Abstract This article analyses the trajectory of Benjamin J. Cohen's work by focusing on his ongoing concern with the nature and governance of world order. It does so by playing out his debt to realism and to Keynesianism. In a first moment, Cohen criticises the economic determinism of dependency scholarship, while turning to political realism, and then to possible Keynesian co-operation under anarchy: agents have the power to affect positive change. Later, Cohen the disillusioned Keynesian, watching how the possible reform of financial markets is marginalised by politicians and academics alike, shifts his analysis to more structural aspects of governance or rule that affect actors' preferences. I draw two conclusions. First, in this shift towards theorising the global political order away from steering capacity towards impersonal rule and bias, Cohen also questions the very setup of the theories with which we deal with that world - only to see that this very inspiration of original IPE is abandoned in the course of the ongoing 'professionalisation' of IPE as practised in the United States. Second, his analysis seems to incorporate a warning. The underlying grand question is nothing less than the bargain between capitalism and liberal democracy as we know it, since the present system undermines equality before the law - money trumps equal political rights - and undermines democratic accountability. One of the main achievements of the post-war Keynesian turn was the reappropriation of political space from anti-democratic forces. Therefore, the decline of Keynesianism could provoke a Polanyian nightmare in which the 'double movement' by which the laissez-faire is answered by moves to protect society does not strengthen democracies, as in earlier times of 'embedded liberalism', but undermines them instead.