The treatment of the gathered content is nontheory-driven but qualitative and content driven. 2  Said (1978/1995), Spencer (2003). 3  Wojczewski (2016), 100–113. 4  Mishra (2017), 120. 5  Wojczewski (2016), 147–150. 6  Mishra (2013), 86–87; Chandra (2017), 106–107.



identity construction.7 Hence, one of the aims of this chapter is to analyze the way this New India manifests itself in relation to the West in the narratives of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism. It is a worldview supported not only by Narendra Modi and his followers but also on the left of the political spectrum. Hindutva sees Hindu tradition as the essence of Indian society, if not a model valuable enough to be followed on the global scale. These nationalist narratives are also widely reflected on in the Indian news media. The main newspapers analyzed in this chapter are The Times of India and The Economic Times, both published by the Times Group, which is India’s largest media conglomerate; The Hindu published by The Hindu Group; Hindustan Times published by the HT Media; The Telegraph published by the ABP Group; and the The Indian Express published by Indian Express Limited.8

The West in Crisis, Asia Rising ‘The West’ examined here is a concept often used in a way that connotes a political, geopolitical, and/or cultural category that is difficult to verify by empirical observation. It is a solid entity in narrative whereas empirical study reveals a fuzzy network of heterogenous populations with multiple agencies, platforms, and levels for interaction. Hence, ‘the West’, like many other titles for complex social categories, is bound to almost violently condense and make a monolith out of the sociocultural reality of a billion people divided into dozens of diverse states, and international and national organizations and groups. Hence, ‘the West’ is quite often a product of what I call banal Occidentalism, the reification of complex reality under an overarching concept.9

 Commuri (2009), 162; Kerrigan et al. (2012).  The Times of India is estimated to be most favorable to Prime Minister Modi’s government and leaning toward the center-right on the political spectrum, whereas Hindustan Times is perceived to oscillate between supporting the center-left and Modi’s government. The other news media analyzed here are more left-center leaning, supporting the Congress Party. The Hindu and The Telegraph are estimated to be most left-leaning of the six in their coverage. Maheswari and Sparks (2018); Sonwalkar (2016); The Press Freedom Index (2019); Media Bias Fact Check (2019); Barclay et al. (2014); Thakur (2013). Circulationwise, the printed press in India unlike in the West is thriving albeit India does not do well in the global press freedom ranking. 9  Jouhki (2016); see also Billig (1995). 7 8



States, international organizations, and alliances/networks of states might have agency to the extent that one can talk about them as actors. For example, it is reasonable to speak of ‘the US’ as deciding something or ‘the EU’ as passing a law, but it is often more problematic to speak of ‘the West’ as an agent having similarly coherent agency, because it is not a juridical entity nor does it have a government or sovereignty. Many commentators of and in ‘the West’, and in the newspapers analyzed here, are aware of the conceptual problematics of ‘the West’, but far more imagine and/or narrate the West as having agency and being more homogenous than is warranted.10 Still, in many cases it is sufficiently reasonable—albeit not very accurate—to do so, particularly when it involves international organizations or alliances where the decision-making power is dominantly shared between countries or organizations that can be called ‘Western’.11 In media discourses in India, the West is roughly synonymous to the US, or at least it means a coalition, organization, or a social sphere of influence largely dominated by the US and mostly Western European countries. The word ‘liberal’ is strongly connected—if not synonymous— to ‘Western’ in India as it is elsewhere. The West is considered liberal in the sense of promoting free market economy as well as having social and political views advocating reform and individual freedom. Krishnan Srinivasan, the former Foreign Secretary of India, described the Western liberal tradition and its relation to the world order in The Telegraph, and reflected the general stance of Indian media quite well: The liberal tradition comprises the platform of ideas that underpinned the post-World War II international system, meaning democracy, free trade, international law, multilateralism, environmental protection and human rights, with the United States of America as the self-styled guarantor of this liberal world order.12

Gautam Adhikari, the executive editor of The Times of India, wrote about how earlier it was the Chinese, Indians, Romans, or Persians who ‘played prime roles in the march of humanity’, but today the world leader is ‘the  Anderson (2006); Stephens (2013); see also Zheng (2017); Hall (2011).  For example, NATO-, US-, or EU-led ventures are often very roughly, and for the sake of brevity, summarized as ‘the West’ doing something, although there is a risk that the reader forgets that most countries that identify as ‘Western’ might be excluded from those ventures. 12  Srinivasan (2017). 10 11



European-American civilization, loosely called the West’. He continued that a significant proportion of practiced and debated aspects of ‘modern life’ such as nations, nationalism, democracy as well as colonialism and anticolonialism ‘emerged from ideas that sprouted from circumstances in the West’.13 Indeed, in many articles that I analyzed, the West is lauded as the source of technological innovations as well as the source of democracy, the inspiration for freedom fighters around the world, and the advocate of human rights.14 One of the reasons the West is seen to be in crisis in the Indian media is the internal division between the (leftist) liberals and (right-leaning) conservatives. According to The Times of India, Donald Trump’s presidency is ‘the flash of a declining civilization’, an epitome of the problems of Western (neo)liberalism, liberal democracy, and populism—if not Western civilization altogether. Trump was elected ‘because the corrupt establishment of liberals and conservatives couldn’t even acknowledge the existential crisis the US faces’.15 ‘Angry voters in the US and around the West were seen to rebel against the ‘liberal democratic system’. Indeed, from the Indian perspective, different forms of fundamentalism are winning at the expense of the liberal center in the West. Voters are seeking desperate, extreme, and ‘even gross solutions’ such as Trump and Brexit, and it means that the era of liberal democracy might be over. The West is facing ‘a civilizational crisis’ as ‘the veneer of civilization’ is peeling off. According to the Indian media, conspiracy theories blaming immigrants, academics, and minorities flourish in the West. Western countries are becoming more withdrawn ‘politically and economically’ because globalization is seen as ‘a threat, not an opportunity’.16 Neelan Deo, the director of the Indian Council on Global Relations, criticizes Western liberalism for double standards. On one hand, it is adamant in removing restrictions on how capital moves globally, but it is also highly restrictive of the movement of labor into the West, labeling it as immigrant problem. This, according to Deo, is an essential issue to India who is one of the biggest laborexporting countries in the world.17  Adhikari (2014). Emphasis added.  For example, Breting-Garcia (2017); Malik (2017); Vaidya (2017). 15  Singh, H. (2016b). 16  Aiyar (25.12.2016). 17  Deo (2018). 13 14



It is a rather common view in the Indian news media that the West has hastened its own downfall by forcing liberal democracy, not only on Western nations but also around the globe, and applying double standards by supporting undemocratic powers at the same time. Even when the West is defending democracy, it holds the ideology in such value that it justifies military intervention.18 Professor H.  Vasudevan from Calcutta University and Krishnan Srinivasan wrote in The Telegraph that the West has made the world unstable by having excess confidence in its political and moral leadership.19 Other critical observations of the West in the Indian media accuse it for a ‘missionary dogma on nation-building’,20 and, as the author Mihaz Merchant purports in The Economic Times, ‘self-­ interested, disruptive and intrusive’ foreign policy that has ‘propped up brutal Arab dictators, bankrolled a terrorist state like Pakistan and destabilized countries ranging from Syria to Ukraine’.21 At the same time, Indian media might criticize the West for not doing anything about illiberal terrorist-­harboring countries, perhaps because of its deepening crisis of status.22 Moreover, Western interventions in Muslim countries are seen to have led to the birth of the uncontrollable ‘hydra-headed monster’ of Jihadi Islam, which, on its part, has manifested in the form of Islamophobic attitudes toward immigrants and has stoked ‘primordial ethno-religious fears’ in the West.23 The rise of Islamism is clearly the most significant moral outcome of Western military ventures in the narratives of Indian news media. It is also seen as the reason of anti-Muslim views and acts among Westerners, or vice versa, compensatory relativist ‘toleration’ of Islamic illiberalism. The existential dilemma of tolerating the intolerant Islam is seen to cause tension between Western liberal multiculturalists and conservative nationalists. As Singh claimed in The Times of India, there will be ‘a profound rearrangement of the world order’ during Trump’s term as the West’s social liberalism has ‘succeeded to the point of hubris and corruption’ compromising the West’s ‘economic and social vitality’. That is the major reason why voters were ready to ‘put America first’.24 Moreover, according 18  For example, the former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal (2016) in The Hindu; see also Noora Kotilainen in this volume. 19  Srinivasan and Vasudevan (2014). 20  Srinivasan (2017). 21  Merchant (2014). 22  For example, Aiyar (2016a); Singh H. (2016b). 23  Aiyar (2016a). 24  Singh (2016a); see also Narang (2015).



