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Photo: “Flags around monument at sunset“, by Mommy110710, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Heinkelmann-Wild, Tim, Andreas Kruck, and Benjamin Daßler. “A Crisis from Within: The Trump Administration and the Contestation of the Liberal International Order.” In Hegemonic Transition, 69–86. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2021.


The Liberal International Order (LIO) is in a crisis from within. Under President Trump, the United States (US) has turned against some of the major multilateral institutions that underpin the order. Existing research either points to the material decline of the US as a driver of the LIO’s crisis, as the power shift literature does, or emphasizes anti-globalist social forces, as the populist nationalism literature proposes. We argue that, in order to fully grasp the nature and extent of the LIO’s crisis, we need to conceive of it as a crisis of liberal hegemony. Liberal hegemony designates a situation where the most powerful state in the international system backs the liberal values enshrined in international institutions and pursues its policies through multilateral cooperation and leadership. Based on this conception, we claim that liberal hegemony can be regressive in two ways: by illiberalism as well as isolationism. We illustrate both developments with examples of US contestation of international institutions. The combination of illiberalism and isolationism characterizes the US’s turn away from liberal hegemony and drives the crisis of the LIO. While some of these recent developments could be reversed under a liberal administration, our analysis suggests that the days of liberal hegemony may be numbered.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.