Capitalism and the emergent world order

Authors

  • BARRY BUZAN,

    1. Emeritus Professor in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was formerly Montague Burton Professor.
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  • GEORGE LAWSON

    1. Associate Professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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    • We would like to thank colleagues at the Department of Political Science, Copenhagen University, three anonymous reviewers and the editor of International Affairs, Caroline Soper, for extremely helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Abstract

The two-centuries-old hegemony of the West is coming to an end. The ‘revolutions of modernity’ that fuelled the rise of the West are now accessible to all states. As a consequence, the power gap that developed during the nineteenth century and which served as the foundation for a core–periphery international order is closing. The result is a shift from a world of ‘centred globalism’ to one of ‘decentred globalism’. At the same time, as power is becoming more diffuse, the degree of ideological difference among the leading powers is shrinking. Indeed, because all Great Powers in the contemporary world are in some form capitalist, the ideological bandwidth of the emerging international order is narrower than it has been for a century. The question is whether this relative ideological homogeneity will generate geo-economic or geopolitical competition among the four main modes of capitalist governance: liberal democratic, social democratic, competitive authoritarian and state bureaucratic. This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of these four modes of capitalist governance, and probes the main contours of inter-capitalist competition. Will the political differences between democratic and authoritarian capitalists override their shared interests or be mediated by them? Will there be conflicting capitalisms as there were in the early part of the twentieth century? Or will the contemporary world see the development of some kind of concert of capitalist powers? A world of politically differentiated capitalisms is likely to be with us for some time. As such, a central task facing policy-makers is to ensure that geo-economic competition takes place without generating geopolitical conflict.

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