In conspiracy theory, the term “New World Order” or “NWO” refers to the emergence of a bureaucratic collectivist one-world government.
The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a powerful and secretive elite of globalists is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an autonomous world government, which would replace sovereign nation-states and put an end to international power struggles. Significant occurrences in politics and finance are speculated to be caused by an extremely influential cabal operating through many front organizations. Numerous historical and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to achieve world domination through secret political gatherings and decision-making processes.
Prior to the early 1990s, New World Order conspiracism was limited to two American subcultures, primarily the militantly anti-government right, and secondarily Christian fundamentalists concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist. Skeptics, such as political scientist Michael Barkun, 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. They warn that this development may not only fuel lone-wolf terrorism but have devastating effects on American political life, such as the far right and the far left joining forces to launch an insurrectionary national-anarchist movement capable of subverting the established political powers.