As emerging economies strive for greater global diversity, ‘turbulence and anxiety’ bubble beneath the surface – assessing a world in which the prospect of fascism cannot be ignored

Published (Updated )

A new paper from City, University of London’s Professor of International Politics, Professor Inderjeet Parmar, shines a light on the many challenges facing liberal internationalism in today’s world.

The paper, published in the Ethics & International Affairs journal, assesses the rising threat of right-wing authoritarianism and even fascism, as well as the surging demands of growing international economies (such as BRIC countries) restless for international representation.

Titled ‘Global Power Shifts, Diversity, and Hierarchy in International Politics’, Professor Parmar’s paper illustrates how both the political and academic worlds are scrutinising liberal internationalism like never before.

“The ‘end of history’ proclamation of the late 1980s and the threat of a (boring) world with no major ideological divisions has not come to pass,” explains Professor Parmar, who is head of City's Department of International Politics.

“On the contrary, the world is experiencing turbulence and anxiety.

Unorthodox political and ideological forces, led by charismatic ‘men of destiny’, are increasingly significant across the world, and the spectre of right-wing authoritarianism and even fascism haunts Western societies.”

“There is growing social pressure, just beneath the surface of most societies and reflected in national and international politics, that threatens to break out in extreme levels of social fracturing and political violence ” – Professor Inderjeet Parmar, writing in Ethics & International Affairs

The paper examines the growing demand for greater recognition and diversity within the international relations discipline and in the representation of emerging global powers in international institutions.

Yet, Parmar makes the case that merely incorporating and rewarding emerging powers’ elites does not address more fundamental economic and social inequality now driving national politics and largely harnessed by the extreme right.

The problems of class inequality, reflected in inequalities of income, wealth and political power, are simply left unaddressed by legitimate, but narrowly-construed, demands for more places at the top table for Chinese, Indian and other elites.

Nevertheless, the resultant literature has led to significant advances in understanding – both in terms of how the West dominates so-called diversity regimes and co-opts the discourse, while also, through being wedded to a globalist-interventionist mind-set, contributes to the current state of anxiety and crisis in global politics.

In the paper, Professor Parmar argues: “Although the concepts of diversity and hierarchy are both central to the broader scholarly discussion and to our understanding of global order, we are still missing some crucial pieces of the puzzle.

“In particular, I advocate for using the lens of class in order to expand on those concepts and to better capture the core crises of the international order today.

“It is not only constructivist scholars … who have this blind spot, but realists and liberals as well.”

But there is also a political question at the heart of current power structures.

Professor Parmar explains: “Given its desire to remain dominant, steeped as it is in history characterised by imperial and racialised mind-sets, is the United States, and the broader West, able and willing to accept Global South powers on an equal footing?

“Even with its first African-American president there was little, if any, discernible change in US foreign policy, let alone any material improvement in domestic racial equality.

“With President Donald Trump elected on a promise to put (white) America first, openly declaring whole national groups criminals, an entire continent unfit for humans, and a preference for Norwegians, the political space for ‘diversity’ politics on an international scale remains very narrow.”

Read the full paper in Ethics & International Affairs.

About Professor Inderjeet Parmar

  • Professor Parmar heads City’s Department of International Politics and is a past president, chair and vice chair of the British International Studies Association.
  • From 2013-14 he was Visiting Research Scholar at the Empires Research Community, Princeton University, USA.
  • He is co-editor of a book series, Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy.
  • He served as Principal Investigator and co-ordinator of the AHRC Research Network on the Presidency of Barack Obama. He is currently working with colleagues to establish the Trump Project:
  • He was a member of the Working Group on Think Tanks of the Social Science Research Council, New York, 2007, and co-convenor of the BISA Working Group on US Foreign Policy, 2005-9.
  • He appears regularly on numerous TV and radio stations, including CNN, BBC, CNBC, talkRADIO and Al Jazeera.
  • He regularly tweets his commentary on breaking news stories: @USEmpire.