In the wake of World War II, a number of institutions designed to promote a liberal global economic and geopolitical order were established—the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (forerunner of the World Trade Organization), and the World Bank in the economic sphere, and the United Nations in the geopolitical realm. Although these organizations were far from perfect, their actions promoted rising living standards and political freedoms for all. Liberalism thus reengineered represented a fundamental bet on the supremacy of democracy and the market economy, and spurred the transformation of North America, Western Europe, and Japan into prosperous societies, each with a large and vibrant middle class and a social safety net.
Now, however, this liberal geopolitical and economic order is under attack. The free movement of goods, services, money, people, and information that once formed the recipe for progress under liberalism is blamed by many for rising inequality, mass migrations, and the declining legitimacy of political parties, as well as the fragmentation of global superpower relations. Nationalism, xenophobia, and populism continue to advance at the right and left ends of the political spectrum, eroding the moderate middle ground.
In Rude Awakening, Mauro F. Guillén argues for an improved international arrangement to provide for stability and prosperity. He offers key considerations that a reinvented global liberal order must address—from finding a balance between markets and governments to confronting present realities, such as rapid technological change and social inequality, to recognizing that Europe and the United States can no longer attempt by themselves to steer the global economy. Rude Awakening affirms the potential of liberalism still to provide a flexible framework for governments, businesses, workers, and citizens to explore and make necessary compromises and coalitions for a better future.
Chapter 1. How Did We End up Here?
Chapter 2. The Rude Awakening
Chapter 3. New Actors Enter the Stage
Chapter 4. Allocating the Blame
Chapter 5. What Needs to Be Done?
Writing a book is a way of coming to terms with a topic. I had difficulty understanding why in recent years so many people turned away from the principles of liberalism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the spread of democracy, and the successes of the market economy in at least some parts of the emerging world, it seemed to me that liberal economic and political ideas had demonstrated their power to deliver better standards of living in a free society. The most recent financial crisis, the rise of inequality, and the proliferation of political corruption quickly came to my mind as important reasons why so many people felt disenchanted. It seemed to me that technological change also played a role in the increasing economic and social dislocation all around us.
I was puzzled and concerned by the growth of parties on the far right and the radical left of the political spectrum, and by how quickly so many voters flocked to populist and nationalist proposals, shunning traditional parties and the political establishment. I had an overwhelming sense that we were approaching the end of an era guided by liberal principles.
"A most comprehensive and timely assessment of the challenges to the Global Liberal Order. A must read for its grasp of the various changes in the global landscape."—Joseph W. Westphal, U.S. Ambassador, retired
"In the past decade the world's politics and economies have changed in ways that are as surprising as they are befuddling. In this short book professor Mauro Guillén tackles the big questions of our time with verve, erudition and originality. He offers powerful answers and asks interesting questions. A must read."—Moises Naím, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"Rude Awakening rings the alarm over the negative consequences of abandoning political and economic liberalism, arguing that it can provide a framework for business, government, and civil society to unmask the false promises of nationalism and populism."—Barbara Judge, Institute of Directors