The current debate on the world order’s future mostly boils down to two opposite points of view. The first one presupposes that after the Cold War the world has finally transitioned to a liberal world order. Its supporters describe it as a ‘rules-based order’, implying that the rules are laid down by the community of Western states, with its stability shored up by the West’s military, economic, and moral superiority. They avoid calling the world unipolar, instead emphasizing how the liberal model benefits everyone and that it is not poles that are important, but effective rules and the prosperity generated by international stability and interdependence.
The other, directly opposite, point of view argues that the liberal world order is unstable and on the verge of a crisis. Its proponents indicate that it is actually a unipolar world order based on the hegemony of the US and its allies. According to this point of view, the unipolar model is unlikely to have any historical chance, being undermined by emerging centres of power like BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and others. They also doubt the efficiency of the rules of the game implied by the liberal model. As an alternative, they see a multipolar (polycentric) world – a community of equal partners, with the UN and other international institutions ensuring its democratic nature.
Interestingly, at least two other models were on the sidelines of the discussion until recently. One of these suggests a world without poles, a chaotic and fast-flowing order, or a war of all against all that goes hand in hand with the collapse of the habitual institutions (from sovereign nation states to classical capitalism). This is a crisis scenario that leads not so much to a new balance as to an all-out reset of the institutions, power, production modes, and international relations. But even though this model wins over by a promise of breaking the mould, it was mostly confined to journalistic and academic writings.