to Singh, globalization has ‘empowered existential enemies of the West while suppressing the organization and ability of the West to outcompete these enemies’, and ‘pandering to Islamists and totalitarians at the cost of democratic, secular, free republics’ has caused Brexit, Donald Trump, and also Narendra Modi to occur.25 Singh’s view concurs widely with the views of the Indian media sources analyzed here. Pankaj Mishra analyzes the development of anti-liberal movement in the West and describes how it was believed that liberal capitalism would create a global middle class with ‘bourgeois values’ and ‘democratic virtues’. However, it has resulted in quite the opposite, ‘the creation of a precariat with no clear long-term prospects, dangerously vulnerable to demagogues’. Mishra joins numerous other political commentators in India in that Western liberalism has caused its own demise.26 However, despite the overwhelmingly pessimistic views of the West’s status quo, the Indian media examined here do not seem to hold the West to be morally inferior to India but in many areas quite the opposite. The West is commended and considered a model for and a promoter of a plethora of important policies and values such as the human rights, gender equality, effective economy, transparency, globalization, and science. This certainly reflects the socioeconomic and cosmopolitan backgrounds of journalists and guest writers in the English-language media in India. Their views do not reflect the majority of Indians, nor do they reflect the wide nationalistic conservative population more critical of the West.27 Another, and perhaps a more fundamental reason why the West is seen to be in crisis in India, is the essential quality of liberalism in terms of the economy, which has given birth to a world order where free trade flourishes and innovations flow freely around the globe. This process has led to the developing countries emerging economically and is bound to lead to the rest of the world catching up with the West.28 Plenty of articles in the Indian media envision the opportunities the weakening of the West provides to Asia—and India in Asia. As the West faces ‘a civilizational crisis’, it is time for the strongly competitive Asian economies to rise. China is portrayed as having already ‘destroyed’ American industry and ‘challenging American military supremacy’  Singh (2016b).  Wade (2018). 27  For example, Pew Research Center (2017). 28  See for example Dadush and Shaw (2011) and Looney (2014). 25 26



together with ‘the White Man’s dominance’. This, according to the Indian view, is curiously something ‘deeply pleasing’ to Western liberals.29 Aiyar repeats the common message in the Indian news media that the West’s ‘unseen bonanza’ of 150 years is over, and although colonialism and industrial revolution gave the West a head start, Asia is catching up. India might be economically far behind China—let alone the West—but optimistic views interpret the situation meaning that India has ‘growth potential’ as India’s age structure predicts its workforce to continue to increase at least until 2050–2060.30 According to Indian views, the West attempts to solve the Asian challenge by reverting to protectionism, undemocratic populism, border walls, and ethnofundamentalism.31 Judging from the Indian media, the global pendulum is swinging East, but for Indians it seems to be disquieting that the precise direction of the pendulum is China, not India.32 Although China and India are in decent relations, China is viewed as India’s biggest strategic challenge, if not a threat and a ‘natural adversary’.33 Not the least because of the potential of China’s One Belt One Road project which is something India has been mostly critical of.34 Some see that together China and India could become a significant force to make international institutions such as the World Trade Organization to further liberate trade.35 However, the United States and Japan are eager to assist India to balance China’s influence in Asia, and although India and China are cooperating on many levels, there are ­cultural and geopolitical differences that make India seek stronger partnership with the West.36 To counter China’s military power—which Modi euphemistically refers to as an ‘absence of an agreed security architecture’ in Asia—and its economic dominance, Indian pundits are eager to emphasize that India is the  Singh H. (2016b); see also Merchant (2014).  Aiyar (2016b). 31  Aiyar (2016a, b). 32  However, e.g. Stuenkel (2016), 195, suggests that predictions about China replacing the West in economy and military are wrong because power is too dispersed globally to allow such imperial constructions anymore. 33  Pant (2016), 14; Bayineni (2016), 124; Chandra (2017), 108; Ramani (2016), 31; see also Babu (2016), 154; Mahalanobis (2016), 1. However, there is a minority of Indian thinkers who suggest that ‘India and China need to partner to set up a new world order’. Also, Bayineni (2016), 124, describes how Nehru saw China as ‘a natural friend, close to India, as both nation states had just fought off imperialism’. 34  For example, Park and Singh (2017); Ministry of External Affairs (2017). 35  Bayineni (2016), 140; see also Itty (2014); Panda (2016); Nayar and Paul (2003), 19. 36  Chandra (2017), 108; Uttam and Kim (2018), 16; Hettiarachchi and Abeyrathne (2015), 344–345. 29 30



largest, liberal, and most powerful non-Western democracy in the world. India might have its flaws, they say, but its system of governance is still far better than China’s. Moreover, India through Modi has been eager to state that its outlook of the world’s major challenges coincides with those of the West. For example, Modi has repeatedly announced that the top three concerns of India are terrorism, climate change, and isolationism. Incidentally, China has announced similar concerns.37 In India, as well as globally, ‘democracy’ often means a democratic system favoring economic liberalism. This interpretation is quite evident in Modi’s vision where India is to take part in the world and to have the world come to India, mainly by investing in India. In this sense, India adheres to what can be called the dominant Western liberal economic and democratic model.38 Democracy-wise India is actually faring relatively well for a developing country when compared to India’s positions on other global indices (e.g. freedom of press, GDP per capita, happiness) where India is in the bottom one-third of the world. But in democracy, India is among the world’s top one quarter, not quite developed enough to be included in ‘full democracies’ with the Nordic countries and states like Canada but categorized in the second level with countries like the US, Japan, and Latvia.39 Thus, one can detect a proud tone of enlightened geopolitical abstinence in the Indian media when its foreign policy writers state that although India is a ‘liberal democracy’, it refrains from the Westerns-style military democracy promotion outside of the nation’s borders.40 This policy can be seen in India having refrained from many recent UN human rights declarations and sanctions, and not taking part in international military interventions.41 This principle is actually one of the rare political stances quite unanimously respected in India regardless of the political party. Even Pankaj Mishra, who is often fiercely critical of Indian foreign 37  Mishra (2012), 34–36; Sidhu et  al. (2013), 6–7; Inkster (2018); see also Chaturvedi (2009), 25. Modi has spoken about his visions, for example, in the World Economic Forum in Davos and to the US Congress in Washington. See for example Government of India (2016); Modi (2018). 38  Sidhu et al. (2013). 39  Helliwell et  al. (2018); World Press Freedom Index (2018); GDP Ranking (2018); Democracy Index 2017 (2018). India is scoring higher than, for example, European countries such as Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. 40  Srinivasan (2017). 41  Wojczewski (2016), 109–111; see also Peetush and Drydyk (2015).



policies, agrees with this one. However, he sees the abstinence laudable for a quite different reason than the Indian media and the foreign policy strategists in India do: Indian ‘democracy’ is in such a bad state that it would not be morally right to enforce it outside of India.42

The Hindu Nationalist India as a Model According to Srinivasan and other critical voices in the Indian media, current Indian politics has been ‘prone to glorify the Indian past and assert the superiority of Indian “spiritual” culture over “materialist” Western civilization’. It has caused Indians to imagine a ‘political unity of the country and an all-India consciousness from the earliest of times’, mixing mythology and history.43 These Hindu nationalist visions are a major ideological battle fought in the political arena, and they reflect strongly in the news media.44 Quite often, promoting Hindu nationalism gathers momentum by criticizing and protesting against various ‘Western influences’ such as shopping, gaming, or Valentine’s Day, or liberal attitudes on sexuality and gender such as public kissing, women entering temples, homosexuality, and so on. Even raping women has been seen as a Western import or caused by the use of Western attire.45 The Hindu nationalist critique of Western culture crystallized in the statement by the Chief Minister of Gujarat. According to him, as Indians have ‘surrendered mentally and politically to Western values’, values ‘rooted in Indian culture and ­tradition’ had to be revitalized.46 Mishra views this sort of anti-Western, nationalist nostalgia as a ‘bizarre lurching between victimhood and chauvinism’. To him, Hindu nationalism stems from the frustration ambitious Indians feel when their demands for higher social status are not met by Westerners.47 The relatively liberal English-language Indian media examined here share some of the viewpoints of Hindu nationalist albeit with a significantly milder overtone. Moreover, the media are quick to criticize what they  Mishra (2012), 49–50.  Srinivasan (2006); see also Vijay (2010); Malik (2017). 44  Alyssa Ayres, a South Asia specialist at the US Council on Foreign Relations, describes the Hindu nationalist project in a positive way, as ‘a quiet but important shift’, signaling that India is ready to describe its own identity and expects the rest of the world to respect its determination. See Ayres (2018), 43. 45  For example, Hindustan Times (2018), The Times of India (2015), Lewis (2009). 46  Vaidya (2017); see also Vinod (2016). 47  Mishra (2017), 265. 42 43



