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Orders refer to the institutional core of the liberal script, which enables political and social coordination within a given society. It involves institutional arrangements that set the rules of the game through concepts such as globalization, human rights, representative democracy, and a market economy. This research unit will thus deal with contestations such as whether statehood, based on the monopoly over violence, should provide the basis of political order or whether democratic procedures can actually lead to equality via individuals’ political choices.

RU Orders will investigate three areas of institutional contestations:

1. Nature of contestations

Populist forces and autocratic regimes are increasingly challenging international cooperation and global governance. Such forces also contest accepted understandings of human rights as well as political, economic, and religious freedoms. RU Orders will map and characterize the varieties of contestations and determine the extent of their relation – and challenge – to the liberal order. Do challengers offer alternative models of society? And if so, how do they justify their notions of social order?

2. Causes

The liberal script faces numerous endogenous and exogenous challenges, such as its institutions’ inability to resolve political and economic inequalities. Moreover, the liberal script itself includes inherent tensions and ideational contradictions that might result in order contestations. Such internal conflicts can be seen in the juxtapositions of religious freedom vs. secularism, freedom from threat vs. political freedoms and neo-liberalism vs. state regulation. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative studies, RU Orders will investigate the causes of a variety of contestations as well as determine the extent of their threat to the liberal order.

3. Consequences

To what extent do contestations lead to a re-writing or an abandoning of parts of the liberal script? To what extent do these contestations create an ongoing split in developed democracies? RU Orders will examine the negative and positive consequences of contestations, be it for liberal societies and political systems or for regional and global orders. In addition, this research unit will examine the effects of these contestations on fairness, transparency, and legitimacy at the international, national, and individual levels.

In addressing the nature, causes, and consequences of liberal order contestations, RU Orders aims to deal with the inherent tensions between liberal ideas and their institutional embodiments, particularly as set in a globalized world. Is the nation-state still an appropriate governance model in the 21st century? How can we balance the demands for democracy, globalisation, and national self-determination?