Article

The Fluidity of World Order and Break from Past: Opportunities and Challenges

Author
  • Sanjay Mishra (Adigrat University)

Abstract

Global affairs are characterized by high fluidity and uncertainty as traditional geopolitical alliances and power structures undergo significant changes. This shift in the global order presents both opportunities and challenges for countries worldwide, especially those that have historically been marginalized or excluded from the global power structure. The potential for conflict and instability is one of the most significant challenges that this fluidity presents as countries seek to assert their influence on the global stage. Nevertheless, there are opportunities for collaboration and cooperation as countries seek to build new alliances and partnerships that are more responsive to the needs and aspirations of diverse populations. This break from past norms and institutions presents a chance to create more equitable and just systems of governance, but it requires bold leadership and a willingness to challenge entrenched interests. Emerging powers like China, India, and Brazil have a unique opportunity to shape the future of global governance and advance their interests while contributing to the greater good. Established powers like the United States and the European Union (EU) must adapt to new realities and collaborate with emerging powers to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Climate change, economic inequality, and global health threats are pressing issues that require urgent attention and collective action from the international community. Ultimately, the fluidity of the world order presents an opportunity for countries to redefine their roles and responsibilities within the global community and create new systems of governance that are more inclusive, responsive, and equitable. To realize this vision, strong international partnerships, innovation and creativity, and a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential. The article highlights the overall impact of the concurrent process on the different countries as a process. In conclusion, the fluidity of the world order can have both advantages and disadvantages, depending on how it is managed and navigated by different actors in the global system.

Keywords: world order, globalization, global system, fluidity of world order, human rights

How to Cite:

Mishra, S., (2023) “The Fluidity of World Order and Break from Past: Opportunities and Challenges”, Social Development Issues 46(1): 5. doi: https://doi.org/10.3998/sdi.5295

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Published on
07 Dec 2023
Peer Reviewed

Introduction

The international order is a complex set of norms, rules, institutions, and practices that shape the behavior of states and other actors in the global system. It encompasses legal frameworks, agreements, and norms that govern interactions among states and institutions that promote cooperation, manage disputes, and provide collective security. The international order is constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges and opportunities, reflecting the changing power dynamics among states and other actors in the international system (Ikenberry, 2018). The international order is characterized by a complex web of relationships among states and other actors, such as international organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations (MNCs), and individuals. It is an essential part of the international system, providing a framework for cooperation and peaceful resolution of disputes. It also provides a basis for the development of shared values and standards of behavior among nations (Ikenberry, 2018).

However, there is a growing perception that the international order is under threat, particularly due to the rise of China as a global power and its challenge to the United States’ dominant position and democratic values. Other factors contributing to the perceived risk include the erosion of democracy and human rights, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and the rise of non-state actors such as terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations (Oosthuizen & Elizabeth, 2004). Given the significance of the international order to U.S. interests, a robust policy response is necessary to address these perceived threats. The response will likely involve a combination of diplomatic, economic, and military tools, as well as efforts to strengthen international institutions and norms. It is important to recognize that the challenges facing the international order are complex and multifaceted and that no single policy or approach is likely to be sufficient on its own. To manage the international order effectively, a collective effort from all actors involved is required, including engaging with other states and stakeholders to build consensus and support for any policy response (Ikenberry, 2018).

The international order is also undergoing significant changes, with a more fluid and decentralized world order emerging. This shift away from the fixed and stable structures of the past towards a more dynamic and responsive international system that is better able to address the complex and interconnected challenges of the 21st century is driven by globalization (Frankel & Rose, 2002). Advances in technology and communication have made it easier than ever for people and businesses to connect and collaborate across borders. This has led to the rise of new economic powerhouses in Asia and other parts of the world and the emergence of new non-state actors such as MNCs and civil society organizations. These new actors challenge traditional nation-states’ dominance and reshape the global landscape unimaginably (World Economic Forum [WEF], 2021). Another factor contributing to this break from the past is the rise of populism and nationalism in many parts of the world. These movements are pushing back against globalization and the perceived loss of national identity and sovereignty that it entails. This has led to a rise in protectionist policies, trade disputes, and geopolitical tensions between nations. This has further destabilized the global order and made it more difficult to predict and manage (Walter, 2021). Despite these challenges, there are also many opportunities to be found in this new dynamic phenomenon. The increased fluidity and decentralization of power mean more room for innovation and creativity and for new voices and perspectives to be heard. It also means there is a greater potential for cooperation and collaboration between nations and other actors and a greater need for it (Khanna, 2019).

However, to fully realize these opportunities and navigate the challenges of this new world order, we will need to adopt new ways of thinking and approaches to governance. One such approach is multilateralism, which emphasizes cooperation and coordination among multiple actors, including states, international organizations, and civil society groups, to address global challenges. Multilateralism has been a cornerstone of the international order since the end of World War II, with the creation of institutions such as the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These institutions have played a vital role in promoting economic development, maintaining international peace and security, and advancing human rights and social progress (Drezner, 2017). However, multilateralism has faced significant challenges recently, with rising nationalism and protectionism undermining international cooperation and coordination. This has been particularly evident in the context of global economic governance, where the failure of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reach new agreements and resolve disputes has led to increased bilateralism and protectionism among major economies (Bollyky, 2019). The United States, in particular, has adopted a more unilateralist approach to global governance under the Trump administration, withdrawing from international agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal and challenging the legitimacy of international institutions such as the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) (Akram, 2021).

