Legitimacy challenges to the liberal world order: Evidence from United Nations speeches, 1970–2018

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Kentikelenis, Alexander  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1543-4595
Voeten, Erik 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThe liberal international economic order has been facing high-profile legitimacy challenges in recent years. This article puts these challenges in historical context through a systematic analysis of rhetorical challenges towards both the order per se and specific global economic institutions. Drawing on Albert Hirschman’s classic typology of exit, voice and loyalty, we coded leaders’ speeches in the General Debate at the UN General Assembly between 1970 and 2018 as articulating intentions to abandon elements of the order, challenges or calls for reform, unequivocal support, or factual mentions of cooperation. Surprisingly, we find that explicit criticisms towards the liberal order are at an all-time low and that exit threats remain rare. An analysis of the historical evolution of criticisms to global economic institutions reveals a move away from the Cold War insider-outsider conflict towards insider contestation. For example, we find that as countries’ economies become more open, their leaders expressed more support for global economic institutions during the Cold War but less support since. Finally, we demonstrate consistency between the public policy positions leaders announce in UNGA General Debate speeches and their government positions on consequential reform debates on debt relief.</jats:p>


Funder: University of Cambridge

4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Journal Title
The Review of International Organizations
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC