My response to this year’s Montesquieu lecture focuses on Professor Kennedy’s invitation to imagine the liberal institutional order as having been a dream-like experience, from which international elites have abruptly awoken. Yet, I engage that invitation by altering the framing somewhat. Perhaps the experience that was the liberal institutional order was a kind of theatre as opposed to merely a dreamscape. The ‘deliberate’ enactment of a geopolitical and geo-eco-nomic imaginary,1 but where liberal actors forgot over time that this ruling imaginary required a convincing public performance.2 Using my frame, the ensuing decay or collapse of the imaginary then invites a different kind of cautionary tale, where the scene of awakening is a prologue. The actual plot involves a settling of economic, political and legal debts incurred by liberal elites to sustain an imaginary that now confronts declining domestic and international purchase.