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of multilateralism in addressing global challenges. The pandemic has affected virtually every country, and its impact on public health and the global economy has been devastating. To address the pandemic, countries, and international organizations have had to work together to develop and distribute vaccines, coordinate public health measures, and provide economic relief to affected populations. However, the response to the pandemic has been hampered by political divisions, lack of coordination, and vaccine nationalism, with some countries hoarding vaccines and others struggling to access them (Riaz et al. 2021). This has underscored the need for a more coordinated and equitable global response to future pandemics and other global challenges. Another approach to governance that could be useful in the context of the new world order is network governance. Network governance is a mode of governance that emphasizes collaboration and coordination among multiple actors, including states, international organizations, and civil society groups. Network governance is an approach to governance that emphasizes collaboration and coordination among multiple actors, including states, international organizations, and civil society groups. In network governance, decision-making power is distributed among various actors rather than being concentrated in the hands of a single governing entity. This approach is often used in contexts where traditional forms of governance have been ineffective or insufficient, such as in managing complex global issues like climate change or cybersecurity. In his recent book, Brij Mohan (2022) has discerned and explored new contours of a pandemic that, in his view, threaten human extinction. His diagnosis is brutally prophetic:

The catalog of misfortunes is endless. Children lost their childhood. Schools, as we had known, disappeared. Mental health issues among children have become unmitigated disasters. Much of social interaction got zoomed in. Fear of each other defined the patterns of social intercourse practically in every walk of life. A free society has morphed into social distances in fear and anxiety. (Mohan, 2022, p. 106)

Work good governance can be useful in the context of the new world order, as it allows for a more flexible and adaptive approach to governance that can respond to the complex and dynamic challenges of the modern world. By involving various actors in the decision-making process, network governance can help ensure that diverse perspectives and interests are considered, leading to more equitable and effective outcomes. It can also help to foster greater accountability and transparency, as decision-making processes are more open and inclusive. However, network governance also has challenges, such as the difficulty of coordinating diverse actors with different interests and priorities and the potential for power imbalances and inequalities to emerge within the network. To overcome these challenges, it is important to have strong leadership and effective mechanisms for communication and collaboration, as well as a commitment to shared goals and values. In the current article, efforts have been made to examine the various dimensions of dynamics that occurred over the past couple of decades.

Major Theoretical Approaches of Fluidity in the World Order

The concept of fluidity in world order suggests that the international system is constantly changing and evolving rather than being fixed or static. Several theories attempt to explain this phenomenon. However, the three most prominent schools of thought are realism, liberalism, and constructivism (Snyder, 2004). According to Walt, there are three main approaches, namely realism, liberalism, and constructivism, which influence public discussions and policy evaluations. Realism emphasizes the changing power dynamics among nations, while liberalism draws attention to the growing number of democracies and the challenges of democratic transitions. Idealism explores the evolving concepts of sovereignty, human rights, international justice, and the growing influence of religious beliefs in politics (Walt, 2018). The following are major theoretical approaches that provide insight into understanding the existing view.

Realism

Realism is a theoretical approach used in International Relations (IR) to understand the fluidity of the world order. Realism emphasizes that states are the primary actors in IRs and that the international system is fundamentally anarchic, with no overarching authority to regulate the behavior of states. This means that states constantly compete with one another for power and security, and conflict and war are inevitable features of international politics. Realism also highlights the importance of military power in IRs, as states seek to build up their military capabilities to deter potential adversaries and defend their interests. Realists are skeptical of international institutions and cooperation, viewing them as often ineffective and unlikely to resolve underlying conflicts between states.

Realism emerged as a prominent approach in the mid-20th century, particularly in the aftermath of World War II, as scholars sought to understand the causes of war and the nature of the international system. The theory of neorealism, also known as structural realism, was developed by Kenneth Waltz in his book “Theory of International Politics” (1979). Neorealism emphasizes the importance of the international system and its power distribution in shaping state behavior. According to neorealism, states are driven by the desire to maximize their security, which leads them to balance against other states they perceive as threatening. Another influential realist scholar is Mearsheimer, who developed the theory of offensive realism in his book “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics” (2001). Offensive realism emphasizes the importance of states seeking to gain hegemony, or dominance, in the international system. According to offensive realism, states seek to maximize their power and security by expanding their territory, building up their military capabilities, and seeking to dominate their rivals.

Realism’s continued influence can be seen in the policies of many states, particularly in the areas of security and foreign policy. For example, the focus on military power and national security by powerful countries such as the United States can be traced back to realist ideas about the importance of power and the pursuit of national interest. Realism has also influenced the development of international institutions such as the UNs, which realists view as a forum for great powers to pursue their interests rather than a means for promoting global cooperation. Realists argue that institutions such as the UN are only effective when they serve the interests of the most powerful states. However, realism has faced criticism from other theoretical perspectives in IRs, particularly from liberal and constructivist scholars who emphasize the importance of norms, institutions, and cooperation in shaping IRs. Despite this criticism, realism remains a significant approach in the study of IRs and continues to shape the policies of many states.

