International Politics

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 350–365 | Cite as

Towards a post-hegemonic world: The multipolar threat to the multilateral order

  • Zaki Laïdi
Original Article


Multipolarity, understood as a global redistribution of power among an increasing number of actors, will not necessarily lead to a strengthening of a multilateral, cooperative order. In fact, the opposite is now occurring. If anything, multipolarity is placing multilateralism on an ever more precarious footing. Thus while emerging powers will increasingly contest Western hegemony, they will not want – nor be able – to replace it. This would constitute transition without hegemony – the very definition of multipolarity.


multilateralism WTO UNFCCC European Union member states bilateralism multipolarity 


  1. Agur, I. (2008) The US trade deficit, the decline of the WTO and the rise of regionalism. Global Economy Journal 8 (3): 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahearn, R.J. (2012) Rising Economic Powers and US Trade Policy. Congressional Research Service, 3 December 2012, p. 6.Google Scholar
  3. Arrighi, G., Silver, B.J. and Brewer, B.D. (2003) Industrial convergence, globalization, and the persistece of the north-south divide. Studies in Comparative International Development 38 (1): 3–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhagwati, J. (2011) America’s free trade abdication. The American Interest, Op-Ed, 29 September 2011.Google Scholar
  5. Bodansky, D. and Diringer, E. (2010) The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change. Arlington, VA, USA: PEW Center on Global Climate Change.Google Scholar
  6. Bremmer, I. and Huntsman, J. (2013) How to play well with China. New York Times, 2 June.Google Scholar
  7. Caporaso, J. (1993) International relations theories and multilateralism: The search for foundations. In: J.G. Ruggie (ed.) Multilateralism Matters the Theory and Praxis of an Institutional For. New York: Columbia University Press, p. 479.Google Scholar
  8. Collier, P. (2006) Why the WTO is deadlocked: And what can be done about it. The World Economy 29 (10): 1423–1449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Croome, J. (2009) Reshaping the World Trading System: A History of the Uruguay Round, 2nd edn. Geneva, Switzerland: WTO.Google Scholar
  10. Elsig, M., Milewicz, K. and Stürchler, N. (2011) Who is in love with multilateralism? Treaty commitment in the post-cold war era. European Union Politics 12 (4): 529–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. European Commission. (2008) EU Performance in the global economy. In: DG Trade. Brussels, Belgium: Global Europe.Google Scholar
  12. European Commission. (2010) Trade, growth and world affairs. Trade policy as a core component of the EU’s 2020 strategy. In: DG Trade, COM(2010)612. Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  13. European Commission. (2012) External sources of growth. In: Staff Working Document. Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  14. European Commission. (2013) Trade: A key source of growth and jobs for the EU. In: Commission Contribution to the European Council of 7–8 February. Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  15. Evenett, S. (2007) EU Commercial Policy in a Multipolar Trading System. The Center for International Governance Innovation, Working Paper no. 23. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
  16. Falkner, R., Stephan, H. and Vogler, J. (2010) International climate policy after Copenhagen: Towards a ‘building blocks’ approach. Global Policy 1 (3): 252–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Falkner, R. (2013) The crisis of environmental multilateralism: A liberal response. In: D. Brack, P. Burall, N. Stockley and M. Tuffrey (eds.) The Green Book: New Directions for Liberals in Government. London: Biteback Publishing, pp. 347–358.Google Scholar
  18. Goudron, J. and Jean, S. (2013) Les enjeux d’un accord commercial transatlantique [The stakes of a transatlantic trade agreement], CEPII Blog, 15 February.Google Scholar
  19. Harbinson, S. (2012) The WTO Must Bounce Back, ECIPE Policy Brief no. 09.Google Scholar
  20. Horner, C.C. (2012) An Assessment of the June 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The Federalist Society, Engage, Vol. 13, no. 1.Google Scholar
  21. Hudec, R.E. (2010) Developing Countries in the GATT Legal System. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hurrell, A. and Sengupta, S. (2012) Emerging powers, north-south relations and global climate politics. International Affairs 88 (3): 481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ismail, F. (2009) An assessment of the WTO Doha Round July–December 2008 collapse. World Trade Review 8 (4): 579–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kindelberger, C. (1981) Dominance and leadership in the international economy: Exploitation, public goods and free riders. International Studies Quarterly 25 (2): 242–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klimburg, A. (2013) The Internet Yalta. Washington DC: Center for a New American Security, 5 February.Google Scholar
