Cynicism and the Collapse of Multilateralism

Mahbi Maulaya


International order is now witnessing the declining efficacy and extremely fragile condition of multilateralism. Several states start to doubt and leave international treaties, agreements, organizations, and institutions. This circumstance led into the speculation of “Multilateralism Collapse". Yet, there is only a small number of International Relations scholars who attempt to detect the general pattern that indicate the fundamental reason of relevant states to withdraw from multilateralism manifestation. Hence, this study is a preliminary attempt to fill the gap by providing a concrete explanation on the reason why the multilateralism is failing. This paper argues that the growing cynicism among the relation of international actors is served to be the reason of multilateralism free fall. There are two types of cynicism which this paper has discovered, the cynicism as a trigger and cynicism as a statement. Cynicism as a trigger tracked whereby the relevant state’s withdrawal from the multilateralism manifestation is merely caused by a sense of distrust. On the other hand, cynicism as a statement is the expression of relevant states to justify its withdrawal action and distract world’s attention from its hidden interest. Since this study requires a specific and deep interpretation on sets of event and data, the utilization of qualitative method was considered effective. This study applied two theoretical frameworks, namely cynicism and multilateralism.


Multilateralism, Multilateral Manifestation, Cynicism, Common Interest, Sense of Distrust

Full Text:




Abramson, Jeff., & Greg Webb. (2019, May). The U.S. to quit the Arms Trade Treaty. Arms Control Association. Retrieved from

Aviel, Fagot, JoAnn. (1999). The Evolution of Multilateral Diplomacy. In James P. Muldoon Jr, Joann Fagot Aviel, Richard Reitano and Earl Sullivan (Eds.), Multilateral Diplomacy and the United Nations Today. (8-14). Colorado, Oxford: Westview.

Barkin, Samuel, J. (2006). International Organization: Theories and Institutions. New York, Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from

Chakraborty, Barnini. (2017, June 1). Paris Agreement on climate change: the US withdraws as Trump calls it 'unfair'. Fox News. Retrieved from

Chappell, Bill. (2019, April 26). Trump moves to withdraw U.S. from U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. NPR. Retrieved from

Charbonneau, Louis. (2019, June 24). Multilateralism under threat. United Nations Association - United Kingdom. Retrieved from

Cook, Walter, & Medley, Donald. (1954). Proposed Hostility and Pharisaic-Virtue Scales for the MMPI. Journal of Applied Psychology, 38. Retrieved from

Dudley, R., Donald. (1937). A History of Cynicism; From Diogenes to the 6th Century A.D., London: Methuen & CO. LTD. London. Retrieved from

Easly, Jonathan. (2017, June 2). Trump cements ‘America First’ doctrine with Paris withdrawal. The Hill. Retrieved from

European Council. (n.d.). Climate change: what the EU is doing. Retrieved from

Friedrich, Johannes., Ge, Mengpin,. & Andrew, Pickens. (2017, April 11). This Interactive Chart Explains World’s Top 10 Emitters, and How They've Changed. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from

Gowan, Richard. (2018, July 30). Multilateralism in Freefall?. United Nations University Centre for Policy Research. Retrieved from

Gumede, William. (2018, January 31). The International Criminal Court and Accountability in Africa. Wits School of Governance News. Retrieved from

Igunza, Emmanuel. (2017, February 1). African Union backs mass withdrawal from ICC. BBC News. Retrieved from

Iran nuclear deal: Key details. (2019, June 11). BBC News. Retrieved from

Iran to restart some nuclear activity in response to U.S. withdrawal from nuclear deal. (2019, May 6). Reuters. Retrieved from

Jarvi, Gamble, Gwenyth. (2017, February 1). African Union leaders back leaving ICC. Jurist. Retrieved from

Kahler, Miles. (1992). Multilateralism with Small and Large Numbers. International Organization, 46(3), 681-708. Retrieved from

Kayupa, Irianto, Fiki, & Muryantini, Sri. (2018). Kebijakan Gambia Keluar dari Mahkamah Internasional pada Era Pemerintahan Yahya Jammeh. Jurnal Studi Diplomasi dan Keamanan. 10, 1. Retrieved from