interpret as strong Hindu nationalist agenda and thus eager to call out anything they feel are illiberal nationalistic acts.48 Hindu nationalism is similar to many other right-wing nationalist movements in encouraging economic protectionism, border security, and one national religion.49 In this context, The Times of India, albeit often rather supportive of Modi, calls him rather sarcastically ‘the Hindu nationalist hero’ fighting for ‘an authentic Bharat’ (India’s Sanskrit name) against foreign-educated and cosmopolitan Indians.50 Modi himself is reported claiming that Hindutva is an inclusive ideology which the whole humankind—not just the nation—can relate to, because it treats it as a family. Hence, Modi thinks Hindu nationalism is actually a valuable tool in foreign policy.51 This certainly appeals to Modi’s voter base, but his domestic challenge is to be the prime minister of all Indians.52 The opposition is constantly criticizing his Hindu centrism, and as the political Right is demanding constitutional changes such as the removal of the secularism clause, the opposition is eager to warn Indians how the government ‘will tear the constitution’ and make India ‘a Hindu Pakistan’ if Modi is to win again in the elections of 2019.53 Criticism against Modi’s Hindutva ideology might be exaggerated at times, but since Modi’s election in 2014, Hindu nationalism has been on the rise, and there have been more anti-minority (anti-Muslim and -Christian) sentiment and violence. Critics of Modi have even claimed that this development is in contradiction of India’s foreign policy aspirations to be a stabilizing force in the region.54 However, as Modi’s rhetoric aimed at international audiences takes place in a different realm than the narratives deployed in domestic politics, Modi can apply a more geopolitically pragmatic and Hindu-inspired but not Hindu nationalist narrative for the international audience while his domestic policies can have a more Hindu-­  Hindustan Times (2017a, b), Desai (2015), Viju (2016).  Mandalaparthy (2018). 50  Ghose (2017). 51  See for example the interview by Kuber (2014) entitled after Modi’s claim according to which his ‘Hindutva face will be an asset in foreign affairs’. 52  Adeney (2015), 30. 53  In the words of Congress representative Shashi Tharoor quoted in the interview by The Economic Times (2018); see also Anand (2007), 259. Changing the constitution was also discussed in a wide array of newspaper articles such as Singh, P. (2016c), Ashraf (2017), Puniyani (2018). 54  Mandalaparthy (2018). 48 49



centric stance.55 In other words, Modi brands himself as a liberal cosmopolitan with slightly exotic Indian flavor to the foreign press, and as a conservative reviving Hindu traditions to his domestic followers. In a way, Modi’s Hindutva is thus banalized and Westernized for foreign policy use and Hinduism is harmoniously and almost unnoticeably conflated with India.56 However, Modi’s Hindu nationalism is not merely a rhetorical device. For example, Modi’s Minister of Culture, Mahesh Sharma, appointed a 14-member academic committee to ‘help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history’. Knowing that Mr. Sharma is a dedicated follower of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization behind Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and that the committee is a part of a larger attempt to reinterpret Indian history to prove its ‘Hindu essence’, the project is most likely more ideological than scientific. Sharma was even quoted to say that the new version of Indian history will eventually prove that ‘Indian culture’ existed already 12,000 years ago. The committee was also said to replace the contemporary theory about central Asian populations migrating to the area of present-­day India and mixing with the local populations 3000–4000 years ago. To renew a theory might not be so alarming if the result of the research came after the process, not before it as a given aim.57 Shiv Visvanathan, a professor at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, presented a wider progressive stance in the lead article of The Hindu claiming that the marriage of religion and nationalism in India ‘has led to a decline of the political debate’.58 According to Mishra, India has never been closer to ‘making India a land of the Hindus’. Modi’s neo-­ Hindu devotees and his government move ‘decisively against ostensibly liberal and Westernized Indians’, who are seen as ‘Trojan horses of the West’ to be ‘purged from Indian institutions’.59 Even the Constitution is in danger to be changed to reflect Hindu nationalist Indian values.60 There

 Diwakar (2017), 24.  Jaffrelot (2013), 82–83; Nanda (2011), 139–143; Rao (2018), 171–172. 57  Jain and Lasseter (2018). It should be noted that the majoritarian Hindu nationalism is not exclusive to BJP voters, but a large proportion of Congress voters support it as well. See Nanda (2011), 159. 58  Visvanathan (2016). 59  Mishra (2017), 162. 60  The Times of India (2017); Hindustan Times (2017a, b). 55 56



is a growing sentiment that the secularist influence of the Congress party had, for decades, deteriorated the interests of the Hindu majority in India.61 Hindu nationalism is a powerful and lucrative political tool as it draws on the idea of ‘one religion—one country’ being the solution to unify a country. Moreover, like nationalism elsewhere, Hindutva is fueled by its rejection of foreign influence. According to the ideology, India is potentially rich but because of the reverberating effects of colonial history and national disunity caused by religious, ethnic, and cultural differences, India has remained a third world country. Hindutva sees India as an essentially Hindu culture, and its proponents assume that materializing Hindutva as a political reality would make India powerful, wealthy, and united as well as give it a supreme role in the international arena.62 However, even Hindu nationalists welcome economic growth caused by India taking part in the global liberal order, and they seem to widely accept the logic of the market economy behind it, and thus endorse economic liberalism more or less explicitly. Indian politicians, and especially Modi’s government, reproduce the idea of the future world order as a macro-version of the ideal image of India. The world would be a hotpot of languages and ethnicities, formally secular but encouraging people’s wide range of religiosity. India’s long history of being a diverse society is seen to give India the credibility to be a mediator between the West and the East, and as a model for different countries—democratic and less democratic—in the developing and developed world.63 In a way, this vision is the liberal ideal of multiculturalism, a sort of meta-utopia where a diverse, heterogeneous population can form different groups with their own values, and the role of the government is to uphold the legislative structure designed to allow citizens liberty in economy, ideology, creed, and so on.64 However, this India would have a Hindu-centric default setting, emphasizing ideas that are seen as historically based on Hindu tradition. Such hopes for India’s future role in the world order are tangible in this Denmark-based Indian journalist’s view where the West is applauded for its technical solutions and India for more spiritual qualities: 61  Ayres (2018), 20. See Kailash (2017) for an analysis of the BJP and electoral politics in India. 62  Wojczewski (2016), 181, 202; Chatterjee Miller and Sullivan de Estrada (2017), 36–38. 63  Wojczewski (2016), 146; Tharoor (2007, 2012); Mishra (2012), 40. 64  See for example Nozick (1974).



Whilst living away from India we can see the beauty of our heritage and how it has helped enrich the West with vegetarianism, yoga, Ayurveda, astrology, to name a few. At the same time, we can also appreciate the western way of life, the ease of travel and services [… ]. India is now working hard to improve its living standards, and by using western technology together with its ancient knowledge, there is no doubt that India will soon become the best of both worlds.65

In India one does not have to be a fervent nationalist to think that the ancient Hindu scriptures are applicable in modern times and/or contain ideas and wisdom that were progressive and tolerant even by contemporary standards already millennia ago. Whether it is the Hindu epic Rig Veda’s ‘modern progressive ethical message’,66 early ‘Hindu scientists’ solving the ‘mysteries of the cosmos and mathematics’,67 or Buddha’s ‘proto-democratic values’,68 many Indians believe that not only was ancient India an advanced society but it was even up to par when compared with societies today. It is certainly true that Indians were at some point ahead of the West in science (astronomy, math, medicine), but the nationalist narrative often supported by Indian journalists seems to suggest that even though in many measurable aspects, India is lagging behind the First World, it can use its ‘ancient wisdom’ to ‘revitalize’, and eventually even surpass the ‘decadent West’.69 For Hindutva proponents, Indian society was democratic and pluralistic a long time before the West, and now this latent potential is believed to materialize if Hindu traditions are observed more closely.70 However, there are many, usually progressive and cosmopolitan Indians who shy away from these nationalist historical interpretations, not the least for political reasons as it is Modi’s party and RSS who are the most eager to reproduce them. To Gautam Adhikari, the executive director of The Times of India, this kind of thinking is ‘irrational infantilism’, ‘aggrieved nationalism’, and ‘antiWestern righteousness’.71  Mishra (2016); see also Wojczewski (2016), 181; Nayar and Paul (2003), 3.  Ghose (2015). 67  Vijay (2018); see also Katju (2014a, b). 68  Khobragade (2016). 69  Mishra (2017), 163–165. 70  For example, Viju (2016); see also Vijay (2012); Wojczewski (2016), 208; Ayres (2018), 38. 71  Adhikari (2014). 65 66



