The liberal world order is challenged by a rising populist-nationalist zeitgeist and is under greater strain than at any time since the end of World War Two. The strains and challenges are now also culturally infused and exacerbated by an emergent debate pitting traditional understandings of globalisation and the US-led global order against an understanding of the role of powers that have come to be known as ‘civilisation states’ or ‘state-civilizations’ – most notably China and India — and that seek to reshape the contemporary international order in both ideational and material terms.
These are some of the key findings of the inaugural Rhodes Report – ‘Civilisations, states, and world order: Where are we? Where are we heading?’ – published today by the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) ahead of the Rhodes Forum, the DOC’s annual ideas-driven global affairs conference on October 11-12.
Authored by Professor Richard Higgott of the Institute of European studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, the Rhodes Report evaluates the current state of world (dis)order in a time of growing populism and nationalism 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was meant to signal the “end of history” and cement the liberal order.
Professor Richard Higgott said: “The global political, economic and cultural orders are rapidly changing, and there is an emerging cultural and civilisational contest emerging that goes beyond geopolitics and geoeconomics. Especially in countries such as China, Russia, India and Turkey – all of which are analysed from this standpoint in the report – there is a growing assertion of the virtues of the ‘civilisational state’ and resistance to ‘Western’ universal values and an American-led world. The competing visions of the future global order arising from these different perspectives are often wildly divergent.
“The Rhodes Report sets out an applied and empirical investigation of the limitations that policymakers face and the options available to them to restructure the global order. These are big issues for anyone to grapple with, and there are no simple answers or easy choices. If we are to avoid a new ‘clash of civilizations’ we urgently need to establish the framework and practices necessary for genuine negotiated global dialogue. This requires innovative and forward-looking thinking, and open minds not just among scholars and the expert community, but among policymakers and people – the actors in this global drama – of all civilizations.”
DOC CEO Jean-Christophe Bas said: “The questions raised in the Rhodes Report are not of concern only for scholars – they cast massive policy shadows over our understanding and the practices of international order. The aim of the report is to trigger way beyond and after the Rhodes Forum a global conversation among policy makers, influencers and the public on the rise of the ‘civilization state’, its risks and opportunities to achieve world order. I congratulate Professor Higgott and all involved on producing an exceptionally stimulating report, and look forward to many provocative discussions in the coming weeks and months.
“The DOC has advocated civilisational analysis of globalisation and its challenges for many years, long before the idea entered mainstream discourse. The Report’s conclusions only highlight the importance of our work and of events such as the Rhodes Forum as platforms where the best minds from around the world come together and engage in a non-confrontational atmosphere of mutual respect and constructive spirit”
As part of the report’s launch, the DOC has been holding a series of “Road to Rhodes” seminars ahead of the Rhodes Forum in key European cities including Paris, Brussels and Athens. Along the Road to Rhodes, Jean-Christophe Bas and Professor Richard Higgott have been joined by the DOC’s partners, policymakers, academics, media and influencers. The Road to Rhodes is designed to kickstart discussions that will be formulated into policy recommendations at the Rhodes Forum, with the aim of making a positive and substantive contribution to debate around the current state of the global order.
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