Declaring and diagnosing crises when faced with turbulent, unsteady situations is a long-established practice in world affairs. Pandemics, environmental disasters, or political crises are recurring phenomena that have always contributed to shaping people’s perception of the world and the times they live in. When they hit, global institutions provide stability to world order and can help restore the status quo ante. The recent frequency and simultaneity, with which crises seem to occur on a global scale, however, are calling into question the adaptability of the current international system and could instead be seen as symptoms indicating a recasting of the very principles and norms of world order. In this reading, the multiple crises that we are currently experiencing on several fronts – a health crisis around Covid-19, a global ecological crisis around climate change, a global institutional crisis with populist and other challenges to liberal multilateralism, to name but a few – are not only perpetuating, but are also affecting the way we conceive of how our world is ordered. Thus, long-term transformations in geopolitical power distributions, in prevailing global norms such as economic growth and human rights, in struggles for social equality, and even in the very project of modernity might follow suit.
By the same token, all of these struggles may in hindsight be seen simply as passing moments of instability that will not have brought any deeper change to world order whatsoever. Moreover, based on their individual world views, the plethora of actors involved in world ordering and global governance might arrive at very different conclusions about assumed changes and readjustments in world politics. Depending, in addition, on how heavily certain issue areas will be affected by a particular crisis, such an event might rather just leave behind a patchwork of governance arrangements and lead to further fragmentation of global cooperation instead of causing a profound rupture in the system.
Against this background the KHK/Centre for Global Cooperation Research (KHK/GCR21) and the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) along with the Main Research Area ‘Transformation of Contemporary Societies’ aimed to explore how perceptions of cumulative crises affect the re-ordering of the world and whether it makes sense to think about global politics in times of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of change and continuity. In order to take stock and provide preliminary answers to these questions, at our joint Annual Conference we thus gathered scholars and researchers who were discussing their ideas on the reconstruction of order and legitimate authority in the face of crises, on (trans-)regional security dynamics in contemporary international relations, on the re-configuration of transnational multi-stakeholder actor networks, or on continuity and change in the asymmetric modern world economy.
By doing so they investigated
- how diverse actors, disciplines, and methodological-theoretical approaches conceptualize and study processes of world (re-)ordering against the perception of global crises,
- who the main actors and institutions involved in these processes are and in how far they act within or outside of formal decision-making processes, especially on a global level,
- and to what extent structural inequalities and power imbalances are being affected by the perceived multiple crises.
For further details please see the conference programme.