  26. Laïdi, Z. (2008) Norms Over Force: The Enigma of European Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Laïdi, Z. (2012a) Limited Achievements: Obama’s Foreign Policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Laïdi, Z. (2012b) BRICS: Sovereignty power and weakness. International Politics 49 (5): 614–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lloyd, P. (2012) Multilateralism in Crisis, ARTNET Working Paper no. 114, June. Bangkok, ESCAP.Google Scholar
  30. Low, P. and Santana, R. (2009) Trade liberalization in manufactures: What is left after the Doha round? The Journal of International Trade and Diplomacy 3 (1): 63–126.Google Scholar
  31. Mah, J.S. (2011) Special and differential treatment of developing countries and export promotion policies under the WTO. The World Economy 34 (12): 1999–2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Manfield, E. (1993) Concentration, polarity and the distribution of power. International Studies Quarterly 37 (1): 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mattoo, A. and Subramanian, A. (2012) China and the world trading system. World Economy 35 (12): 1733–1771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Narlikar, A. and Tussie, D. (2004) The G20 at the Cancun ministerial: Developing countries and their evolving coalitions in the WTO. World Economy 27 (7): 947–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Narlikar, A. (2005) Bargaining Over the Doha Development Agenda: Coalitions in the World Trade Organization. Buenos Aires: Latin American Trade Network, LATN Working Paper.Google Scholar
  36. Narlikar, A. (2010) New powers in the club: The challenges of global trade governance. International Affairs 86 (3): 717–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Olson, M. (1978) La logique de l’action collective [The Logic of Collective Action]. Paris, France: Puf.Google Scholar
  38. Paterson, M. (2009) Post-hegemonic climate politics? The British Journal of Politics & International Relations 11 (1): 140–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pauwelyn, J. (2013) The end of differential treatment for developing countries? Lessons from the trade and climate change regimes. Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 22 (1): 21.Google Scholar
  40. Rajamani, L. (2000) The principle of common but differentiated responsibility and the balance of commitments under the climate regime. Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 9 (2): 120–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rajamani, L. (2012) The changing fortunes of differential treatment in the evolution of international environmental law. International Affairs 8 (3): 605–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts, T.J. (2011) Multipolarity and the new world (Dis)order: US hegemonic decline and the fragmentation of the global climate regime. Global Environmental Change 21 (3): 776–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ruggie, J.G. (1992) Multilateralism: The anatomy of an institution. International Organization 46 (3): 572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schott, J.J. (2011) What Should the US do About Doha? Washington DC: Peterson Institute Policy Brief, pp. 11–18.Google Scholar
  45. Schwab, S.C. (2011) After Doha – why the negotiations are doomed and what we should do about it. Foreign Affairs 90 (3): 104–117.Google Scholar
  46. White House Statement. (2013) United States and China agree to work together on phase down of HFCs,, accessed 8 June 2013.
  47. Van Rompuy, H. (2012) The power of the union: Europe, its neighbourhood and the World. Speech at Chatham House, London, 31 May.Google Scholar
  48. Viola, E., Franchini, M. and Lemos Ribeiro, T. (2012) Climate governance in an international system under conservative hegemony: The role of major powers. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional 55, special edition: 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wade, R.H. (2011) Emerging world order? From multipolarity to multilateralism in the G20, the world bank and the IMF. Politics & Society 39 (3): 352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. World Bank. (2011) Multipolarity: The New Global Economy. Washington DC: Global Development Horizons.Google Scholar
  51. Zoellick, R. (2010) The end of the Third World. Speech at Woodrow Wilson Center. Washington DC, 14 April.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zaki Laïdi
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre d’Etudes EuropéennesParis Cedex 07France

Personalised recommendations