Constructivism

Constructivism is a theoretical approach in IRs that emphasizes the importance of ideas, norms, and identities in shaping international politics. Unlike realism, which focuses on the role of states and power, constructivism views IRs as socially constructed and shaped by shared ideas and beliefs. In this context, fluidity can be seen as the result of changing norms and the emergence of new ideas about what constitutes legitimate behavior in the international system (Wendt, 1999). The origins of constructivism can be traced back to the 1980s and 1990s, when scholars began to challenge the dominant realist and liberal approaches in IRs. One of the key figures in the development of constructivism was Alexander Wendt, who argued that states’ behavior is not determined solely by their material interests or power capabilities but is also shaped by the shared ideas and norms that define the international system (Wendt, 1992).

According to constructivism, power, and influence in IRs are not solely determined by military capabilities or economic strength but are also shaped by the norms and ideas that define the international system. For example, human rights have become an increasingly important norm in international politics, shaping the behavior of states and the policies of international organizations. Constructivists argue that norms and ideas can change over time, leading to shifts in power and influence in the international system. Constructivism also emphasizes the role of identity and socialization in shaping state behavior. States’ identities are not fixed or predetermined but are shaped by the norms and ideas of the international system. For example, a state socialized into a particular norm of non-proliferation may be less likely to pursue nuclear weapons than a state socialized into a norm of nuclear deterrence (Finnemore, 1996).

Constructivism’s focus on norms and ideas has led to important insights into the dynamics of the international system. For example, constructivists have highlighted the role of normative change in shaping international politics, arguing that the spread of norms such as democracy and human rights has contributed to the decline of authoritarian regimes and the rise of democratic governments (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998). Constructivism has also been influential in the study of international organizations, highlighting the importance of shared norms and values in shaping their behavior and effectiveness (Checkel, 1999). Constructivism is a theoretical approach that emphasizes the role of norms, ideas, and identities in shaping international politics. Constructivists argue that power and influence in the international system are not solely determined by military capabilities or economic strength but are also shaped by the norms and ideas that define the system. Constructivism has contributed important insights into the dynamics of the international system, highlighting the role of normative change and socialization in shaping state behavior and the policies of international organizations.

Liberalism

Liberalism emphasizes the importance of cooperation and institutions in promoting stability in the international system. In this context, fluidity can be seen as the result of changing institutions and the emergence of new forms of cooperation between states (Keohane, 1984). Liberalism is a political ideology that prioritizes individual liberty, equality, and democracy, as well as the free market economy. The roots of liberalism can be traced back to the Enlightenment era of the 18th century, which saw a shift towards individualism and the questioning of traditional forms of authority. The works of thinkers such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Adam Smith contributed to the development of liberal ideas. In the 19th century, classical liberalism emerged, emphasizing the importance of limited government intervention in the economy and individual freedoms. Modern democracy is characterized by liberalism, evident through the term “liberal democracy” to describe countries that possess free and fair elections, the rule of law, and protected civil liberties. However, within IR theory, liberalism has taken on a distinct identity. It encompasses a range of concepts and arguments about how institutions, behaviors, and economic relationships can limit and mitigate the violent power of states. When compared to realism, liberalism takes into account additional factors, particularly citizens and international organizations. Furthermore, liberalism has traditionally been the counterpoint to realism in IR theory, offering a more positive perspective grounded in a different interpretation of history than realist scholarship.

Friedman’s main argument is that capitalism and democracy are inextricably linked, as both forms of decentralized public control counterbalance unchecked government power that can lead to dictatorship. He rejects the idea that politics and economics can be separated, stating that there is a close connection between the two. While economic freedom is crucial for individual freedom, it also supports political freedom by removing the coercive power of political authority over economic activity. Friedman emphasizes that promoting economic and political freedom requires free discussion and voluntary cooperation without coercion. He argues that differences in values must be resolved through conflict, and the government’s role is to minimize coercion and promote voluntary cooperation. Ultimately, Friedman believes that capitalism is a prerequisite for freedom and that a free market can check political power (Friedman, 1962). Liberalism has played a significant role in shaping the modern world order, particularly in IRs, which have contributed to understanding power in the international system. Liberal theory suggests that the fluidity of power in the international system can be explained by the interplay between states and their domestic institutions and the interactions between states themselves (Hurrell, 2007). Liberalism has also emphasized the importance of international organizations in promoting cooperation and resolving conflicts between states.

However, critics of liberalism argue that its emphasis on individualism and free markets can lead to inequalities and social injustices, both domestically and internationally. Other theories, such as realism and constructivism, challenge the role of power and institutions in shaping IRs, suggesting it is more complex than liberalism suggests. Liberty, economic freedom, and MNCs are significant players in influencing world order (Irogbe, 2013). Liberty refers to the fundamental right to freedom, autonomy, and self-determination. Countries that value liberty tend to be more democratic, open, and tolerant, which fosters stability, prosperity, and peace. Economic freedom, on the other hand, refers to the extent to which individuals and businesses are free to engage in economic activities without interference from the government or other external forces. Countries with high levels of economic freedom tend to be more prosperous, innovative, and competitive. MNCs are critical in promoting economic freedom and driving economic growth (Kim & Milner, 2019). They invest in new technologies, create jobs, and stimulate innovation, contributing to higher living standards and greater economic opportunity. However, MNCs have also been criticized for their negative impact on the environment, labor rights, and social inequality. In conclusion, liberalism, liberty, economic freedom, and MNCs all play a significant role in shaping the modern world order (Nye, 1974). While they can positively impact economic growth and development, they can also have negative consequences if not managed properly. Governments and international organizations must work together to ensure that these factors are harnessed for the greater good of society rather than for the benefit of a few powerful actors.

