Episode 22: G. John Ikenberry

Democracy is often imagined at its purest at a micro level. Town hall meetings are sometimes imagined as a simpler form of democratic governance, so international relations can feel as though it is miles away from democracy. Andy yet, it is the international liberal order which has brought about the vast proliferation of democracy around the world.

My guest, John Ikenberry, notes “Liberal democracy was both a national and an international project… Its institutions and ideals were premised on an expanding world of trade, exchange, and community.” Scholars talk about liberal democracy. Sometimes it is not clear whether liberalism depends on democracy or democracy depends on liberalism. It’s easy to assume liberalism is necessary to limit the dangers of democracy, but one of my favorite scholars, Sheri Berman, explains, “Liberalism unchecked by democracy can easily deteriorate into oligarchy or technocracy.” The two are linked.

G. John Ikenberry has written about liberal internationalism since the 1980s. He is a giant in the field of international relations. He is a Professor of Politics and International Relations at Princeton University and the author of the new book A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crisis of Global Order. Our conversation explores political theory and international theory, but also American history and current events.

This is the first of my three-part episode arc about the global ascendance of China called “Liberalism, Capitalism, Communism.” We do not discuss China until the end of the conversation. This is not by accident. The purpose of this episode is to offer context. It’s impossible to grasp the impact of China until we explain the liberal international order and its importance.

My hope is you will have a stronger sense of what is at stake as we discuss China with two different scholars who have very different perspectives. This is a great conversation and a wonderful introduction for the next two weeks.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. You can find A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crisis of Global Order at Amazon or your local library. The music of Apes of the State is featured in the introduction and outro . You can find their music on Spotify or Bandcamp

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