75th Special Issue

Challenges to the Liberal World Order

A Call for Papers for the 75th Anniversary Issue of International Organization

David A. Lake, Lisa L. Martin, and Thomas Risse

We invite proposals for papers for a special issue to celebrate the 75th anniversary of International Organization. The deadline is March 15, 2018. We are reaching out broadly to the global International Relations community. Please feel free to forward this call to colleagues who you believe are well suited to contribute to the special issue.

Scope of the Special Issue

IO grew up with and has been deeply engaged in studying what has been called the post-World War II, liberal or Western international order. Liberal elements of the world order include principles such as respect for human rights, democracy, economic freedom, and multilateralism. IO was founded to document and analyze the United Nations, which stood at the core of the initial vision of a postwar order. The journal broadened its focus empirically and analytically as that order evolved into an open world economy composed of multiple international regimes that helped produce unprecedented peace and prosperity. IO further expanded its purview as the liberal international order spawned a global civil society and heterogeneous forms of governance.

Today, the international order faces new challenges, both inside its Western core and outside it. Driven in part by rising economic inequality, populism and economic nationalism in the United States and Europe threaten support for the free movement of goods, capital, and people across international borders, as well as multilateralism and multilateral institutions more generally. Brexit both reflects unease with the European Union and challenges the union itself by the defection of one of its major members. Parts of the international order that never bought into liberal principles, or that were never allowed to participate fully in the Western order, offer increasingly prominent alternative organizing principles.

Moreover, the Western triumphalism immediately following the end of the Cold War has been replaced by increasing challenges to core principles and features of the liberal order. Peace and stability are threatened by Russian authoritarianism and revanchism, as in Ukraine, social unrest and civil war in the greater Middle East, terrorism, and the problem of ungoverned spaces more generally. On top of these challenges, the legitimacy of U.S. leadership, multilateralism, and international organizations are increasingly called into question by nationalists and autocratic regimes worried about the loss of sovereignty. The Chinese development model of autocratic state capitalism calls into question the liberal mantra that capitalist development, human rights, and democracy have to go together. Global leadership will be shared by liberal, democratic, capitalist states with countries espousing state-capitalism and autocratic systems. Last not least, on the global level, climate change poses a nearly unprecedented challenge to all nations and the system of global governance, revealing the inadequacy of multilateral institutions in the face of opposition from individual members, as well as highlighting the increasingly prominent role of private regulatory authorities.

The liberal international order has survived past periods of challenge. It may well prove resilient. But current challenges do raise important questions that scholars need to reflect upon and that will shape the agenda of the field of international relations in the decades ahead. The special issue, we hope, will serve to help define that agenda. The role of IO in promoting the study of multilateralism and international governance makes the 75th anniversary of this journal the ideal time to reflect on another round of fundamental challenges to the international order.


We seek papers for the 75th anniversary special issue that are: 1) problem-driven, in the sense that they begin with and focus on current challenges to the liberal international order; 2) theory-driven, with the aim to assess what our theories tell us about the challenges and, importantly, what elements of these challenges are “missed” by our theories; and 3) agenda-setting, not stock-taking papers but efforts to define the research agenda for the future.

A paper on climate change, for instance, might briefly sketch the scope of the problem, familiar to many of us, identify what current theories get right or importantly get wrong about cooperation and governance on climate change, and how theory must change to capture more accurately or fully the challenge. We imagine each paper will take up a different challenge, defined by the author, and we will seek to address a broad array of issues. The editorial team will provide an introduction to the volume as a way to emphasize the holistic nature of this issue.

We hope to include papers from authors outside the usual IO community who can reflect on the field of international relations in general, ideally identifying blind spots that have prevented us from anticipating or fully understanding current challenges. In this context, we would particularly encourage submissions by authors from other disciplines (e.g. economics, sociology, law, social anthropology, geography) and from outside North America and Europe. Our goal is to incentivize authors to write papers that otherwise would not be written. We welcome coauthored submissions. Understanding challenges to the liberal order requires that we better understand parts of the world, or issue-areas, that were never fully integrated into a liberal framework. Thus, we also envision including one or more contributions that focus on alternative visions of world order.


Scholars interested in writing a paper for the anniversary issue should submit a short precis of no more than three pages by March 15, 2018. Each precis should identify the problem or issue to be addressed, what theories and approaches will be reviewed, and the vision of a future research agenda. From these extended abstracts, we will invite authors to develop longer memos, which will then be discussed at an initial workshop in September 2018 at UC San Diego. After the workshop, a limited and select number of authors will be invited to develop full papers for presentation at a conference tentatively scheduled for June 2019 at the Freie Universität Berlin.

After the Berlin conference, papers will be selected for revision and submission as part of the special issue to IO and undergo the usual review process for special issues.

Interested authors should be aware that at no stage of this selection process is there a guarantee that any paper will progress to the next stage. The IO editorial team also reserves the right to demand revisions and to reject papers based on peer reviews. Accepted papers would go into production in Fall 2020 to appear in Volume 75, sometime in 2021.

Paper proposals should be submitted to https://goo.gl/forms/NhWRzbwKo862MKAf2 .


Winter 2018: Call for papers

March 15, 2018: Submission deadline for precis

Sept. 2018: First authors’ workshop in San Diego (based on extended memos)

June 2019: Second authors’ workshop in Berlin, Germany (discussion of draft papers)

Fall 2019: Submission of papers to IO for review process

Fall 2020: Accepted papers in production for special issue per IO vol. 75, 2021


David A. Lake (UC San Diego)

Lisa L. Martin (University of Wisconsin)

Thomas Risse (Freie Universität)