Factors Affecting the World Order

Today’s world order is shaped by a complex interplay of political, economic, social, and technological factors. These factors are constantly evolving and interacting with one another, creating a fluid and dynamic global landscape. Some of the key factors affecting the world order today are given below:

The emerging global system is quickly breaking down traditional distinctions between foreign and domestic affairs, as well as between economic issues and matters of national security (Flanagan, Frost, & Kugler, 2001). Globalization has brought people, businesses, and governments closer together, creating a more interconnected and interdependent world. This has led to the rise of new economic powerhouses, such as China and India, and the emergence of new non-state actors, such as MNCs and civil society organizations. Globalization has also led to the spread of ideas, cultures, and values across borders, contributing to the growing interconnectedness of the world. The rise of China as a major economic power and the increasing importance of international trade are examples of the impact of globalization on the world order (WEF, 2019).

Technology will fundamentally transform the global order, enabling greater economic and political power for countries in the global South and challenging the dominance of Western countries (Baldwin, 2016; Castells, 2010; Jacques, 2012; Khanna, 2016; Mahbubani, 2018). Advances in technology, particularly in the fields of communication, transportation, and energy, have had a profound impact on the world order. The rise of the internet and social media has created new opportunities for people to connect and collaborate across borders while creating new risks and challenges related to privacy and security. Technological advances have also enabled the rise of new industries and the automation of many traditional jobs, leading to significant economic and social changes. The development of artificial intelligence and automation is transforming the global economy and creating new opportunities and challenges for workers and businesses (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017).

Economic inequality is a significant challenge to the global order, with growing disparities within and between countries potentially destabilizing the international system (Stiglitz, 2012). Scholars have argued that addressing economic inequality is essential for building a more stable and equitable world order, with policies such as progressive taxation and redistribution playing a critical role in achieving this goal (Milanovic, 2016; Piketty, 2013). The growing gap between rich and poor, both within and between nations, is a major factor affecting the world order today. Economic inequality has been exacerbated by globalization, technological change, and government policies that favor the wealthy. This has led to political unrest, social instability, and a growing sense of disillusionment among many people. The growing gap between the rich and poor, both within and between nations, is a major factor contributing to social and political unrest around the world (Global Wealth Inequality, 2021).

The world is currently experiencing a period of heightened geopolitical tensions driven by factors such as territorial disputes, resource competition, and ideological differences. According to Zakaria (2008), the United States can no longer dominate the world order as it once did due to the changing global balance of power and the rise of new geopolitical players. The rise of populism and nationalism in many parts of the world has also contributed to these tensions as governments seek to assert their sovereignty and protect their national interests. The ongoing conflict in Syria and the territorial disputes in the South China Sea are examples of geopolitical tensions affecting the world order (CFR, 2021a). O’Sullivan (2020) argues that rising geopolitical tensions threaten to disrupt the existing world order and that the global balance of power is shifting towards a more fragmented system. The existing geopolitical tensions have been uprising during the past couple of years, and the impacts were apparently experienced. Geopolitical tensions drive global inequality and displacement, highlighting the need for new forms of global governance and cooperation (Sassen, 2018). The factors driving Russia’s foreign policy and its evolving role in the global system emphasize the role of geopolitical tensions in shaping Russia’s strategic outlook (Tsygankov, 2019; Malyarenko, 2023).

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia and its implications for the international order. Kaczmarski (2019) discusses the factors that led to the conflict, including historical and geopolitical tensions and the role of international actors in the conflict. He analyzes the impact of the conflict on the regional and international geopolitical landscape, including changes in power dynamics and the implications for international norms and institutions.

The world order is at significant risk of being impacted by climate change, with potential consequences for global security, economic stability, and social well-being. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that rising temperatures, sea levels, and more frequent extreme weather events pose significant risks to human societies and ecosystems worldwide (IPCC, 2018). These risks can potentially create conflicts over resources, displace vulnerable populations, and disrupt global trade and investment. Climate change is intricately linked to security, with risks of conflict, national security concerns, critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, geopolitical rivalries, and threats to human security. (Gemenne et al., 2014). Recognizing the need for coordinated international action on climate change, the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 by 197 countries as a significant step towards mitigating the impacts of climate change and building a more resilient and sustainable world order (United Nations Framework Convention [UNFC], 2021). However, more action is needed to address the challenges of climate change.

The impact of climate change on the world order cannot be overstated. The effects of rising temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather events are already being felt worldwide and are expected to worsen in the coming years. Climate change will likely exacerbate existing geopolitical tensions and create new ones as nations compete for resources and struggle to adapt to the changing environment. The recent wildfires in Australia and the flooding in Germany are examples of the impact of climate change on the world order (Guardian, 2021). Nevertheless, demographic changes, such as population growth, aging, and migration, also affect the world order. These changes are creating new challenges related to healthcare, education, and social welfare and contributing to political and cultural shifts worldwide. The aging populations in many developed countries and the growing number of refugees worldwide are examples of demographic changes affecting the world order (UN, 2021a). The world order today is shaped by a complex and interconnected set of factors constantly evolving and interacting with one another. These factors create challenges and opportunities for nations, businesses, and individuals and require new approaches to governance and collaboration to address them effectively.