In international forums, Modi’s Hindutva ideology has more lenient manifestations. When he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018, he described India as an investment destination for those who want ‘wealth with wellness and peace with prosperity’. He went on to describe how India is ‘selflessly’ helping other countries and has even fought wars without strategic interest. India, according to Modi, is also against climate change, because in Indian culture, Nature is treated as people’s mother. Hence, India is willing to take lead in mitigating the effects of climate change.72 One of Modi’s first international achievements was the International Yoga Day.73 According to him, yoga is ‘India’s gift to the world’ and ‘one of the most precious gifts given by the ancient Indian sages to humankind’ as the ‘world could be united through yoga’. To Modi, yoga represents India’s growing soft power.74 Promoting yoga goes well with Modi’s Hindu-centric rhetoric of India as the ‘World Guru’ and India as ‘destined to work for the welfare of the world’.75 In the same vein, Ramgopal Agarwal, the author of India 2050: A Roadmap to Sustainable Prosperity, estimates rather optimistically that in 10–20 years in a ‘post-western economic world’, there will be a shift from ‘conflict/violence mode to harmony/nonviolence mode’. According to Agarwala, ‘western civilization has conflict at its core’, and this conflict happens in many fronts such as between different nations, religion and science, labor and capital, men and women, humans and nature. In contrast, he claims, ‘Asian civilizations have been guided by the principle of underlying harmony behind apparent conflicts’.76 Apparently, in this ideal version of democracy there would be no need for interest groups negotiating—sometimes even fiercely—on common resources. As harmonious and promising as this may be to many, it is also a vision that does against the grain of perhaps a more Western idea of democracy where interest groups debate about social issues whereas harmony connotes something totalitarian like uncritical obedience or forced submission. In the nationalist narratives promoting India as a model to the world, ‘Western’ technology, statecraft, and science are embraced but somehow  Modi (2018).  Chatterjee Miller and Sullivan de Estrada (2017), 43. 74  Madan (2018); see also Ayres (2018), 62. 75  Modi’s (2014a) Independence Day speech on 15.8.2014 transcribed by The Indian Express. 76  Agarwala (2014), 214–215. See also Matti Puranen’s chapter in this book. Puranen shows how also the Chinese portray the West as a society of conflict. 72 73



merged with ‘eastern’ culture, morality, and spirituality, resulting in a superior combination producing ‘a healthier, happier, and more purposeful life than what the western civilization has produced so far’.77 According to Meera Nanda, India is becoming more Hindu as it globalizes, and Hindu nationalists celebrate an India that is ‘barely a couple of decades away from becoming the Number One in everything from IT, science, […] technology, higher education, medicine, economy, culture, and of course spirituality’.78 Perhaps it is too obvious to mention that the narratives about the spiritual and harmonious Indian spirit ignore many shadowy sides of India’s history and contemporary social problems in caste, gender, human rights, and health. Plenty of articles examined here contrast the nationalist romanticism with India’s problems. As The Times of India article noted, nationalists see: no inconsistency of these aspirations vis-à-vis keeping the country carpeted with garbage and filth. What is more, we see no irony in our posturing before the world as a representative of a morally superior culture. We see no ignominy in accepting the state of our towns and cities, perennially tottering on the verge of epidemics. Our tolerance towards using the streets as toilets goes to show that we see little shame in accepting that people can live without basic dignity.79

Indeed, in India, over 20% of the population still lives below the extreme poverty line. Most people in rural areas do not have toilets, pollution is a serious problem, and there is a lack of safe drinking water. Urban infrastructure is struggling to adapt to the influx of migrants from rural areas, and jobs are scarce for young people. The IT industry might be promising, but its domestic manufacturing is weak. Corruption is sapping growth, there is lack of transparency, the democratic structures are weak, and although the poor are the biggest voter group in India, they are ill-informed and vote for short-term benefits, if not for plain cash.80 Nevertheless, Hindu nationalists either fail to acknowledge the discrepancy between their view of model India and the existing social problems, or trust that they are due to national disunity which should not obscure the fact that India, in essence, is a tolerant, pluralist, and  Agarwala (2014), 215.  Nanda (2011), 154–146. 79  Raghunathan (2010); see also Srinivasan (2017). 80  Alam (2017), 287–288; Ayres (2018), 19; Gordon (2014), 207–208; Jouhki (2017). 77 78



pacifist nation, with morally advanced agency in global affairs as well.81 Quite accurately, Nanda refers to a study pointing out that Indians rank number one in the world in thinking they are number one in the world. She also notes that Hindutva is also supported by ‘Western Indophiles’ and scholars who are ‘critical of their own societies and looking at India to find options’. It is indeed common to observe Westerners and Hindu nationalist Indians together celebrating India as an essentially nonviolent society because of Gandhi and ahimsa, and a democratic state as per its ‘ancient Hindu essence’, or applauding India being so ‘tolerant in nature’ as its population comprises so many religions and ethnicities.82 In a way, India is struggling with the dualism of its grand narratives, a pacifist, enlightened India ready to prosper and take lead, and a nuclear military power in internal social conflict struggling to secure the basic needs of a major part of its heterogenous population. Nevertheless, there is no denying that India today is confident to take part and not simply react to global politics. For example, in climate negotiations, India has moved up to the group of agenda-setting states in the global climate change negotiations.83 India is also using its economic power to develop militarily, and it has even sent probes to the moon and Mars—at a very low cost compared to Western space agencies.84 But for India to be a world model, there is a long way to go. It is evident that India’s sages, yogis, and freedom fighters have inspired countless of people around the world.85 However, they do not add up to a very significant global impact, as much as Hindu nationalists would hope them to do so.86

India Will Not Change the Liberal World Order Scholars in India see the emerging world order of the twenty-first century as multipolar, tripolar (India, China, and the US), apolar/nonpolar, or even bipolar with India and China in charge. Some envision a ‘multiplex’  Wojczewski (2016), 167.  Nanda (2011), 151–156. 83  Ayres (2017); see also Narlikar (2017), 102–105; Chaturvedi (2009), 15. 84  Ayres (2017). 85  Modi (2011, 2014b); Alam (2017), 287; Mishra (2017), 120. 86  See for example Stuenkel (2016), 66–67; Sullivan (2015). 81




order where power is distributed among many political entity networks on various levels.87 Many politicians in India are enthusiastically predicting a post-American or post-Western global order and India in it as a ‘great power’, even a ‘super power’ or at least a regional hegemon. Some among the more liberal-minded commentators also lament India’s old ‘mistakes’ of not joining ‘the Democracies’, ‘the Free World’, or ‘the First World’ earlier when the West wanted it to adopt market economy, be a part of global institutions, fight communism, and promote democracy. In this narrative, India could have become the first ‘non-Western, liberal democratic, great power’ but it chose the costly path of nonalignment. The lesson of this interpretation of history is that if India will play by the norms of the liberal world order, it will become a ‘great power’ similar to the US very soon. However, it seems that India becoming a great power has for a long time been about to happen ‘very soon’ making it a perpetually impending, almost metaphysical idea.88 On the other hand, there are views according to which the West’s liberalism has created its own crisis, so India should not take example from the West anyway. ‘Liberal’ is also a concept that allows multiple interpretations, most of them with negative connotations in India. For example, the old colonial powers are interpreted as being essentially liberal, and in that context, liberalism means oppression.89 Liberalism also connotes individualistic values that lead to excessive freedoms such as promiscuity, abandoning of traditions, and anti-collectivist action endangering conservatism. Interestingly, communism which is viewed as illiberal in the West is viewed as a liberal ideology in India, because communists criticize all sorts of conservative phenomena such as caste ideology and arranged marriage. Moreover, as liberalism is almost always accompanied with the image of a morally dubious West, it is a value that the conservative majority of India is vigorously against. Because of this connotative baggage, it is a concept often avoided even among its endorsers in India.90 In practice, liberalism in India materializes particularly in international trade and domestic economic policies rather than in liberalizing the traditional values of the people. India is poor, and to get wealthier, it needs to create jobs. The more liberal its financial regulations become, the easier it  Buraga (2016), 5813–5814; Stuenkel (2016); Acharya (2017), 1; Acharya (2014).  Mishra (2013), 70–71. 89  Ayres (2017). 90  Madan and Friedrich (2017); Mishra (2012), 40. Subrata K. says there is a “bumpy cohabitation of Hindu nationalism and India’s liberal democracy”. See Mitra (2016), 100; also Srinivasan (2017); Mishra (2012), 41. 87 88



