Gilford John Ikenberry
Born (1954-10-05) October 5, 1954 (age 69)
Alma materManchester University (B.A.), University of Chicago (Ph.D.)
Scientific career
FieldsInternational relations
InstitutionsGeorgetown University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania

Gilford John Ikenberry (October 5, 1954) is a theorist of international relations and United States foreign policy, and the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.[1] He is known for his work on liberal International Relations theory, such as the books After Victory (2001) and Liberal Leviathan (2011). He has been described as "the world's leading scholar of the liberal international order."[2]


After receiving his BA from Manchester University, Indiana, and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1985, Ikenberry became an assistant professor at Princeton, where he remained until 1992. He then moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1993 to 1999, serving as co-director of the Lauder Institute from 1994 to 1998, while since 1996 he has been Visiting Professor at the Catholic University of Milan in Italy. In 2001, he moved to Georgetown University, becoming the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Global Justice in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.[1] He returned to Princeton in 2004, recruited by Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter, becoming the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs there.[2] Ikenberry is also a Global Eminence Scholar at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea. In 2013-2014 Ikenberry was the 72nd Eastman Visiting Professor at Balliol College, University of Oxford.[3]

Ikenberry served on the State Department's Policy Planning staff from 1991 to 1992. He was a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1992 to 1993, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1998 to 1999, and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1997 to 2002. He has also worked for several projects of the Council on Foreign Relations[3] and is the Political and Legal book reviewer for Foreign Affairs.[4]

Ikenberrry was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.[5]

Criticism of U.S. policy

Ikenberry is known for vehement criticism of what he described as the "neoimperial grand strategy" of the United States under the Bush administration. His critique is primarily a pragmatic one, arguing not that the U.S. should eschew imperialism as a matter of principle, but rather, that it is not in a position to succeed at an imperial project.[4] He contends that such a strategy, rather than enabling a successful War on Terrorism and preserving international peace, will end up alienating American allies, weakening international institutions, and provoking violent blowback, including terrorism, internationally, as well as being politically unsustainable domestically.[5]

In a Foreign Affairs article titled "The Rise of China and the Future of the West", Ikenberry suggests strengthening and re-investing in the existing institutions and rules of U.S.-led western order. He argues that the first thing that U.S. must do is to reestablish itself as a foremost supporter of the global system that underpins the Western order. In this view, when other countries see the U.S. using its power to strengthen the existing rules and institutions, US authority will be strengthened because they will become more inclined to work in collaboration with U.S. power. Secondly, the U.S. should update the key post-war security pacts, such as NATO and Washington's East Asian alliances. When the U.S. provides security, the U.S. allies, in return, will operate within the western order. Thirdly, the U.S. should renew its support for wide-ranging multilateral institutions. Economically speaking, building on the agreements of the WTO, concluding the current Doha Round of trade talks that seek to extend market opportunities and trade liberalization to developing countries are possible examples. Fourthly, the U.S. should make sure that the order is all-encompassing, meaning there shouldn't be any space left for other rising countries to build up their own “minilateral” order. Lastly, U.S. must support efforts to integrate rising developing countries into key global institutions. Less formal bodies, like G-20 and various other intergovernmental networks, can provide alternative avenues for voice and representation.[6]


In After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, Ikenberry explores how the United States utilized its hegemony after both World Wars to shape future world order. In both cases, the U.S. attempted to institutionalize its power through the creation of a constitutional order, by which political order was organized around agreed-upon legal and political institutions that operate to allocate rights and limit the exercise of power. In the process, the United States agreed to "tame" its power by placing it within institutions and the set of rules and rights with which this came.[7] One of the advantages for the United States in doing so was locking itself into a guaranteed position for years to come. In the event that its power waned in the future, the institutional framework it created would nonetheless remain intact.[8]