Trends and Developments that Are Likely to Continue Shaping the World

Today’s world order is shaped by a complex interplay of political, economic, social, and technological factors. While the direction it will lead society is difficult to predict with certainty, some trends and developments are likely to continue shaping the world order in the coming years.

Global Economic Power Shift

The global economic landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years, with the rise of emerging economies like China and India. According to the World Bank (2021a), this power shift from the West to the East is a well-documented trend likely to have significant implications for the global balance of power and distribution of wealth and resources. As the world’s second-largest economy, China has made significant economic growth and development strides. In the past decade alone, its economy has grown by an average of 6–7% annually, far outpacing many developed nations (World Bank, 2021). India has also emerged as a major player in the global economy, with a rapidly expanding middle class and a growing tech sector. This economic shift has far-reaching implications for the global balance of power. As emerging economies continue to grow, they are likely to exert greater influence on the international stage, challenging the traditional dominance of the West. This could have significant geopolitical consequences as countries seek to align themselves with emerging economic powers. Furthermore, the rise of emerging economies is likely to significantly impact the distribution of wealth and resources. As these countries become more prosperous, they may demand a greater share of global resources and economic opportunities. This could lead to tensions and conflicts as countries seek to protect their interests and secure their share of resources.

While the global economic power shift is a well-documented trend, it is important to note that it has challenges and risks. Many emerging economies face significant challenges, such as income inequality, corruption, and political instability, which could hinder their growth and development in the long term (World Bank, 2021). In conclusion, the rise of China and other emerging economies is a significant trend likely to have far-reaching implications for the global balance of power and distribution of wealth and resources. It is important for policymakers and stakeholders to carefully monitor these developments and work together to ensure that this power shift is managed in a way that benefits all nations and promotes long-term stability and prosperity.

Technology and Society

The impact of technology on society is an area of growing research and concern. With the rise of artificial intelligence, automation, and digital platforms, the impact of technology on society is becoming increasingly complex. While these technological advancements offer many benefits, such as increased efficiency and productivity, they also raise significant concerns about privacy, security, and the future of work. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, has the potential to transform society in a variety of ways, both positive and negative. According to the WEF, Industry 4.0 is characterized by the fusion of digital, physical, and biological systems, creating a new era of technological change (WEF, 2021). This revolution is expected to impact every aspect of society, from education and healthcare to transportation and energy. One of the main concerns about the impact of technology on society is the potential for job displacement. As automation and artificial intelligence become more widespread, many jobs previously performed by humans may become automated. This could lead to significant job losses and create challenges for workers needing to retrain for new roles. In addition, the increasing use of digital platforms raises concerns about privacy and security. With the proliferation of personal data, there is a risk that this information could be misused or hacked, leading to potential identity theft and other forms of cybercrime.

Despite these concerns, there are also many potential benefits of Industry 4.0 for society. For example, using artificial intelligence and machine learning could lead to significant advances in healthcare and medicine, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. Additionally, using digital technologies in education could provide greater access to learning opportunities for people worldwide. In conclusion, the impact of technology on society is a complex and multifaceted issue. While Industry 4.0 has the potential to bring many benefits to society, it also raises significant concerns about privacy, security, and the future of work. It is important for policymakers and stakeholders to carefully consider these issues and work together to ensure that technology is used in a way that benefits society.

Climate Change

The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world and are likely to have significant implications for society in the years to come. As global warming intensifies, nations must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate. Failure to take action could lead to severe consequences, including rising sea levels, more frequent and intense natural disasters, and significant disruptions to global food supplies. Climate change will also likely have geopolitical implications as nations compete for resources and influence in changing world order. The consequences of climate change, such as water scarcity and crop failures, could exacerbate existing conflicts and create new ones. In addition, as nations transition away from fossil fuels, there may be significant economic and geopolitical consequences, particularly for countries heavily reliant on oil and gas exports.

Geopolitical tensions and conflicts are already shaping the global landscape, and this trend will likely continue. The rise of nationalism and populism in many parts of the world contributes to a more fragmented and uncertain geopolitical environment. This fragmentation could lead to increased conflict and instability, particularly in regions such as the Middle East, where geopolitical tensions are already high. To address these challenges, policymakers must work together to promote international cooperation and address the root causes of conflict and instability. This includes taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience to the impacts of climate change, and promote sustainable economic growth. In addition, efforts must be made to address the underlying drivers of nationalism and populism, including economic inequality and political polarization. However, the effects of climate change and geopolitical tensions are likely to shape the world order in the coming years. To address these challenges, policymakers must work together to promote international cooperation and address the root causes of conflict and instability.

