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The retreat of the west

Trubowitz, Peter and Burgoon, Brian (2020) The retreat of the west. Perspectives on Politics. pp. 1-21. ISSN 1537-5927

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S1537592720001218


The West is turning inward. Donald Trump’s presidency, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and the spread of populist parties in Europe are the most visible signs of this retreat. The shift is not as recent as these examples suggest, however. In this paper, we show that Western governments’ support for liberal internationalism has been receding in important ways for over fifteen years, and argue that this trend is best understood as part of a larger “hollowing out” of the political center in Western democracies. Drawing on an array of cross-national data for industrialized democracies and for hundreds of political parties in those democracies, we document the erosion of Western government and party support for liberal internationalism from its Cold War apex, through the 2008 global economic downturn, and to the present. We show that this erosion in Western governments’ support for liberal internationalism corresponds to a steady weakening of mainstream parties’ electoral strength across OECD countries, and hence, to their declining policy-making influence. The erosion of the “vital center” has opened up political space for radical-right and radical-left parties which have been the vehicles of the current backlash against liberal internationalism. We discuss the implications of these trends for the future of the Western liberal international order and strategies now on offer to repair it.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 American Political Science Association
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2020 11:42
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 02:09

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