The concept of ‘hegemony’ is used in abundance in the study of global politics. It is an essential term for understanding how international systems function and the practices found within global society. It is a term used across the social sciences and the political spectrum, and by a variety of traditions from within the discipline of International Relations (IR). However, it is often used in IR in a way that overlooks its contested meaning, and as a result tends to be underdeveloped as a precise concept. This chapter provides an overview of the various ways that hegemony has been understood within IR and suggests that while the term has often been employed in a manner that assumes some universal meaning, on closer inspection it is highly contested.
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