Nationalism and Populism

The rise of nationalism and populism is a growing concern for policymakers and researchers worldwide. The Pew Research Center and the Brookings Institution (Brookings Institution, 2021) are among the organizations that have documented the trend and its implications for society. Nationalism is characterized by a strong attachment to one’s nation or cultural identity, often at the expense of other nations or groups. Populism, on the other hand, is a political ideology that emphasizes the rights and interests of the common people against the elites or establishment. Nationalism and populism have been rising in many parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, and Asia. Factors such as economic inequality, cultural change, and political polarization have contributed to their growth. In some cases, nationalism and populism have led to policies that are seen as discriminatory, divisive, or harmful to democracy and human rights. The impact of nationalism and populism on the world order is difficult to predict with certainty. Some potential scenarios include a more multipolar world, where power and influence are distributed among multiple centers; a more interconnected and integrated world, where globalization continues to drive economic growth and cultural exchange; or a more fragmented and polarized world, where geopolitical tensions and social divisions continue to widen. Each scenario poses unique challenges and opportunities for individuals, businesses, and nations. To address the challenges of nationalism and populism, policymakers and citizens must work together to promote inclusive economic growth, social cohesion, and democratic institutions. This includes addressing the underlying drivers of nationalism and populism, such as economic inequality and cultural change, and promoting inclusive, transparent, and accountable policies.

The shape of the world order will depend on a wide range of factors, including economic trends, technological developments, social and cultural changes, and political dynamics. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on the world order, accelerating existing trends and creating new challenges. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the need for adaptive, resilient, and equitable policies. These trends and developments suggest a more complex and uncertain future for the world order and society. While many challenges and risks are associated with these trends, there are opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and progress. To realize these opportunities, policymakers, businesses, and individuals must work together to address the underlying drivers of nationalism and populism and promote inclusive, sustainable, and equitable development.

Role of the Governments and Associated Institutions to Balance IRs

Governments and associated institutions can take several steps to help balance the world order and address some of the challenges and risks associated with the trends shaping global society.

In today’s interconnected world, promoting greater international cooperation and collaboration is crucial to maintaining a balanced world order. Governments can work together through multilateral institutions and regional organizations to address various issues, from climate change to trade to security. Multilateral institutions such as the UN and the WTO play a vital role in promoting international cooperation. These institutions facilitate dialogue and negotiation among countries, provide a forum for countries to voice their concerns and interests, and help to build consensus on key issues. For example, the UN has played a central role in coordinating the global response to climate change, promoting sustainable development, and advancing human rights (UN, 2021).

Regional organizations such as the EU also play a critical role in promoting cooperation and collaboration among countries. The EU has been instrumental in promoting peace and stability in Europe, advancing economic integration and trade, and promoting democratic values and human rights (EU, 2021). However, to effectively promote international cooperation, it is important to address the challenges that hinder cooperation, such as divergent national interests, power imbalances, and distrust among countries. This requires building trust and understanding among nations, promoting dialogue and engagement, and addressing the root causes of conflict and instability. In conclusion, promoting greater international cooperation and collaboration is essential for achieving a balanced world order. Governments can work through multilateral institutions and regional organizations to address a range of issues, promote dialogue and engagement among nations, and build trust and understanding.

Balancing the world order involves creating an environment where all countries have equal opportunities for growth and development. Encouraging economic growth and development in less developed countries is one way to achieve this goal, as it helps reduce poverty and inequality while promoting greater stability and prosperity worldwide. Governments play a crucial role in this process by investing in infrastructure, education, and healthcare and creating a more favorable environment for businesses and entrepreneurs (IMF, 2021; World Bank, 2021). Investing in infrastructure is a crucial element of economic growth and development. This includes building roads, bridges, airports, and ports, which can improve transportation and communication systems. The construction of energy, water, and sanitation systems can also improve living conditions and support industrial development. Education and healthcare are also critical components of development, as they provide individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to improve their economic and social status (World Bank, 2021).

Governments can also create a more favorable environment for businesses and entrepreneurs by reducing regulations and red tape, simplifying tax systems, and providing access to credit and financing. These actions can help stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship, and competition, leading to economic growth and job creation. Additionally, governments can invest in research and development, which can lead to new technologies and products that can help to boost economic growth (IMF, 2021). Encouraging economic growth and development is not only important for reducing poverty and inequality, but it is also crucial for promoting greater stability and prosperity around the world. Countries with strong economies are likelier to have stable political systems and less likely to be vulnerable to conflict and violence. Additionally, a strong economy can provide individuals with access to healthcare, education, and other basic needs, which can improve their quality of life (World Bank, 2021a). Encouraging economic growth and development in less developed countries is crucial to balancing the world order. Governments can invest in infrastructure, education, and healthcare and create a more favorable environment for businesses and entrepreneurs. These actions can help reduce poverty and inequality while promoting greater stability and prosperity worldwide.

Climate change is a significant challenge that requires the collective efforts of governments worldwide. There are various actions that governments can take to address climate change, such as investing in clean energy, promoting conservation, and sustainable development. Collaboration among governments is also crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sharing technology, and supporting developing countries in adapting to the effects of climate change (IPCC, 2021b; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 2021). Investing in clean energy is a critical step in addressing climate change. Governments can encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal, by providing incentives and subsidies to individuals and businesses to invest in clean energy technologies. Promoting energy efficiency, reducing emissions from transportation, and transitioning to a low-carbon economy are additional ways governments can address climate change (UNFCCC, 2021).