is to do business in India, and the more employment is likely to emerge. India has indeed increased its position in global trade quite significantly, and most major corporations in the world have businesses in India. Yet, many feel India’s economic boom has not resonated enough in its global status. Like many emerging countries, India also remains wary of ‘Western dominance’ in international organizations and is prone to counter that power and the related moral authority through organizations such as BRICS, and by demanding membership in the G7 or UN Security Council.91 In BRICS, India is certainly taking part in some diffusion and decentralization of global power, but the world seems to remain stubbornly (neo)liberal, and Western-centric, particularly in terms of finance and military hegemony.92 As Stuenkel notes, ‘emerging powers agree with fundamental issues such as international institutions, cooperative security, democratic community, collective problem solving, shared sovereignty, and the rule of law’ because ‘it was this rules-based and relatively open order that significantly contributed to their phenomenal economic rise over the past sixty years’.93 Hence, India’s counter-hegemonic actions remain mostly on a rather symbolic level as it has no Asian alternative to the ‘Western-dominated values-based liberal system’.94 In fact, the Indian government has been known for wanting to take part in preserving, strengthening, and only slightly reforming the existing global institutions, and accommodating itself within them with a higher status it feels it has deserved.95 Both India and China might talk about ‘changing the rules of the game’, but it certainly does not mean rejecting the growth-oriented market economy.96 Actually, instead of hoping that India will change the world order, many Indians fear that their country will be shunned by the new populist and protectionist Western order parting from global liberal ideals. In the media, India is often portrayed as convincing the world of its importance in world politics by referring to its population and area size, its 91  Alam (2017), 287; Wojczewksi (2016), 9, 142–143; Ayres (2018), 7–11; Gordon (2014), 207; Sinha (2016), 2. 92  Juutinen (2017); Stuenkel (2016), 21–22, 63–65; Mishra (2013); see also Jaffrelot and Sidhu (2013), 334; Kurečić and Bandov (2011). 93  Stuenkel (2016), 184. 94  Srinivasan (2017). 95  Even President Obama stated that India is ‘taking its rightful place in Asia and on the global stage’. Mishra (2013), 82 citing an article by Rahi Gaikwad in The Hindu in November 7, 2010; Sidhu et al. (2013), 9; see also Shahi (2014), 18. 96  Käkönen (2013); Stuenkel (2016), 198.



material resources, significant geopolitical location, and the strong civilizational heritage predating Western achievements. Hindu nationalism takes these commonly shared ideas further. In its narrative, India is morally and spiritually superior, and its Hindu values will eventually spread out to the world. They will compensate for—if not replace—Western values that are seen overly rational, materialistic, and even destructive. In this respect, Hindu nationalism does not differ from any other nation’s rhetorical self-confidence. It produces a consistent and revered history with a traceable origin of its ‘people’, and outsiders whose influence needs to be mitigated if not rejected. It imagines an unbroken chain of national tradition and reproduces a myth of a unified collective of superior people that ‘conceals that nations are inherently fluid and contentious entities’.97 However, India cannot shake off the West from its self-image however self-reliant or Hindu nationalist its narratives are. According to Mishra, India understands itself ‘through the eyes of the West’. There are institutional spaces such as think tanks, learned societies, initiatives, and conferences in the West that guide India to see itself as a potentially great power, and address its shortcomings, and prospects ‘on its great power trajectory’. Applying what I would call a neo-Saidian critical view, Mishra sees all the policy papers, books, and popular articles aiming at ‘truly understanding India’ to serve the global liberal economy that regards Indian past ‘as a deficit period’ that should be ‘swiftly compensated by efforts of its business leaders, young entrepreneurs and new strategists’.98 Hindu-­ centric nationalism is certainly worth worrying about among the ­non-­Hindu minorities in India, but it is of little concern to the world order because, as The Diplomat observes, ‘[e]ven with the most ardent Hindu nationalist prime minister in office, Indian foreign policy will be driven by economic growth and preserving national security’.99 It seems that, at the moment, India is rather happy to be in the company of Western nations. In that sense, the ‘crisis’ of the West does not seem that critical from the Indian viewpoint. It looks more like a temporary recession of hegemony—even a branding glitch—or, at most, a slight power downgrade not significant enough to cause the West (namely, the US) to lose its global power position. When looking for solid clues of a 97  Wojczewski (2016), 162, 239; see also Nayar and Paul (2003), 3, 9–11; Anderson (2006). 98  Mishra (2013), 29, 78–79. 99  Panda (2014).



downturn—let alone a civilizational collapse—in the Indian media, there are none despite all the dramatic warnings that in the end seem more like gleeful anecdotes of the embarrassing troubles of the old colonial West than verification of its actual downfall.

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NUMBERS AND SYMBOLS 9/11, see Terror attack 1800s, 101, 117 A Aaltola, Mika, 241 Abu Ghraib, 167 Acharya, Amitav, 42, 44, 213 Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP), 13, 263–265, 270, 277–282, 284, 285 Address to the Nation, 248 Adenauer, Konrad, 182 Adhikari, Gautam, 346, 356 Afghanistan, 240, 251n68 Africa, 177, 278 Agarwal, Ramgopal, 357 Ahimsa, 359 Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud, 164 Ahrar al-Sham, 280 AIDES, 160

AIDS, 159, 168, 170 Akhmatova, Anna, 297 Alam, Faisal, 165, 167 Al-Faitha, 165 Algiers, 163 Allison, Graham T., 42, 112, 219 All-Russian Eurasia Movement, 291 Al-Qaeda, 155, 280 Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), 176, 187, 188, 190, 192–194 Alt-Right (also Far-Right, New Right) International New Right, 12, 294–296, 309 New Right in Germany, 175–195, 192n65 Nouvelle Droite, 186, 292, 294 Amri, Anis, 175, 187 Anderson, Benedict, 70, 265 Anton, Michael, 203, 205 Arabs, 154, 156, 165, 167 Arctic, the, 299 Arktos Media, 295

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2020 M. Lehti et al. (eds.), Contestations of Liberal Order,




Asia, 47, 63, 72, 127 Asian civilizations, 357 al-Assad, Bashar, 250, 251, 255 Astrology, 356 Atlantic alliance, 108, 109, 211 Atlanticism, 45, 292, 295 Ayurveda, 356 B Bäckman, Johan, 295 Bannon, Steve, 204, 205, 296 Barbarians, 36, 68, 155, 161, 321 Barnett, Michael, 130, 239, 240 Bauman, Zygmunt, 299 Bawer, Bruce, 157 Beinart, Peter, 206 Belloni, Roberto, 237, 240 Berggruen Institute, 201 Berlin, 175–178, 181–183, 185, 186, 190–193 Berlin, Isaiah, 129 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 354 Bible, the, 193 Biden, Joe, 211–213, 217, 223 Bollywood, 344 Bolshevism, 291, 301 Bouchet, Christian, 294 Brazil, 74, 282 Breitscheidplatz, 175, 183 Brexit, 9, 75, 113, 343, 347, 349 BRICS, 361 Britain, see United Kingdom (UK) British Parliament, 251, 251n68 Brooks, David, 212 Budapest, 295 Bulaç, Ali, 272 Burka, 187 Burke, Kenneth, 103 Bush, George H. W., 129, 155, 307 Bush, George W., 25, 39, 109, 207, 208, 211, 214, 217, 223 Bush, Laura, 162

C Cairo University, 207 Callahan, William, 324 Çamlı, Ahmet Hamdi, 271 Canada, 211, 351 Capitalism, 6, 24, 30, 38, 42, 44, 77, 101, 300, 349 Catalonia, 181 Categorisations of freedom, 124, 130, 131, 145 Chaudoin, Stephen, 222 Chemical weapons, 237, 250–253, 251n68, 255 Chenu, Sébastien, 161 China central kingdom, 321 Communist Party of, 316 People’s Republic of, 322 Republic of, 322 as a threat, 219 Chow, Rey, 167 Christianity, 166, 192–195, 299, 334, 335 Church of England, 166 Civilization civilizational crisis, 347, 349 civilizational heritage, 6, 206, 362 civilizational identity, 69, 70, 263–285 clash of, 64, 76, 85, 106, 109, 152, 192, 204, 209, 307, 327, 336 Islamic, 271, 272, 275, 282, 284, 285 Class struggle, 186, 300, 317 Climate change, 48, 72, 248, 324, 351, 357, 359 Clinton, Hilary, 157, 168 Clunan, Anne L., 289 Cold War, 6, 21, 25, 31, 64, 65, 67, 72, 101, 102, 106–109, 112, 116, 125–127, 141n67, 185, 204, 212, 223, 233, 234, 239–241, 279, 299, 307, 327


