As mentioned before, what underpins an established order is a “social contract.” In turn, a social contract amounts to the coming together of various entities, individuals, and parties to establish a commonly agreed-upon and commonly accepted order. Hence, with the end of the American “unipolar moment” comes an end to the established order that came with the American “unipolar moment.” In turn, such a situation necessitates the renewal of a “social contract” that can underpin a novel global order.
With the demise of the American “unipolar moment,” the United States is no longer in the position to unilaterally uphold the global order through its own economic and military capabilities and resources. Nor do the American people really have the desire or the will for such an undertaking any longer. Warfare, it is worth noting, has two basic precepts or principles which guide it, namely, self-defense and proportionality. As a result, the breaking or undermining of the long-standing “social contract” which underpinned the global order for decades is largely the result of American hegemonic wars in the 21st century.
Whether certain individuals and groups in America can get off scot free while the rest of the world unravels as a result of the 21st century wars of hegemony which they planned and orchestrated in violation of the very basic principles and laws governing warfare as well as in violation of international legal conventions and rules remains to be seen.
One likelihood, however, is the emerge of a “world system” post-American hegemony whereby a set of regional “core states” with their respective “peripheral” areas emerges. As Henry Kissinger suggested: “The contemporary quest for world order will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions, and to relate these regions to one another.” What underpins this kind of regional organization is an international “division of labor” as some scholars have contended.
But such an organization implies integration between the various regional organizational units, and with politics and social issues in the mix, it remains to be seen whether integration between the potential regional organizational units will take root or whether de-linking and the decoupling of the various regional organizations from one another or their fragmentation from within will result from the ongoing political and social turmoil in these various regions. There is also a major catch to such an organization which Kissinger noted, namely, that the establishment of order in one region could lead to instability in another region.
Nevertheless, and as Immanuel Wallerstein wrote:
“The period of transition from one system to another is a period of great struggle, of great uncertainty, and of great questioning about the structures of knowledge. We need first of all to try to understand clearly what is going on. We need then to make our choices about the directions in which we want the world to go. And we must finally figure out how we can act in the present so that it is likely to go in the direction we prefer.”
“We can think of these three tasks as the intellectual, the moral, and the political tasks. They are different, but they are closely interlinked. None of us can opt out of any of these tasks. If we claim we do, we are merely making a hidden choice. The tasks before us are exceptionally difficult. But they offer us, individually and collectively, the possibility of creation, or at least of contributing to the creation of something that might fulfill better our collective possibilities.”
What augments and exacerbates the difficulty of transitioning from one world system or one world order to another as well as the difficulty of creating a novel order out of the ashes of the former order is the state of decline which has taken hold of international society in a number of regards. As Hedley Bull wrote: “International society today is in decline, but such prospects as there may be for order in world politics lie in attempts to arrest this decline rather than to hasten it.” And to top it all off, international society is in a situation whereby “the old order is in flux while the shape of the replacement is highly uncertain.”
To conclude, any assessment about the future cannot be proven true at the present moment, and an assessment about the future becomes even more questionable amidst the kind of upheaval which we are witnessing at the moment. But coincidentally, and ironically, the outcome we seek from the current upheaval will come down largely to the kind of future we conceive and imagine for the world and for ourselves, even if this concept or idea seems naïve and foolish to certain folks.