Governments can also promote conservation and sustainable development practices to address climate change. This can include the protection of forests, wetlands, and other natural habitats, which can help to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sustainable land use practices, such as regenerative agriculture and agroforestry, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health while promoting food security and rural development (IPCC, 2021a). Collaboration among governments is essential in addressing climate change. Governments can work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, share technology and best practices, and support developing countries in adapting to the effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement, signed by over 190 countries, is an example of international collaboration to address climate change, which aims to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (UNFCCC, 2021). In conclusion, addressing climate change requires the collective efforts of governments worldwide. Governments can take various actions, such as investing in clean energy, promoting conservation and sustainable development, and collaborating with one another. These actions are critical in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change, which can help ensure a sustainable future for future generations.

Technological progress can potentially bring positive changes to the world, but it also poses challenges and risks. Governments can play a vital role in balancing the world order by fostering innovation and supporting the development of new technologies that promote economic growth, social progress, and environmental sustainability (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2021; UN, 2021). Governments can support the development of new technologies by investing in research and development, providing funding and incentives for innovation, and creating a regulatory environment that encourages technological progress. Collaboration between the public and private sectors can also help foster innovation and technological progress and support the commercialization of new technologies (OECD, 2021). Promoting the use of technology to address societal challenges is also essential. For example, using technology in healthcare can improve access to healthcare services, enhance patient outcomes, and reduce costs. Technological solutions can also help to address environmental challenges, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving resource efficiency (UN, 2021).

However, governments must also consider the potential risks associated with technological progress. These risks include cybersecurity threats, the potential displacement of workers by automation, and the impact of emerging technologies on privacy and human rights. Governments must develop policies and regulations that address these risks while supporting innovation and technological progress (OECD, 2021). Fostering innovation and technological progress is essential in promoting economic growth, social progress, and environmental sustainability. Governments can support the development of new technologies by investing in research and development, providing funding and incentives for innovation, and creating a regulatory environment that encourages technological progress. Collaboration between the public and private sectors can also help to foster innovation and technological progress. However, governments must also consider the potential risks associated with technological progress and develop policies and regulations that address these risks.

Geopolitical tensions and conflicts are a significant source of instability in the world today, and governments can play a crucial role in addressing these issues through diplomacy, conflict resolution, and the promotion of human rights and democracy. Governments can also work to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation and promote arms control and disarmament to achieve a more peaceful world (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), 2021; UN, 2021). Diplomacy and conflict resolution are essential tools in addressing geopolitical tensions and conflicts. Governments can use diplomatic channels to promote dialogue and engage in negotiations to resolve disputes peacefully. In addition, governments can support international organizations such as the UNs in their efforts to resolve conflicts and promote peace and security (UN, 2021). Promoting human rights and democracy is critical in addressing geopolitical tensions and conflicts. Governments can support civil society organizations and promote the rule of law, freedom of expression, and the protection of human rights. Promoting democratic institutions and processes can help to reduce tensions and promote stability by giving people a voice in their governance and reducing the likelihood of conflict (UN, 2021).

Reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation and promoting arms control and disarmament is also essential in promoting a more peaceful world. Governments can work to negotiate and implement arms control agreements, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict. Governments can also promote disarmament by reducing their arsenals and supporting the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones (ICAN, 2021). In conclusion, addressing geopolitical tensions and conflicts requires diplomacy, conflict resolution, and promotion of human rights and democracy. Governments can also work to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation and promote arms control and disarmament to achieve a more peaceful world. Through these efforts, governments can help to create a more stable and secure world for all.

Overall, governments and associated institutions are important in balancing the world order and promoting greater stability, prosperity, and security worldwide. By working together and taking a proactive approach to the challenges and risks facing society, they can help create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. The dynamics in the IRs can affect rich and poor nations differently, as it shapes the opportunities and constraints that each country faces in the global economy and the international system. Following are some possible effects of fluidity in the world order.

Impacts on High-Income Countries (Europe, USA, Japan, etc.)

The ability of rich nations to shape the international system and access resources, technology, and knowledge that enhance their competitiveness and influence has been a topic of interest among scholars and policymakers. According to Ikenberry (2018), wealthy countries often have greater leverage in determining the rules and norms that govern IRs. They can also leverage their economic power to secure access to natural resources, markets, and investment opportunities that can drive their growth and development. Moreover, globalization has provided rich nations increased interdependence and access to new markets and opportunities for trade, investment, and innovation. This has allowed them to expand their economies and increase their influence on the world stage. However, the fluidity of the world order also presents challenges to these nations. For example, traditional alliances and institutions may erode, non-state actors may challenge their interests and values, and emerging powers and regional blocs may shift the balance of power in their favor (Baldwin, 2016). Wealthy nations can also face challenges from global issues such as climate change, terrorism, and pandemics that require collective action and coordination among nations. As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, even the wealthiest countries can struggle to manage global crises alone, highlighting the importance of international cooperation and coordination.

The increasing inequality between rich and low-income countries and within rich countries can also pose challenges to the international system. The growing gap between the haves and have-nots can create social unrest and political instability, affecting the global economy and international security. In conclusion, while wealthy nations have significant advantages in shaping the international system and accessing resources, technology, and knowledge, they also face challenges from the fluidity of the world order, global issues, and inequality. Addressing these challenges will require international cooperation and collaboration among nations, including efforts to reduce inequality and promote inclusive growth and development.

Low and Middle-Income Countries (India, Africa, Latin America, etc.)