Collinson, Stephen, 212 Colonialism, 6, 35, 62–63, 67, 101, 103, 239, 347, 350 Communism, 64, 111, 126, 129, 299, 305n56, 307, 317, 318, 360 Communitarianism, 273, 276, 300 Community of values, 124–128, 179, 182, 207 Confucianism, 316, 318, 323 Congress (USA), 202, 203, 212, 217, 221, 252 Congress Party, 48, 155, 202, 203, 212, 217, 221, 252, 355 Consensual, 145 Consensual community of values, 124–128 Consensual hegemony, 21–29, 124 Conservative revolution, 190, 290, 291, 294, 296, 303–305, 309 Constantinople, 106 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), 201, 211, 216 Crimea, 212, 293 Cultural Marxism, 207 Culture, 4, 6, 38, 48, 64, 67, 68, 70, 76, 79, 111, 136, 155, 167, 176, 184, 190–192, 194, 195, 204, 206–208, 210, 223, 269, 271, 276, 300, 319, 323, 325, 329, 335, 352, 358 D Dasein, 129, 304 Davos, 211–213, 351n37, 357 Davutoğlu, Ahmet, 274, 275, 280 de Benoist, Alain, 292, 294 Deash, see Islamism Declininism, 224 Defert, Daniel, 160 Democracy, 2, 4, 6, 7, 13, 24, 30, 32, 33, 37, 39, 42–44, 47, 73–75, 77–80, 103, 110, 112,


114, 125, 127, 131, 136, 139, 155, 159, 169–171, 176, 179, 180, 182, 186, 189, 207, 210, 212–214, 217–219, 233, 234, 263, 264, 270, 273, 276, 277, 282, 289, 299, 301, 315, 316, 335, 344, 346–348, 351, 352, 357, 360 Democratic Party (Demokrat Partisi, Turkey), 269 Deo, Neelan, 347 Derrida, Jacques, 107 Diplomacy, 115, 321 Diversity, 10, 30, 38, 48, 152, 155, 157, 163, 168, 264, 296, 309, 320, 334 Dueck, Colin, 277 Duggan, Lisa, 157 Dugin, Aleksandr, 11, 290–309 Duma, 292 Advisory Council on National Security, 292 Duvall, Barnett, 130 Duyvendak, J. K., 159 E East, 12, 34, 64, 151, 153, 154, 170, 171, 179, 307, 325, 350, 355 East Asia, 79 East/West, 151 Economic Times, The, 345, 348 EEC, 129 Egypt, 163, 165 El-Rouayheb, Khaled, 163 Emancipation, 132, 160, 270, 272, 277, 300 Emperor Qianlong, 332 Enlightenment, 6, 8, 36, 62, 67, 71, 101, 176, 218, 238, 239, 300–302, 308 German Counter-Enlightenment, 298



Equality, 7, 31, 37, 44, 131, 140, 152, 169, 170, 189, 208, 210, 234, 299, 331, 349 Erandaç, Bülent, 278 Erbakan, Necmettin, 270, 274 Erdoğan, Recep, 270, 272, 273, 275, 276, 278–281, 295 Erlanger, Steven, 110 Ethnofundamentalism, 350 Ethnopluralism, 190, 194, 195 EU, see European Union Eurasianism Eurasian Union, 298 neo-Eurasianism, 295, 297–299 Europe, 1, 3, 4, 6, 12, 30, 31, 34, 44, 63, 65, 75–77, 79, 102, 104– 108, 110–115, 123, 125, 127, 129, 133, 134, 138, 142, 145, 155, 163, 165, 169, 178, 182, 184, 185, 188, 189, 191, 195, 207, 210, 278, 297, 305–307, 325, 329 mediaeval, 154, 164, 169 European Center for Geopolitical Analysis (ECAG), 295 European Commission, 125 European Consensus on Development, The, 132, 139 European Council, 45, 132 European foreign-policy, 123 European Union (EU), 1, 51, 74, 105, 106, 110, 114, 124, 126n9, 127–129, 132, 133, 137–140, 138n54, 143–145, 187, 188, 204, 264, 278, 329, 346 EU’s Global Strategy, 137 European West, 113, 117 Evola, Julius, 291, 292, 300, 301 F Facebook, 188, 192 Faith and Freedom Coalition, 137

Far Right, see Alt-Right Fascism, 126, 183, 185, 195, 299, 300, 304, 305n56, 309 Fassin, Éric, 160 Feddersen, Jan, 185 Feng, Zhang, 316 First Amendment, 128 Fischer, Joschka, 114 Folk devil, 168 Ford Foundation, 319 Fortuyn, Pim, 160 Foucault, Michel, 160 Fourth political theory, the, 290, 299–302, 304, 309 France, 64, 109, 113, 137, 160, 161, 181, 188, 194, 251, 276, 294 Frankfurt School, 207 Freedom of choice, 125 negative, 129 of peaceful assembly, 128 positive, 129, 135, 137, 139, 141 of press, 128, 351 of religion, 1, 128, 155 Free markets, 1, 24, 44, 217, 346 Free world, 112, 191, 360 French, David, 208 French values, 181 Friberg, Daniel, 295 Frum, David, 205 Fukuyama, Francis, 35, 155, 233, 235, 254, 300, 307 Fulbright Foundation, 319 G G7, 202, 211, 212, 361 G8, 212 Gandhi, Mahatma, 359 Gauck, Joachim, 177–179, 181, 182, 185, 191, 194 Gauland, Alexander, 193 Gazi, Osman, 275


Gender, 19, 70, 140, 158, 164, 237, 349, 352, 358 equality, 152, 169, 170, 189, 349 Geneva Conventions, 238 Germany, 12, 64, 110, 114, 154, 156, 169, 175, 177–179, 181–183, 185–188, 190, 191, 192n65, 193–195, 219, 294, 295, 301, 305, 306, 325 Ghouta attack, 250–254 Global governance, 68, 123, 136, 144, 235, 238, 240–242 Global order, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 21, 25, 26, 31, 34, 79, 84, 85, 91, 92, 143, 144, 212, 242, 253, 256, 289–309, 327, 360 Global Strategy of 2016, The, 132 God, 110, 187, 204, 208, 252, 321, 335 Gökalp, Ziya, 269 Golden Dawn, 295 Golovin, Yevgeniy, 291 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 292, 298 Greece, 6, 101, 294, 295 Greek civilization, 19, 83, 113, 165 Griffin, Roger, 296 Groupement de Recherche et d’Études pour la Civilisation Européenne (GRECE, Research and Study Group for European Civilization), 294 Guénon, René, 291, 292, 301 Gülen, Fethullah, 274 Gumilyov, Lev, 297 H Habermas, Jürgen, 82, 86, 107, 301 Han dynasty, 324, 328 Haushofer, Karl, 298, 299 Heaven, 317, 320–323, 328, 330, 331, 334, 337


Hegemony, 8, 10, 11, 63, 72, 100, 103, 115–118, 145, 212, 224, 290, 292, 296, 299, 305–308, 323 Hegemonic Stability Theory, 18, 22, 29, 49 Heidegger, Martin, 290, 292, 296, 301, 303–307, 305n56, 308n69, 309 Himalayas, the, 298–299 Hinduism Hindu nationalism, 13, 343–363 Hindutva, 345, 353–357, 359 neo-Hinduism, 354 traditions, 13 Hindu nationalism, 13, 343–363 Hindustan Times, 345, 345n8 Hindutva, see Hindu nationalism Hindu, The, 345, 345n8, 354 Hitler, Adolf, 185, 302, 305, 306, 308n69 Hobbesian law of jungle, 333 hoca, Erbakan, 271 Höcke, Björn, 192, 193 Hollande, François, 180, 181 Homosexuality gay marriage; gay pride, 151; gay rights, 152, 157, 158, 160, 162, 165, 168–170; homonationalism, 158–162; homonormativity, 157; homophobia, 156, 158, 160, 165, 169; Islam, 159–162; lesbians, 157, 159; queer, 153, 156, 157, 164; queer patriarchy, 157 Hong, Sheng, 322, 324, 327, 328, 328n52 Hopf, Ted, 284 Houses of Parliament, 208 Huipeng, Shang, 331 Human dignity, 142, 208–210



Human rights Human Rights Watch, 164 universal, 51, 184, 238 Humanitarianism humanitarian world politics, 234, 237–243, 246 imperial humanitarianism, 239 Huntington, Samuel, 64, 67, 69, 70, 102, 152, 192, 204, 208, 290, 305–308, 327, 336 I Identity, 2, 5, 8–10, 12, 13, 100, 107, 114, 115, 124, 127, 128, 131–133, 136, 138, 140, 144, 154, 156, 158–160, 162, 164, 165, 178, 182, 188, 194, 195, 204, 223, 249, 263–285, 290, 297, 301, 306–308, 318, 319, 322, 325, 336, 344 Ikenberry, G. John, 19, 24, 25, 33, 40, 41, 73, 75, 80, 211, 235, 241, 282 Imagined community, 70, 71, 265 India exotic, 344, 354 foreign policy, 344, 351–353, 362 Indian culture, 352, 354, 357 Indian values, 354 International Yoga Day, 357 Indian Express, The, 345 Iran, 137, 154, 163–165, 214 Nuclear Deal, 136 Iraq, 39, 74, 104, 127, 167, 240, 251n68, 281 War, 3, 65, 105, 106, 167 Iron Curtain, 179 ISIS, 161 Islam and homosexuality, 12, 151–171 Islamophobia, 275 Muslim countries, 189

