University of Oxford
Is the liberal order in decline? What do the practices of the UN Security Council tell us about change in the liberal order? Frederking addresses these questions utilizing a constructivist theoretical lens and an empirical examination of all 6,124 UNSC meetings over 1990–2020. The liberal order is premised on two legitimacy-generating bargains. Firstly, the 'Charter bargain' between the P5 and all other UN members. The P5 provide global security and agree to act in accordance with the UN Charter, whilst the other members agree to comply with UNSC resolutions. Secondly, the 'hegemonic bargain' between the US and its allies via which the US agrees to emphasize liberal approaches to global security and to act through IGOs, and its allies support US system leadership. The theory provides a good account for the trade-offs in the contemporary order, but the contribution of the book is chiefly empirical. The coding and classification of UNSC meeting practices utilizing content analysis is a major and highly valuable undertaking. This data is presented in a descriptive form and suggests the declinist narrative to be overstated. Strikingly, Frederking shows that 50% of the 357 Russian and Chinese objections to proposed UNSC resolutions were based on liberal, as opposed to realist or imperialist rationales, suggesting the liberal order to have greater support from, and deeper penetration of, non-liberal major powers than typically assumed. Unfortunately, despite the construction of such a valuable dataset, statistical analyses are not presented (though some are provided through an online appendix). Such analyses would have allowed the book to go further in bridging the gap between rationalist and non-rationalist, and quantitative and qualitative, research on the UN.