This article pertains to the History of the New World Order. For implementations, see New World Order.
Prior to the early 1990s, New World Order conspiratism was limited to two American countercultures, primarily the militantly anti-government right, and secondarily fundamentalist Christians concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist. Skeptics, such as Michael Barkun and Chip Berlet, have expressed concern that right-wing conspiracy theories about a New World Order have now not only been embraced by many left-wing conspiracy theorists but have seeped into popular culture, thereby inaugurating an unrivaled period of people actively preparing for apocalyptic millenarian scenarios in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Political scientists warn that this mass hysteria may not only fuel lone-wolf terrorism but have devastating effects on American political life, such as the far right wooing the far left into joining an insurrectionary national-anarchist movement capable of subverting the established political powers.
During the 20th century, many statesmen, such as Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, used the term "new world order" to refer to a new period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power after World War I and World War II. They all saw these periods as opportunities to implement idealistic or liberal proposals for global governance only in the sense of new collective efforts to identify, understand, or address worldwide problems that go beyond the capacity of individual nation-states to solve. These proposals led to the creation of international organizations, such as the United Nations and N.A.T.O., and international regimes, such as the Bretton Woods system and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which were calculated both to maintain a balance of power as well as regularize cooperation between nations, in order to achieve a peaceful phase of capitalism. These creations in particular and internationalism in general, however, would always be criticized and opposed by American paleoconservatives on isolationist grounds and by neoconservatives on benevolent imperalist grounds.
In the aftermath of the two World Wars, progressives welcomed these new international organizations and regimes but argued they suffered from a democratic deficit and therefore were inadequate to not only prevent another global war but also foster global justice. Thus, activists around the globe formed a world federalist movement bent on creating a "real" new world order. A number of Fabian socialist intellectuals, such as British writer H. G. Wells in the 1940s, appropriated and redefined the term "new world order" as a synonym for the establishment of a full-fledged social democratic world government.
Despite how the meaning of the term "new world order" when it is used by capitalists sharply contrasts with when it is used by socialists, conspiracy theorists of the American secular and Christian right during the Red Scare of 1947–1957 — who embraced and mongered unfounded fears of Freemasons, Illuminati, and Jews being the driving force behind an "international communist conspiracy" — began misinterpreting any use of term "new world order" by members of the power elite in the U.S. and other great powers — even when they were simply brainstorming on how to modernize their country's foreign policy, and intergovernmental organizations, in order to account for shifts in the international balance of power — as a call for the imposition of a state atheistic and bureaucratic collectivist world government, which controls the means of production, while the surplus ("profit") is distributed among a ruling class of bureaucrats, rather than among the working class.
In the 1960s, a great deal of right-wing conspiracist attention, by groups like the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby, focused on the United Nations as the vehicle for creating the "One World Government", and contributed to a conservative movement for United States withdrawal from the U.N.. American writer Mary M. Davison, in her 1966 booklet The Profound Revolution, traced the alleged New World Order conspiracy to the creation of the U.S. Federal Reserve System in 1913 by international bankers, who she claimed later formed the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921 as the shadow government. At the time the booklet was published, "international bankers" would have been interpreted by many readers as a reference to a postulated "international Jewish banking conspiracy" masterminded by the Rothschilds and Rockefellers.
Claiming that the term "New World Order" is used by a secretive elite dedicated to the destruction of all national sovereignties, American producerist writer Gary Allen, in his 1971 book None Dare Call It Conspiracy, 1974 book Rockefeller: Campaigning for the New World Order and 1987 book Say "No!" to the New World Order, articulated the anti-globalist theme of much current right-wing conspiracism in the U.S.. Thus, during the 1990s, the main demonized scapegoat of the American far right shifted seamlessly from crypto-communists who plotted on behalf of the "Red Menace" to globalists who plot on behalf of the New World Order. The relatively painless nature of the shift was due to growing right-wing opposition to the globalization of capitalism but also in part to the basic underlying apocalyptic millenarian paradigm, which fed the Cold War and the witch-hunts of the McCarthy period.
In his 11 September 1990 Toward a New World Order speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President George H. W. Bush described his objectives for post-Cold-War global governance in cooperation with post-Soviet states:
Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided – a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war. Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a "world order" in which "the principles of justice and fair play ... protect the weak against the strong ..." A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.
The New York Times observed that American progressives were calling the new world order a rationalization for American imperial ambitions ambitions in the Middle East, while conservatives rejected new security arrangements altogether and fulminated about any possibility of U.N. revival. However, Chip Berlet, an American investigative reporter specializing in the study of right-wing movements in the U.S., writes:
When President Bush announced his new foreign policy would help build a New World Order, his phrasing surged through the Christian and secular hard right like an electric shock, since the phrase had been used to represent the dreaded collectivist One World Government for decades. Some Christians saw Bush as signaling the End Times betrayal by a world leader. Secular anticommunists saw a bold attempt to smash US sovereignty and impose a tyrannical collectivist system run by the United Nations.
American televangelist Pat Robertson with his 1991 best-selling book The New World Order became the most prominent Christian popularizer of conspiracy theories about recent American history as a theater in which Wall Street, the Federal Reserve System, Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg Group, and Trilateral Commission control the flow of events from behind the scenes, nudging us constantly and covertly in the direction of world government for the Antichrist.
Observers note that the galvanization of right-wing populist conspiracy theorists, such as Linda Thompson, Mark Koernke and Robert K. Spear, into militancy led to the rise of the militia movement, which spread its anti-government ideology through speeches at rallies and meetings, through books and videotapes sold at gun shows, through shortwave and satellite radio, and through fax networks and computer bulletin boards. However, viral propaganda on the Internet is what most effectively contributed to their extremist political ideas about the New World Order finding their way into the far left literature of some black nationalists, but also the previously apolitical literature of many Kennedy assassinologists, ufologists, lost land theorists, and, most recently, occultists. The worldwide appeal of these subcultures then transmitted New World Order conspiracism like a "mind virus" to a large new audience of seekers of counterknowledge from the mid-1990s on.
After the turn of the twenty-first century, specifically during the financial crisis of 2007–2010, many politicians and pundits, such as Gordon Brown, Henry Kissinger, and Barack Obama, used the term "new world order" in their advocacy for a Keynesian reform of the global financial system and their calls for a "New Bretton Woods", which takes into account emerging markets such as China and India. These declarations had the unintended consequence of providing fresh fodder for New World Order conspiracism, and culminated in former Clinton administration adviser Dick Morris and conservative talk show host Sean Hannity arguing on one of his Fox News Channel programs that "conspiracy theorists were right". Fox News in general, and its opinion show Glenn Beck in particular, have been repeatedly criticized by progressive media watchdog groups for not only mainstreaming the conspiracist rhetoric of the radical right but possibly agitating its lone wolves into action.
In 2009, American film directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel released New World Order, a critically-acclaimed documentary film which explores the world of conspiracy theorists, such as American radio host Alex Jones, who are committed to exposing and vigorously opposing what they perceive to be an emerging New World Order.
National-Anarchism, a syncretic political ideology articulated by British dissident Troy Southgate, is one of many fringe political movements which have called for an insurrection against, or secession from, the New World Order. In its collapse, national-anarchists seek to establish a regional network of politically meritocratic, economically secessionist, and ecologically sustainable village-communities, which practice racial, ethnic, religious or sexual separatism as a means to achieve "authentic cultural diversity".