By Trine Flockhart, Professor of International Relations, SDU
Many have the feeling that the world is currently spinning out of control and that one crisis follows another, whilst established institutions and elected politicians seem unable to meet the many challenges. The feeling is not unfounded because we are currently in the midst of a global transformational shift in which patterns of authority, identity and established political practice are in flux. Transformations of international order are rare, but extremely important events. They take place through processes that typically reach into all spheres of life, and they are often associated with uncertainty, conflict and contestation. The problem is that despite their importance and enormous ramifications, order transformations are often only apparent with the benefit of hindsight, as their origins tend to be unrelated to international order.
The current transformational shift appears to be flowing from multiple, and interconnected change-processes such as revolutionary developments in science and technology, digital communication, demographic and social transformations, globalization, and accelerating climate change. Each process is complex and has far-reaching consequences with impacts that are often experienced as deeply unsettling by large constituencies – especially in the old industrial democracies. Additionally, each of the on-going change processes is a key driver of further change at both the global level of international institutions, and at the local level in democratic politics. In Europe, for example, the multiple change processes have given rise to challenges that are simultaneously perceived as threats to the European ‘good life’ and which have resulted in reactions that are themselves undermining cherished values and practices.
The DIAS lecture will seek to unpack the current transformation process and suggest that the answer is not to ‘take back control’ or to ‘make something great again’, but rather to better understand the complex unfolding process and seek to mitigate its unavoidable negative consequences, whilst preparing for a new form of order characterized by complexity and diversity in ideas about how international order is constituted.