Study Guide

A New World Order

by Anne-Marie Slaughter

A New World Order Summary

Summary (Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

In A New World Order, Anne-Marie Slaughter gives a detailed account of global politics in transformation. Slaughter, who holds a law degree as well as a Ph.D in international relations, describes a world in which the predominance of unitary nation states is being complemented, and perhaps even partly supplanted, by a system of multiple networks in which disaggregated nation states (that is, agencies and branches within national governments, as opposed to heads of state) interact cooperatively with one another as well as with international organizations. Because news media and other observers remain geared to the highly visible and more easily interpreted actions of unitary governments, the great abundance and rich variety of international ventures at the disaggregated level falls below the radar for most of the public and even for some experts on global politics.

This is unfortunate, according to Slaughter, for a number of reasons. On the most basic level, it leads to a distorted view of how international relations really works and is likely to develop as the twenty-first century unfolds. It also keeps observers from seeing the most likely solution to what Slaughter calls “the globalization paradox,” that is, the condition of “needing more [world] government and [at the same time] fearing it.” At present, debate about the issue of world governance tends to pit national sovereignty versus world government. As such, it conceptualizes little or no middle ground between an anarchic, conflict-laden system of sovereign nation states battling each other for predominance, on the one hand, and the specter of an autocratic, hyperbureaucratic, and essentially undemocratic unitary world government, on the other. In the emergence of numerous cooperative international relationships at the disaggregated level, Slaughter sees the possibility of highly effective world governance without the dangers associated with a unitary world government. She also thinks that such a system can, ultimately, enhance world justice. As a result, Slaughter believes that the transformation she describes should not only be better understood but also actually encouraged for the sake of the entire global community.

After an introduction in which Slaughter gives a concise road map to her main arguments, three chapters give a detailed look at the types of international cooperation that are radically transforming the world system. Slaughter begins in chapter 1 by describing numerous efforts in the field of government regulation. In the fields of global trade and finance, the environment, and law enforcement, among others, the regulators of different nations are becoming more and more interdependent. This is true in terms of public policy making, in cases where national interests overlap; and also the sharing of information, in cases where nations face common problems. Slaughter describes such regulators as “the new diplomats” and reports that the volume of such interaction is already substantially large and continually growing.

In the second chapter, Slaughter describes the interactions of judges and lawyers from around the world in constructing a global legal system. This includes the making of provisions for orderly and authoritative transnational litigation as well as laying the basis for global standards (and enforcement) in the area of human rights, an area in which Slaughter herself is expert. In the third chapter, she describes the, as yet underdeveloped, interactions of national legislative bodies. She also suggests the route that greater cooperation between legislatures might take. In chapter 4, Slaughter discusses the totality of these developments as constituting a newly emergent “disaggregated world order,” one which differs significantly from the system of unitary nation states that has previously been predominant. More specifically, she distinguishes between the “horizontal” and “vertical” dimensions of this new world order, horizontal referring to interaction between government officials of different nations, vertical referring to interactions between such officials and international...

(The entire section is 1678 words.)