The Liberal World Order - in Crisis (500IR)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

Focusing on the post-Cold War era, how did we get from the initial optimistic promise of peace and prosperity, democracy and human rights to the current crisis? What is the nature of the crisis? Since when has the liberal world order been in crisis and for whom? Can a liberal vision of a US-led ‘rules-based order’ re-emerge from under the rubble of Gaza? How do we make sense of liberal states acting benign-liberal domestically, and seemingly illiberal in their foreign relations?

In this module, you will approach the current crisis historically and from a range of different perspectives. You will learn about the past and present relationship between (1) liberalism, capitalism and democracy, and (2) liberalism and war. This includes the seemingly paradoxical histories of core liberal thinkers and political actors promoting individual liberal freedom on the one hand, and (settler) colonialism, chattel slavery and patriarchy on the other hand. We will discuss the extent to which the reproduction and extension of liberal capitalism in the current era continues to involve relations of violence, coercion and constraint.


100%: Lecture


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: