May 18, 2017
As part of a larger study on the future of the post–World War II liberal international order, RAND researchers analyze the health of the existing order and offer implications for future U.S. policy.
Today's order includes a complex mix of formal global institutions, such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization; bilateral and regional security organizations; and liberal political norms. To evaluate the health of the existing order, the researchers examined several categories of indicators, including both inputs (such as state participation in and attitudes toward order) and outcomes that reflect the order's primary objectives (such as economic liberalization and interdependence, peace among great powers, and adherence to the order's norms).
Across numerous variables, the analysis demonstrates an impressive degree of stability — and, in many cases, steady progress — in the international order since 1945 and especially since the mid-1980s. However, the recent global populist upsurge is placing the popular consensus on key elements of the order in jeopardy. These elements include the desirability of open markets and open borders, the value of multilateral solutions, and the very notion of the rule of law. The study's overall conclusion is that the postwar order continues to enjoy many elements of stability but is increasingly threatened by major geopolitical and domestic socioeconomic trends that are calling into question the order's fundamental assumptions.
Participation in Formal Regional and International Institutions
Economic Liberalization and Interdependence
International Conflict and Peace
Adherence to Liberal Norms and Values
Major-Power Signaling and Policies Toward Order
Public Attitudes Toward Elements of the Order
Foundations of Order: Geopolitics and Ideology
Summing Up: The State of the Order