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Book Review :: Undoing the Liberal World Order by Leon Fink

Undoing the Liberal World Order: Progressive Ideals and Political Realities Since WWII by Leon Fink book cover image

Guest Post by Marc Matorell

The central contention in Leon Fink’s Undoing the Liberal World Order: Progressive Ideals and Political Realities Since WWII is that US foreign policy in the decades following the Second World War had an important component of liberal idealism. Fink presents readers with examples of these progressive ideals in practice. Thus, we learn how, after the end of the war, the US promoted democratic decision-making structures for German workers in the industrial sector to thwart Communism in the areas occupied by the Allies.

In Central America, US liberals found an ally in Costa Rica’s President José Figueres Ferrer, who pursued significant social democratic reforms while remaining anti-Communist. Meanwhile, the liberal US ambassador in New Delhi, Chester B. Bowles, coordinated US aid for India’s agricultural development with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Fink is more convincing in arguing that the role of progressive ideals in US foreign policy declined during the last decades than he is in proving that these kinds of ideals were important in the first place. The examples presented in the text are largely in line with the book’s thesis, but readers may legitimately ask themselves whether these cases are representative of a significant trend or the result of very specific conjectures.


Undoing the Liberal World Order: Progressive Ideals and Political Realities Since World War II by Leon Fink. Columbia University Press, January 2022.

Reviewer Bio: Marc Martorell Junyent graduated in International Relations and currently studies holds a joint Master in Comparative Middle East Politics and Society at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and the American University in Cairo. His main interests are the politics and history of the Middle East (particularly Iran, Turkey and Yemen). He has studied and worked in Ankara, Istanbul and Tunis. He tweets at @MarcMartorell3.

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