Global Governance Institute


43: Philip Cunliffe – Liberal Utopianism and its Discontents

Philip Cunliffe joins us to talk about liberal utopianism and realpolitik, shifting global power dynamics, and much more.

Philip Cunliffe
Philip Cunliffe joins us to talk about his recent book ‘The New 20 Year Crisis’ which draws inspiration for the classic 1939 text ‘The 20 Year Crisis’ by E. H. Carr to advance a powerful, incisive critique both of the liberal internationalist project of the past two decades, as well as the discipline of IR itself which beguiled by the ‘unipolar imaginary’ has failed to comprehend the depth of the transformations currently underway in international politics.  Philip provocatively argues that we are living through a wholesale structural reconfiguration of the international political order, a reconfiguration which spells the end of ‘the utopian dream of the receding era of unipolarity’.  This claim sets the stage for a lively conversation where we touch upon questions of realism versus idealism, the autonomous logic of realpolitik, liberalism post-unipolarity, why Karl Rove is the ultimate constructivist(!), and, ultimately, why a fundamental rethink in how we practice and teach international relations is now essential if we are to fully reckon with rising multipolarity and shifting global power dynamics.

Philip Cunliffe is Associate Professor in International Relations at the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, University College London where he researches and teaches on the topics of international order, multinational military intervention and conflict management. He has 20 years of academic experience, having previously worked as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent and a Temporary Lecturer at the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College. He obtained his PhD in War Studies from King's College London. He has also worked as a contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

He is a prolific author and editor, having published eight books and numerous academic articles and chapters on various aspects of international politics and security. He is committed to engaging with the public and the media, and writes for various outlets, including UnHerd, the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Times (London), Daily Telegraph, Compact, among others. He has also appeared on TV and radio including BBC Radio 4 and GB News.

Philip co-hosts the @bungacast podcast.

And tweets @thephilippics.

His Substack is here.

Philip’s UCL profile can be found here.

We discussed:

The New Twenty Years’ Crisis A Critique of International Relations, 1999-2019 (2020).

Cosmopolitan dystopia International intervention and the failure of the West (2020).

The End of the End of History Politics in the Twenty-First Century (2021).