Document Type


Publication Date



The Liberal International Order is in crisis. While the symptoms are clear to many, the deep roots of this crisis remain obscured. We propose that the Liberal International Order is in tension with the older Sovereign Territorial Order, which is founded on territoriality and borders to create group identities, the territorial state, and the modern international system. The Liberal International Order, in contrast, privileges universality at the expense of groups and group rights. A recognition of this fundamental tension makes it possible to see that some crises that were thought to be unconnected have a common cause: the neglect of the coordinating power of borders. We sketch out new research agendas to show how this tension manifests itself in a broad range of phenomena of interest.


International relations, international organization, borders, territory, nation-state, nationalism, identity, social geography, spatial identities & preferences, territorial sovereignty, liberal & democratic theory, liberal international order, security, border hardening, populism

Publication Title

International Organization

Publication Citation

75 Int'l Org. 387 (2021)