Muslim nationalism, 267 Muslims, 69, 76, 152–154, 156, 158, 159, 163, 164, 166–170, 176, 186, 188, 189, 192, 194, 195, 267, 268n12, 271, 275, 280 Muslim Test, 168, 169 queer Muslims, 165, 168 Islamism extremism, 180 Islamic State (Daesh), 175, 280, 281 Jihad, 189 Muslim Brotherhood, 280 Italy, 109, 169, 294, 295 J Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus, 64, 67, 103, 104, 109, 110, 209, 223, 325 Japan, 35, 71, 219, 308n69, 321, 350, 351 Jervis, Robert, 221 Jesus, 193 Jinping, Xi, 316, 318, 319, 323, 337 Jintao, Hu, 318, 336 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), 136, 220 Juncker, Jean-Claude, 132, 134 Jung, Edgar Julius, 301, 302 Jünger, Ernst, 296, 301 K Kagan, Robert, 17–20, 33, 49, 65, 80, 105, 106, 115, 214, 221n89, 234n2, 235 Kant, Immanuel, 36, 37, 115, 333 Kazakhstan, 278, 298 Kemal, Mustafa (Atatürk), 268, 269 Kemalism, 269, 276 Keohane, Robert, 9, 22, 75, 224


Khan Shaykhun, 250, 253 Kindleberger Trap, 217 King George III, 332 Kinkel, Klaus, 182 Kısakürek, Necip Fazıl, 271, 272 Kjellén, Rudolf, 298 Klages, Ludwig, 301 Korea/Koreas, 214, 321 North, 214 Kotzias, Nikos, 295 Krastev, Ivan, 112, 114, 115, 205, 206 Kubitschek, Götz, 193 Kupchan, Charles A., 77–81, 91, 105, 106, 109, 115 Kurds, 281 L Larik, Joris, 139 Laruelle, Marlène, 293, 294 Latvia, 351 Lausanne Treaty, 279 Law and Justice party (PiS), 204 Le Pen, Jean Marine, 161 Le Pen, Marine, 109, 171 Leadership, 11, 18, 19, 21, 24–26, 33, 45–47, 91, 125, 132, 202, 211, 216–224, 246, 248, 249, 255, 264, 270, 271, 273, 274, 278, 280, 281, 284, 309, 316, 318, 320, 323, 328, 330, 337, 348 Left-wing, 185, 191, 195, 269, 295 Legalism, 316 Legislation, 221 Leningrad State University, 297 Leonhardt, David, 212 Leviathan, 125 LGBT, 156, 159, 160, 170 Liberalism of fear, 125, 134, 143, 144 liberal internationalism, 5, 9, 21, 33, 34, 37, 40, 48, 50–52, 73, 77, 116, 216, 218, 242, 244–246, 252, 254, 257


liberal international order, 3, 9–11, 13, 17–19, 23, 25, 26, 29, 31–33, 40–42, 44–51, 53, 61, 62, 73, 75, 77, 78, 80, 90, 128, 141, 141n67, 202, 211–217, 220, 222, 224, 265, 277, 282, 285, 289, 315, 320, 324, 327, 337 liberal society, 30, 184, 241 neoliberalism, 22 political, 100, 263–265, 267, 270, 277, 282 Liberty Medal Award Ceremony, 217 Limonov, Eduard, 291 Linker, Damon, 207 Locke, John, 132, 152 Löfven, Stefan, 180 M Macartney, George, 332 Mackinder, Halford, 298, 299 Mahathir Mohamad, 154 Maier, Charles, S., 124 Malaysia, 154 Mamleev, Yuri, 291 Manisalı, Erol, 276 Maoism, 318 Maréchal-Le Pen, Marion, 188 Marriage equality, 152 same-sex, 152 Marx, Karl, 185, 306 Marxism, 300, 304 Marxist-Leninist doctrine, 315 Materialism, 65, 296, 300, 302 Matthew (apostle), 193 May, Theresa, 179–181 Mayer, Hartmut, 128 McCain, John, 213, 217, 223 McClintock, Anne, 166 McMaster, H. R., 203, 204, 210 Mead, Walter Russel, 107 Mehmed the Conqueror, 275



Merchant, Mihaz, 348 Merkel, Angela, 110, 111, 113, 132, 134, 134–135n42, 177–179, 181, 182, 185, 188, 191, 193, 194 Metaphysics, 303 Middle East, 154, 163, 166, 177, 188, 269, 276, 279–281 Migrants, 74, 76, 160, 189, 248, 249, 358 Migration, 140, 188, 193, 234, 248–250 Military intervention, 44, 234, 237, 239–241, 250, 251, 255, 256, 348, 351 Mill, John Stuart, 132, 152, 155 Miller, Stephen, 204 Milli Görüş movement, 270, 271 Ming dynasty, 324 Minkmar, Nils, 184 Mishra, Pankaj, 344, 349, 351, 352, 354, 362 Missionaries, 186, 334, 348 Modernity, 8, 13, 34, 35, 63, 64, 68, 69, 71–73, 78–82, 86, 88, 91, 152, 153, 155–160, 163, 166, 169, 170, 268, 270, 275, 282, 283, 290, 299–305, 305n56, 307, 317 modern West, 6, 8, 63, 64, 100, 103, 109–111, 155, 169 Modi, Narendra, 344, 345, 345n8, 349–351, 353–357 Mogherini, Federica, 132, 133, 140 Moisi, Dominique, 104, 106, 107 Mongols, 297, 298 Moravcsik, Andrew, 104 Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi, ANAP), 269, 274 Müller, Michael, 177–179, 182, 185, 191, 194 Multiculturalism, 189, 191, 206, 209, 355

Multilateralism, 24, 33, 34, 45, 49, 109, 133, 134, 220, 222, 236, 346 Multipolarity, 25, 278, 305–309 Munich Security Conference, 46, 210, 213 Munier, Dietmar, 295 Mutti, Cladio, 295 Myrdal, Gunnar, 128–129 N Nadine Dorries, 151 Najimabadi, Afsaneh, 164 Nanda, Meera, 358, 359 Nast, Heidi, 157 National Bolshevik Party, 291 Nationalism Hindu nationalism, 343–363; secular nationalism, 77, 267; white nationalists, 206, 296 National Rally, 160, 161 National Security Strategy (NSS), 132, 135n44, 141, 142, 203, 214, 243–250, 255 National Socialism, 305n56, 306, 309 NATO, 6, 102, 107, 115, 116, 204, 212, 234, 248, 278 Article 5, 212 Naumann, Friedrich, 298 Nazarbayev, Nursultan, 298 Nazaryan, Alexander, 205 Nazism, 297, 301, 305n56 Neoliberalism, see Liberalism, neoliberalism Netherlands, 159–161 Neues Deutschland (ND), 186, 195 New Left, 294 New Right, see Alt-Right Niekisch, Ernst, 291 Niekisch, Hans Freyer, 301, 302 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 296, 303, 306 Niquet, Valerie, 318


Non-domination, 130, 131, 133, 135, 137, 141, 144 Non-interference, 129, 130, 135–137, 144 Nordic countries, 295, 351 Norrlof, Carla, 23, 90n105, 222 Nuclear weapons, 20, 329 O Obama, Barack, 108, 109, 132, 133, 135–137, 135n44, 141, 141n67, 207, 208, 214, 219, 221n89, 223, 236, 237, 243–250, 255 Occidentalism, 325–327, 344, 345 Ochsenreiter, Manuel, 295 O’Hagan, Jacinta, 7, 202, 264 One Belt One Road, 350 Open society, 12, 75, 175–195, 213 Orbán, Viktor, 2, 76, 189 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, 168 Orient, 151, 153, 154, 156, 163, 167, 170, 322, 344 Ottoman Empire, 36, 268, 269, 269n14 OutRage, 165 Özal, Turgut, 279 Özdemir, Cem, 182 Özdenören, Rasim, 272 Özel, İsmet, 272 P Pagans, 334, 335 Panarin, Aleksandr, 298 Pan-Slavists, 297 Paradise, 334 Paris Agreement, 136, 137, 220 Parmar, Inderjeet, 40, 44–46, 75, 84, 242, 244, 245 Patrick, Stewart, 201, 211, 212