Keohane, O., Robert. (1990). Multilateralism: An Agenda for Research. International Journal, (45)4, 731-764. Retrieved from

Kingo, Lise., & Mather, Scott. (2019, April 08). 3 things business leaders should do to make a renewed case for multilateralism. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from

Landler, Mark. (2018, May 8). Trump abandons Iran Nuclear Deal he long scorned. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Maley, William. (2018). In Stephanie, Tracy, Happy. (2018). The Smallness of Small States: Between Power and Vulnerability. Jurnal Studi Diplomasi dan Keamanan (Journal of Diplomatic Studies and Security), 11-1. Retrieved from

Matson, Wallace. (2000). A New History of Philosophy: From Descartes to Searle. In Schutijser, Dennis. (2017). Cynicism as a way of life: From the Classical Cynic to a New Cynicism. Akropolis: Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1, 33-54. Retrieved from

Mesele, Z., Abreha. (2019, June 17). International Criminal Court and the African Union: Selective Justice?. Abyssinia Law. Retrieved from

Nantulya, Paul. (2017, December 7). What’s next for Africa and the International Criminal Court?. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved from

Newman, Edward., Thakur, Ramesh., & Tirman, John. (Eds.). (2006). Multilateralism under challenge? Power, International Order, and structural change. Tokyo, United Nations University Press. Doi:

Oshiba, Ryo. (2013). Multilateral diplomacy and multilateralism: The United Nations, the G8, the G20, and the Bretton Woods Institutions. The Japan Institute of International Affairs. 1-20. Retrieved from

Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification. (n.d.) United Nations Climate Change. Retrieved from

Pattyn, Sven., Hiel, Van, Alain., Dhont, Kristof., & Onrate, Emma. (2011). Stripping the Political Cynic: A Psychological Exploration of the Concept of Political Cynicism. European Journal of Personality. DOI: 10.1002/per.858

Piering, Julie. (n.d.). Cynics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

Presse-France, Agence. (2017, October 27). Burundi becomes the first nation to leave the International Criminal Court. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Raustiala, Kal. (2000). Sovereignty and Multilateralism. Chicago Journal of International Law, (1)2. Retrieved from https:/

Ruggie, J. (1992). Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution. International Organization, 46(3), 561-598. Retrieved from

Schutijser, Dennis. (2017). Cynicism as a way of life: From the Classical Cynic to a New Cynicism. Akropolis: Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1, 33-54. Retrieved from

Scott, Len., & Hughes, Gerald, R. (Eds.). (2015). The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Critical Reappraisal. London: Routledge. Retrieved from

Sjolander, Turenne, Claire. (1996). The Rhetoric of Globalization: What is in a Wor(l)d?. International Journal: Canada's Journal of Global Policy Analysis, (51)4, 603-616. Retrieved from

Torbati, Yeganeh. (2016, November 9). Trump election puts Iran nuclear deal on shaky ground. Reuters. Retrieved from

Turner, H., James., & Valentine, R., Sean. (2001). Cynicism as a Fundamental Dimension of Moral Decision-Making: A Scale Development. Journal of Business Ethics, 34, 123-136. Retrieved from

UN votes to send war crimes investigators to Gaza. (2018, May 18). Aljazeera. Retrieved from

United Nations Treaty Collection. (2013). Arms Trade Treaty. New York. Retrieved from II/Chapter XXVI/XXVI-8.en.pdf

US withdraws from the UN Human Rights Council. (2018, June 20). Aljazeera. Retrieved from

Wibisono, Makarim. (2006). Tantangan Diplomasi Multilateral (The Challenges of Multilateral Diplomacy). Jakarta: Penerbit Pustaka LP3ES Indonesia

Wolffe, Richard. (2017, June 2). Trump asked when the world will start laughing at the US. It already is. The Guardian. Retrieved from https;//

Xinhua. (2018, September 26). Multilateralism is under fire when the world needs it most: UN chief. China Daily. Retrieved from



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 AEGIS : Journal of International Relations

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.