Turbulence and the Lessons of History

01 June 2022


Patricia Clavin

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Events of recent years, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have forced all of us to confront some of the hazards inherent in our interconnected world. In the 21st century, the gravest threat to international stability appears to lie in our societies’ greater interdependence, reinforcing the power of a shock from anywhere in the world to become systemic.

The 21st century has put an end to the notion that international institutions can anticipate and manage shocks. Charges that the World Health Organization is partisan and that the UN has failed in its response to the war in Ukraine have spawned the revival and reassertion of Cold War battle lines, with talk of democratic versus authoritarian powers. As the world turns its gaze to Turkey and China as possible mediators to end the war, the global order established in 1945—and the liberal institutions that embody it—seems at greater risk than ever before. This comes as we face the real possibility of more shocks, which will severely threaten political stability, social cohesion, economic prospects, and the natural systems that support us.