Peace, 5, 11, 69, 78, 86, 102, 105, 107, 115, 129, 136, 140, 183, 212, 214, 217, 243, 246, 253, 321, 328, 336, 357 PEGIDA, 176 Pence, Mike, 170 Peterson, John, 43, 216 Philpott, Florian, 161 Piskorski, Mateusz, 295 Poland, 109–112, 115, 203, 204, 207, 295 Political West, 100–102, 111, 115, 116, 118, 179 Popper, Karl, 184, 185, 190, 191, 194, 195 Populism, 3, 9, 90, 248, 249, 343, 347, 350 Posen, Barry R., 116 Postmetaphysical thinking, 304 Post-modern, 304 Post-Soviet era, 298 Prague Linguistic Circle, 297 Pretzell, Marcus, 187–190, 192 Prophet Muhammed, 272, 275 Puar, Jasbir, 156, 158, 167 Putin, Vladimir, 46, 293–295, 298 Q Qing dynasty, 324, 325 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), 132 Quebec, 202 Queen Elizabeth II, 166 R Racism, 76, 157, 190, 300, 305n56, 309 Radical conservatism, 290, 291, 299–303



Rajoy, Mariano, 181 Raping, 164, 352 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), 354, 356 Rationalism, 124–128, 133, 277, 302 scientific, 277 Ratzel, Friedrich, 298 Rawls, John, 277 Reagan, Ronald, 126, 129, 168, 214 Realism, 21, 124, 133, 209, 210, 316, 319 Red Cross, 238 Refugees, 74, 76, 85, 179, 187, 188, 248, 343 Religion, 63, 67, 131, 135, 140, 161, 166, 180, 189, 191, 205, 206, 237, 268n12, 271, 301, 323, 334, 353–355, 357, 359 Resilience, 11, 20, 26, 28, 41–50, 53, 138–143, 233–257 Responsibility to Protect principle (R2P), 234 Rig Veda, 356 Rockefeller Foundation, 319 Röhm, Ernst, 162 Romanova, Tatiana, 289 Rome, 6, 101, 106, 329 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 129 R Street Institute, 205 Rumsfeld, Donald, 127 Russia intelligence service, 295 military, 292 S Sarkozy, Nicolas, 113, 160 Saudi Arabia, 39 Schäuble, Wolfgang, 182 Schmitt, Carl, 193, 290, 292, 296, 301, 305–308, 335 Schwartz, Benjamin, 321 Secularism, 268, 272, 276, 277, 284, 353

Security, 2, 6, 10, 12, 33, 99, 102, 105, 108, 111, 113, 115, 116, 124–129, 132, 133, 136, 139, 142, 144, 182, 204, 209, 211, 212, 214, 217, 218, 233, 234, 240, 241, 243, 245, 248, 249, 252, 253, 255, 279, 295, 323, 331, 350, 353, 361, 362 Seleznyov, Gennadiy, 292 Sexuality, 151, 153, 154, 157, 158, 162–164, 352 Sharma, Mahesh, 354 Shayrat strike, 250–254 Shklar, Judith, 125 Sinocentrism, 11, 321 Skinner, Quentin, 327 Social Darwinism, 329 Socialism, 1, 317, 318 Social pluralism, 289 Soft power, 25, 217, 337, 344, 357 Sonderweg, 183, 195 Son of Heaven, The, 321, 331, 332, 334 SOS Homophobie, 160 Southern, Richard, 169 Soviet Union, 106, 220, 279, 290, 297, 305, 306, 308n69, 325 Spain, 169, 181, 294 Spann, Othmar, 301 Spencer, Richard, 296 Spengler, Oswald, 64, 67, 301 Spiritualism, 65, 271, 297, 300, 303, 306, 308, 326, 344, 352, 355, 358 Stalinism, 297 Staniland, Paul, 44, 245, 282 Star Wars, 335 State of the Union speech, 134 Stein, Philip, 193 Steuckers, Robert, 294 Stock market crash, 114 Stuckey, Mary, 222 Stuenkel, Oliver, 350n32, 361 Suez crisis, 126 Sultan Abdülhamid II, 268, 272


Sustainable Development Goals, 139 Sweden, 180 Syria, 39, 74, 237, 240, 250–255, 280, 281, 348 T Taliban, 162 Tatchell, Peter, 165 Tauqir, Tamsila, 167, 168 Technology, 78, 153, 169, 305, 315, 322, 326, 356, 357 Telegraph, The, 345, 345n8, 346, 348 Terror attack 9/11, 127, 151, 152, 156, 162, 184, 234, 240 Barcelona, 181 Berlin, 177, 181, 183, 185, 186, 190, 192, 194 Borough Market, 179 Brussels, 181, 191 London Bridge, 179 Madrid, 181 Paris, 180, 181, 191 Terrorism, 74, 107, 111, 127, 162, 181, 184–186, 191, 234, 235, 240, 248, 351 Teufel Dreyer, June, 324 Third Reich, 302 Thiriart, Jean, 295 Tianxia theory, 316, 317, 319, 320, 322–324, 327, 328, 337 Tianziaism, 11, 320–337 Tillerson, Rex, 132, 209, 210, 252 Times of India, the, 345–348, 345n8, 353, 356, 358 Timmermans, Frans, 110 Tingyang, Zhao, 319, 322, 324, 327, 329, 336 Tolerance, 2, 12, 38, 75, 109, 117, 151–157, 159–162, 166, 168–171, 179, 182, 189, 195, 213, 275, 276, 336, 358 Topçu, Nurettin, 271


Transatlantic rift, 12, 65, 84 Transnational community, 179, 181, 182 Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, 220 Traub, James, 108 Treaty of Lisbon, 129 of Rome, 129 of Sèvres, 269 Trubetzkoy, Prince Nikolai, 297 Trudeau, Justin, 211 Trump, Donald, 2, 25, 75, 100, 127, 170, 201, 235, 282, 296, 343 Turanian community, 297 Turkey nationalism, 265, 267 Turkic people, 298 Turkmenistan, 278 Twin Towers, 155, 156, 159 Two Wests, 4, 12, 99–102, 104–109, 112, 113, 115, 117, 127 U Ukraine crisis, 127, 132, 293 UN, see United Nations UNESCO, 220 United Kingdom (UK), 156, 166, 180, 295 United Nations (UN) General Assembly; Human Rights Council, 136, 157, 220; Security Council, 251, 278, 361 The United States of America America First, 11, 136, 137, 143, 201–224, 236, 241, 244–246, 249 American identity, 143, 206 American West, 112, 113, 117 Constitution, 128, 202, 220 foreign policy, 12, 44, 109, 110, 141, 202, 203, 209, 212, 216, 217, 221, 233–257, 277



Universal values, 11, 37, 39, 48, 109, 208, 210, 213, 224, 335, 336 Uralic people, 297 V van den Bruck, Arthur Moeller, 301, 302 Varoufakis, Yanis, 113, 114 Vasilyev, Dmitriy, 291 Vasudevan, H., 348 Vegetarianism, 356 Vietnam, 321 war, 107 Visvanathan, Shiv, 354 Volga, 298 von Beyme, Klaus, 294 W War, 3, 21, 64, 124, 155, 181, 271, 296 on terror, 127, 156, 162, 234 Warsaw, 203–210, 223 Weimar, 290, 294, 301, 309 Welfare state, 114, 126n9, 184 Western coalition, 251, 251n68 heritage, 70, 206 imperialism, 151, 239, 270, 281 international order, 116, 315–337 liberal democracy, 233, 254 self, 107, 112, 344 values, 47, 48, 68, 109, 111, 154, 159, 168, 179, 180, 189, 192, 193, 202–210, 213, 269, 319, 325, 327, 352, 362 Westernization, 6, 35, 71, 183, 194, 209, 268, 270, 275, 284, 326 Westintegration, 182 Westphalian international order, 332

White, Hayden, 102 White Man’s Burden, 112, 239 Wiarda, Howard, 203 Wilders, Geert, 188 Wilson, Woodrow, 32, 129 Wilson Center, 210 Winkler, Heinrich August, 176, 182, 183, 186, 192, 194, 195 World Economic Forum, 211, 351n37, 357 World Island, 299 World Trade Organization (WTO), 350 World War I, 32, 64, 138n54, 280, 301 World War II, 23, 30, 31, 38, 73, 102, 106, 107, 114, 124, 126, 141n67, 183, 213, 217, 219, 221, 239, 299, 307, 315, 325 X Xiao, Ren, 332, 334 Xuetong, Yan, 316, 320 Y Yack, Bernard, 265–267, 283 Yangtze, 298 Yaqing, Qin, 319, 320 Yoga, 344, 356, 357 Yuan, Wei, 326 Yuzhinskiy circle, 291 Z Zakaria, Fareed, 90n105, 201 Zedong, Mao, 317 Zhaoguang, Ge, 324 Zhou dynasty, 320, 324, 328, 330 Zmiana (party), 295