Populism and a New World Order

Viktor Jakupec, Max Kelly, Jonathan Makuwira. (Eds.) (2020). Rethinking Multilateralism in Foreign Aid: Beyond the Neoliberal Hegemony. New York: Routledge.

My latest work has just been published by Routledge. My chapter entitled "Populism and a New World Order" looks at the rise of populism and its impact on the Bretton Woods institutions, particularly the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 

I am of the view that the current challenges by the United States and the United Kingdom against the WTO and the European Union (EU) (respectively) are simply tactics that are designed to appease domestic voters while appearing to slow the ascent of China. 

Further, China is using the existing world order to develop its technical governance capabilities and is complementing (rather than supplementing) the Bretton Woods institutions in response to US isolationism.

Australia and other middle powers have been fortunate in that populism has not taken hold of domestic politics as it has in the US and the UK. I agree with Dr Waleed Aly's opinion piece from the New York Times in 2019 and more recently a Daily Mail report on what he had to say about the current leadership during the Covid-19 social distancing measures in Australia. 

Australians are fortunate not to have suffered much more than the rhetoric of what have otherwise been competent policy responses both to international trade and the current pandemic. But it is a delicate balancing act between appeasing the US and not upsetting China, and the Bretton Woods institutions, in my view, provide the best option for stability into the future.

My main argument is that:
If we accept the premise of either institutional change being brought about by the displacement of old ideas by the new, or the exhaustion of traditional institutions creating the opportunity for new ideas to be implemented, then populism provides no alternative in either case. As history suggests, the multilateral institutions established at Bretton Woods have proven their ability to adapt to new economic ideas and changing global realities. Populism does not represent either. Rather, populism represents the reaction of domestic politics to the decline in economic dominance of the Anglo-West and subsequent dissatisfaction with the existing world order while offering no alternative to it.
Click here for details of the chapter and the book.


Institutions tend to be stable for extended periods of time, punctuated by exogenous events that can lead to institutional change. If institutions tend to reinforce their own rules and routines, it can be said that institutions cannot then change themselves. While wars and other major exogenous events can lead to institutional change, ideas are also powerful, and relatively peaceful, drivers of change. Since the establishment of an international trade regime at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, new ideas about the best way to organise the economy have influenced global trade, resulting in the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in 1995. The idea of free market economics led to a new global trading system, coinciding with the end of the Soviet Union, and this system has remained relatively stable since the end of Keynesianism on a global scale. Recently, however, the rise in populism and the re-emergence of nationalism have challenged the existing world order. This chapter examines the impact of the rise in populism and the re-emergence of nationalism on the international institutions of global trade. Using theories of institutional change, the chapter examines the extent to which populist ideas about free trade versus protectionism are leading to a new world economic order.

The book is available at all major retailers including The Book Depository.

About the book: Viktor Jakupec, Max Kelly, Jonathan Makuwira. (Eds.) (2020). Rethinking Multilateralism in Foreign Aid: Beyond the Neoliberal Hegemony. New York: Routledge.