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Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: Essays on American Power and International Order

ISBN: 978-0-7456-3649-8
312 pages
June 2006, Polity
Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: Essays on American Power and International Order (0745636497) cover image


This book of essays by the a leading figure in the new generation of American IR theorists explores the theoretical, historical, and foreign policy implications of American power and postwar order. The first part of the book focuses on the origins and foundational logic of America’s post-war order-building project – advancing ideas about ‘liberal hegemony’ and ‘constitutional order’. The second part reflects on its evolving character and fate in the aftermath of the Cold War, the rise of unipolarity, and the post-9/11 threat of global terrorism.

In this unique study of a superpower, Ikenberry argues that though the American world order is now in upheaval, in the end, the United States still has powerful incentive to sponsor and operate within a liberal rules-based system.

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Table of Contents



Part One: Constitutionalism and Liberal Hegemony

Chapter One: Rethinking the Origins of American Hegemony

Chapter Two: Socialization and Hegemonic Power

Chapter Three: The Nature and Sources of Liberal International Order

Chapter Four: Constitutional Politics in International Relations

Chapter Five: American Power and the Empire of Capitalist Democracy

Part Two: Unipolarity and Multilateralism

Chapter Six: The Myth of Post Cold-War Chaos

Chapter Seven: Getting Hegemony Right

Chapter Eight: American Grand Strategy in the Age of Terror

Chapter Nine: America's Imperial Ambition

Chapter Ten: The End of the Neo-Conservative Moment

Chapter Eleven: Is American Multilateralism in Decline?


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Author Information

John Ikenberry is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
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The Wiley Advantage

  • A new volume from the a leading figure in the new generation of American IR theorists
  • Unique analysis of America’s status as a superpower in the international order over the past two decades
  • Discusses the aftermath of the Cold War, American multilateralism, 9-11 and the rise and fall of neo-conservatism
  • An engaging and controversial book, written for students and the general reader
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“In this masterful work covering a decade of scholarship, John Ikenberry explains how American power has not been so much constrained by international institutions as embedded in them. The Bush administration’s attempt to break out of perceived international straightjackets in fact misunderstands the nature of hegemonic power and represents an important break with earlier traditions of US foreign policy.”
Francis Fukuyama

"The essays, taken one by one, constitute a fascinating journey carrying the reader step by step through a scientific analysis of the origin, nature and evolution of American power."
International Spectator

“Ikenberry’s arguments are the product of deep reflection and built through a structure that produces a clarity and crispness often lacking in such literature ... these essays will stand out as a fine articulation of this particular interpretation of US policy and one that is likely to have considerable influence in the coming years.”
International Affairs

“While he ranges over a number of topics, Ikenberry produces a powerful critique of the view that the post-war order rested solely on material power. [His] assessment rests on intellectual foundations that are marked by historical depth and philosophical acuity.”
Political Studies Review

“G. John Ikenberry is America's poet laureate of liberal internationalism and the most gifted international relations scholar of his generation.”
Martin Walker, Editor, United Press International; World Policy Institute at New York’s New School University

“This is a splendid collections of essays, remarkable for the sure-footed way they have mapped both the normative and explanatory challenges at the heart of the troubled American engagement with the world.”
Michael W. Doyle, Columbia University

“No other writer on international politics has done more to advance our understanding of American power under conditions of unipolarity than John Ikenberry. Never dull and always challenging, he has carved out an intellectual niche that has become uniquely his own over the past few years. With a clarity that is commendable, and an intelligence that is obvious, he makes the case in these essays for something that has been too readily forgotten in our insecure age of terror: that for the United States, cooperation with others is not merely the nice thing to do but the smart thing to do as well. A tour de force by one American we simply cannot afford to ignore.”
Michael Cox, London School of Economics

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