The new anarchy: Globalisation and fragmentation in world politics

Philip G. Cerny, Alex Prichard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Modern International Relations theory has consistently underestimated the depth of the problem of anarchy in world politics. Contemporary theories of globalisation bring this into bold relief. From this perspective, the complexity of transboundary networks and hierarchies, economic sectors, ethnic and religious ties, civil and cross-border wars, and internally disaggregated and transnationally connected state actors, leads to a complex and multidimensional restructuring of the global, the local and the uneven connections in between. We ought to abandon the idea of ‘high’ and ‘low’ politics, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ once and for all. This does not remove the problem of anarchy but rather deepens it, involving multidimensional tensions and contradictions variously described as ‘functional differentiation’, ‘multiscalarity’, ‘fragmegration’, disparate ‘landscapes’, the ‘new security dilemma’ and ‘neomedievalism’. Approaching anarchy from the perspective of plural competing claims to authority and power forces us to think again about the nature of global order and the virtues of anarchy therein. Will the long-term outcome be the emergence of a more decentralised, pluralistic world order or a quagmire of endemic conflict and anomie?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-394
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of International Political Theory
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Anarchy
  • critical international political economy
  • globalisation
  • neopluralism
  • network theory
  • the state


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