Low-income nations can benefit from the fluidity of the world order in various ways, such as by challenging traditional power structures and hierarchies, asserting their interests and values, and forging new alliances and partnerships with other countries and non-state actors (Cerny, 2009; Hafner-Burton, 2009; Perry, 2023). They can also take advantage of the opportunities created by globalization and the increasing demand for goods and services in emerging markets. Poor nations can benefit from the fluidity of the world order by participating in transnational networks of resistance against established power structures, and poor nations can use their position as “outsiders” to these networks to create new forms of resistance and activism that challenge traditional forms of power and influence.

However, poor nations also face significant challenges from the world order, such as the unequal distribution of power and resources that can limit their agency and influence, the persistence of poverty and inequality that can undermine their development efforts, and the vulnerability to global crises and shocks that can derail their progress. Developing countries face significant challenges in the current global economic system, including unequal power relations and limited policy autonomy. They suggest that these challenges can be addressed through policies that promote greater policy space and redistribution (Rudra & Tobin, 2017).

Persistence of poverty and inequality in developing countries is complicated, and addressing these challenges requires focusing on evidence-based policies that consider the specific contexts and needs of different countries and communities (Olken, 2020). Most importantly, developing countries face unique challenges in responding to global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and addressing these challenges requires a shift in the way that global governance is structured, with greater emphasis on local and regional responses (Chowdhury & Jomo 2020; Gostin et al., 2020). In general, the effects of the world order on rich and poor nations depend on various factors, such as the relative power and interests of different actors, the level of economic and political integration, and the ability of countries to adapt to changing circumstances. The fluidity of the world order can create opportunities and challenges for all countries, and the outcomes will depend on the choices and actions they take in response to these dynamics.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fluidity with the World Order?

The fluidity of the world order can bring advantages and disadvantages, depending on how it is managed and navigated by different actors in the global system. The fluidity of the world order can allow countries and other actors to respond more quickly and creatively to changing circumstances, such as new threats, opportunities, or challenges. This can enable them to innovate, experiment, and learn from diverse perspectives and approaches, which can enhance their resilience and effectiveness in the long run (Fukuyama, 2018). More pluralistic and inclusive: The fluidity of the world order can also promote greater diversity, participation, and representation of different voices and interests in the global system. This can lead to more equitable and inclusive outcomes and more legitimate and sustainable solutions to common problems (Bhagwati, 2004). Encourages cooperation and collaboration: The fluidity of the world order can foster greater cooperation and collaboration among countries and other actors as they seek to pursue shared goals or address common challenges. This can promote trust, mutual learning, and collective action, which can generate mutual benefits and reduce conflicts (Keohane & Nye, 1987).

The fluidity of the world order can also create more uncertainty and volatility as actors face greater unpredictability and risk in their interactions and transactions. This can undermine confidence, stability, and predictability in the global system, which can increase the likelihood of conflicts, crises, and failures (Stiglitz, 2018). The fluidity of the world order can also intensify competition and fragmentation among countries and other actors as they pursue their interests and values in a more contested and complex environment. This can lead to the formation of new blocs, alliances, and coalitions, which can further exacerbate tensions and conflicts (Kupchan, 2012). The fluidity of the world order can also marginalize weaker actors, such as small and vulnerable countries, non-state actors, or marginalized groups, as they face greater challenges in asserting their interests and values in the global system. This can widen inequalities, erode human rights, and undermine social justice and equity (Sen, 2006).

Conclusion

Global affairs are characterized by high fluidity and uncertainty as traditional geopolitical alliances and power structures undergo significant changes. This shift in the global order presents both opportunities and challenges for countries worldwide, especially those that have historically been marginalized or excluded from the global power structure. The potential for conflict and instability is one of the most significant challenges that this fluidity presents as countries seek to assert their influence on the global stage. Nevertheless, there are opportunities for collaboration and cooperation as countries seek to build new alliances and partnerships that are more responsive to the needs and aspirations of diverse populations. This break from past norms and institutions presents a chance to create more equitable and just systems of governance, but it requires bold leadership and a willingness to challenge entrenched interests. Emerging powers like China, India, and Brazil have a unique opportunity to shape the future of global governance and advance their interests while contributing to the greater good. Established powers like the United States and the EU must adapt to new realities and collaborate with emerging powers to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Climate change, economic inequality, and global health threats are pressing issues that require urgent attention and collective action from the international community. Ultimately, the fluidity of the world order presents an opportunity for countries to redefine their roles and responsibilities within the global community and create new systems of governance that are more inclusive, responsive, and equitable. To realize this vision, strong international partnerships, innovation and creativity, and a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential. In conclusion, the fluidity of the world order can have both advantages and disadvantages, depending on how it is managed and navigated by different actors in the global system. While it can enhance flexibility, adaptability, pluralism, and cooperation, it can also increase uncertainty, volatility, competition, fragmentation, and marginalization. Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between these different forces and perspectives and to pursue a more inclusive and equitable approach to global governance that respects human rights, promotes sustainable development, and fosters a sense of shared responsibility and common purpose. This requires the leadership and cooperation of governments and international organizations and the engagement and participation of civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders. By working together, we can harness the potential of the fluidity of the world order to create a more prosperous, peaceful, and just world for all.

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Sanjay Mishra is a Professor of Sociology, Adigrat University Adigrat, Tigray, Ethiopia. He can be contacted at mishras.sanjay@gmail.com.