Gemeinschaft as the lynchpin of multilateralism: world order and the challenge of multipolarity

Thumbnail Image
Butler, Seán
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Royal Irish Academy
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
This paper seeks to understand the impact of the ongoing shifts in global politics upon the operation of international law. Specifically, it examines how a re-configuration of global political power from a ‘unipolar’ system dominated by the US to a ‘multipolar’ system in which the US will need to share the apex of the international political power structure with rising states will affect the operation and evolution of the international legal system, with a particular focus upon how the present architecture of institutional multilateralism will interact with and guide these developments. It will be argued that the alterations that the rising states wish to make to the present international order – a rejection of universalist projects associated with US hegemony and a re-entrenchment of Westphalian sovereignty – will prove difficult to realise in the present institutional structure, due to the operational logic of multilateralism. Furthermore, the tension that will arise between this normative project and the structural obstacles it faces will threaten the world’s ability to tackle a series of collective action problems, the most problematic of which would be the maintenance of collective security. A multipolar world thus has the potential to be a much more unstable and chaotic world than any experienced since the end of World War II.
Global politics , International law , Unipolar , Multipolar , Institutional multilateralism , Collective security , Multilateralism , Gemeinschaft
Butler, S. (2018) 'Gemeinschaft as the lynchpin of multilateralism: world order and the challenge of multipolarity', Irish Studies in International Affairs, 29, pp. 17-34. doi: 10.3318/isia.2018.29.09
© 2018, Royal Irish Academy. All rights reserved.