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Lawson, George, and Ayşe Zarakol. “Recognizing injustice: the ‘hypocrisy charge’and the future of the liberal international order.” International Affairs 99, no. 1 (2023): 201-217.


Struggles for recognition, rooted in the desire to be acknowledged by others, are fundamental to the stability of international orders. All international orders face actors with recognition grievances, and sometimes these grievances become major sources of contention. At the same time, each international order faces struggles that are specific to its mode of legitimation because they are rooted in challenges over the constituent elements of that order. The liberal international order (LIO) is no exception to this rule. Unlike international orders that are organized through explicit social hierarchies, the LIO claims to foster egalitarian, meritocratic justice based around universal, ‘rational’ standards. Yet it is clear to many actors around the world that the LIO has historically been, and remains today, premised on ‘irrational’, unjust forms of hierarchical recognition, often organized around group identity. This opens up the LIO to charges of hypocrisy. We trace the ways in which this ‘hypocrisy charge’ is levelled by both LIO ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’, arguing that it generates an irresolvable tension within the LIO. This tension may not spell the end of the LIO, but it does point to a period of extended contention.

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.