The settlement of World War I

Following World War I, the distribution of power was greatly skewed towards the United States. President Woodrow Wilson possessed the power to set the terms of peace, and the manner in which the post-war order was constructed. He sought to do so through a model based on upholding collective security and sparking a democratic revolution across the European continent based on American ideals. Great Britain and France were worried about America's preponderance of power, and sought to tie the United States to the continent. Both sides attempted to meet at a middle ground, with European nations gaining security and financial considerations while the United States would institutionalize its power through the League of Nations and maintain its presence on the continent for decades to come. Ultimately, Woodrow Wilson's envisioned order encountered major obstacles, including the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations. Furthermore, the imposition of war guilt and stiff penalties on Germany through the terms set by the Treaty of Versailles set in place conditions favorable for Hitler to rise to power.

The settlement of World War II

Compared to the end of the First World War, the United States was even more powerful in 1945 following the conclusion of the Second World War. The nation possessed a preponderance of military power and close to half of the world's wealth.[9] Once again, leaders from the United States attempted to leverage this powerful position and create a stable order that would serve to benefit their nation for decades to come. Political and economic openness was the centerpiece of this envisioned framework. It was believed that the closed economic regions which had existed before the war had led to worldwide depression and at least in part contributed to the start of the conflict. Reconstructing a stable Europe was also a priority, as safeguarding American interests was seen as being rooted in European stability. The region also became a staging ground for the Cold War, and building a strong West Germany was seen as an important step in balancing against the Soviet Union. In the end, the United States created its desired order through a series of security, economic, and financial multilateral institutions, including NATO and the Marshall Plan. West Germany was bound to its democratic Western European neighbors through the European Coal and Steel Community (later, the European Communities) and to the United States through Atlantic security pact; Japan was bound to the United States through an alliance partnership and expanding economic ties. The Bretton Woods system meeting in 1944 laid down the monetary and trade rules that facilitated the opening and subsequent flourishing of the world economy.[6] In institutionalizing its power, the United States was willing to act as a "reluctant superpower," making concessions to weaker states in order to ensure their participation in their desired framework.[10]

Ikenberry asserts that the dense, encompassing, and broadly endorsed system of rules and institutions, which are rooted in and also reinforced by democracy and capitalism, laid a basis of cooperation and shared authority over the current U.S.-led global system. He says that system with the institutions that were built around rules and norms of nondiscrimination and market openness, provides low barrier of economic participation and high potential benefits. However, the key point is that while making active use of these institutions to promote the country's development of global power status, the country should work within the order, rather than the outside of it. Thus, no major state can modernize without integrating into the globalized capitalist system.[6]

A 2018 special issue of The British Journal of Politics and International Relations was devoted to After Victory.[11]


Ikenberry is the author of:

He has also co-authored or edited:

Ikenberry has published in a number of foreign policy and international relations journals, and writes regularly for Foreign Affairs:[6]

See also


  1. ^ "G. John Ikenberry". Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  2. ^ McKeil, Aaron (2021). "The Limits of Realism after Liberal Hegemony". Journal of Global Security Studies. 7. doi:10.1093/jogss/ogab020. ISSN 2057-3170.
  3. ^ Princeton University Faculty Website
  4. ^ "Staff | Foreign Affairs". 2024-03-11. Retrieved 2024-06-24.
  5. ^ "G. John Ikenberry". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  6. ^ a b c Ikenberry, John. "The Rise of China and the Future of the West", Foreign Affairs, January/February 2008
  7. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. pp.29
  8. ^ Dall'Agnol, Augusto C. Dall&#39, Augusto César (January 2018). "Balancing in unipolarity: who is afraid of balance of power?". Brazilian Journal of International Relations.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link) Vol. 7, No. 3 (2018), pp. 494-515, for critics on Ikenberry's main arguments in what relates to unipolarity after the Cold War.
  9. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. p. 167
  10. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. pp.200
  11. ^ "The British Journal of Politics and International Relations - Volume 21, Number 1, Feb 01, 2019". SAGE Journals. Retrieved 2021-02-08.