Liberal Order in the Face of the Future: Insights from the ‘IR enlightenment’

Michael C Williams, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

Co-presented with the Department of Government and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

18 July 2012

According to many observers, the existing liberal international order faces profound challenges: the ‘rise of authoritarian great powers’, diminishing American influence, and the emergence of a variety of explicitly anti-liberal fundamentalisms, to name but a few. For International Relations (IR) as a discipline, the current situation poses crucial theoretical and political questions that echo the very origins of the field, when in the wake of the second World War an intellectual current that can be called the ‘International Relations enlightenment’ struggled with the limits of liberalism and its fate in the emerging world order. Revisiting and recovering the insights of this often misunderstood movement and its attempts to construct a revived liberalism provides fertile terrain for exploring the character and depth of contemporary challenges and the intellectual legacies and limitations that IR possesses in confronting them.

Professor Michael Williams

Michael C. Williams is Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. His research interests are in International Relations theory, security studies, and political thought. His most recent book (with Rita Abrahamsen) is Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Politics (2011). His previous publications include The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations (2005) and Culture and Security: Symbolic Power and the Politics of International Security (2007) and the editor of several books, including most recently, Realism Reconsidered: The Legacy of Hans J. Morgenthau in International Relations (2007).

His articles have appeared in journals including the European Journal of International Relations, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Millennium, and the Review of International Studies. Prior to joining the University of Ottawa, he was Professor of International Politics in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth, and has been a visiting fellow at the Universities of Cape Town, Copenhagen, and the European University Institute in Florence.

This lecture is the Keynote lecture in the fifth Oceanic Conference on International Relations OCIS V, a biennial event is an initiative that brings together the growing community of international studies researchers in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific, and the wider region.