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About this book

Hegemony has long been a key concept within the study of International Relations, as well as across the social sciences more generally, and a term used by analysts to make sense of contemporary events. Drawing on a rich historical framework, this book traces the different definitions and interpretations of hegemony in world politics and shows that the term continues to be a contested one. It examines and develops traditional ideas about hegemony – from the idea of the strong leading state to the dominance of particular ideologies – through a wide range of approaches including hegemonic stability theory and the work of Antonio Gramsci.

Exploring issues such as the role of the state, the changing influence of regionalism and the emergence of counter-hegemonic movements, this book argues that a more nuanced understanding of hegemony is necessary in order to understand the construction of the contemporary world order. Considering a wide range of case studies throughout – from the reputation of the United States as an international leader, to the European Union's regional hegemony and the economic prowess of the so-called BRICS group – this text provides the ideal guide to a multi-faceted term and significant force of both history and the modern age.

Table of Contents

1. Hegemony and Global Politics

Abstract
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.
Owen Worth

2. Hegemony and Its Origins in World Politics

Abstract
One of a number of ways of looking at the nature of hegemony as a mechanism within international politics is to use history as the laboratory. In this way we can look back at previous eras and see how hegemony was employed at the international level during different stages of history. Several writers have used history to show that certain eras have been marked by specific dominant characteristics. Furthermore, as Luke Ashworth’s excellent survey of the study of particular eras of dominant thought within international society demonstrates, the discipline of international relations (IR) has often not been particularly vigorous or accurate in its historical analysis (Ashworth 2014). Studies of hegemony have generally been more rigorous in their historical analysis than others, however. Some have argued that this shows how one dominant state can create a system in its own image in order to build a stable world environment (Keohane 1984; Gilpin 1987; Watson 1992). At the same time, historical accounts have also been used that focus more on ideology or class formation when looking at the common characteristics of a specific order (van der Pijl 1984; Cox 1987; Murphy 1994). At all levels, studies have focused on the nature, unity and stability of a certain order. In particular, they have examined whether a strong state or ideology existed to make it stable or coherent enough for sustainability within that period of time.
Owen Worth

3. US Hegemony

Abstract
Despite the ascension of the USA as the major power in international politics that created a large amount of interest in contemporary accounts of hegemony within international relations (IR), it was the emergence of hegemonic stability in the 1970s that was to dominate debate in the subsequent decades. Hegemonic stability theory became significant in understanding the workings of the international economy, and subsequently world politics as a whole. Yet it was the notion that US power and leadership was being eroded in the 1970s that actually popularized hegemonic stability theory. As I shall explain in this chapter, the power that the American state built up after the Second World War became a feature of the post-war environment in world politics. Yet it was the the fallout from the collapse of the dollar system, which had been constructed through the institutions created at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, which led to the concern that the international economy would struggle if discussions centred on whether US power was actually now in sharp retreat.
Owen Worth

4. Hegemony, Gramsci and World Politics

Abstract
If the traditional concept of hegemony within a state system is based around the idea that one leading and dominant state provides a source for its stability, then its evolution as a process that explains an ideological order takes a contrasting form and emerges from a different departure point. Largely coming from the Marxist tradition that was emerging at the start of the twentieth century, the concept has become associated with Antonio Gramsci. In international relations (IR), the growth of the ‘neo-Gramscian’ approach has applied different versions of Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. In this chapter, I shall outline the understanding of hegemony that Gramsci developed, show how this has been applied in different ways and outline its shortcomings. I shall also look at how the development of its application in other fields across the social sciences can add to new studies of hegemonic consent in international politics.
Owen Worth

5. Neoliberal Hegemony

Abstract
As suggested in Chapter 4, the riddle of hegemony in global politics can partly be solved by using a Gramscian analysis accounting for the problems that a lack of an international state might cause. Another problem is to demonstrate adequately the form and character that hegemony might take. This is particularly important at the global level, where diversities appear across a national, regional and cultural divide. Therefore, one of the more obvious problems of understanding contemporary neoliberalism is to explore and account for the different ways in which it is articulated across the world. This in itself raises more problems. How, for example, can neoliberalism adequately explain a range of diversities that are undeniable within global political and economic affairs? To try to understand these, a definition of neoliberalism is required that accounts for the diverse forms of consent produced at different levels of global political and civil society. This in itself appears to be a difficult task, as the word ‘neoliberalism’ itself, and the ideology associated with it can provide a number of different assumptions when establishing a definition for it.
Owen Worth

6. The Rise of China and BRICS

Abstract
As discussed in Chapter 5, the main result of the Washington Consensus was to forge a form of market-based logic within the developing world. Whether this emerged primarily as a US-led incentive, or whether it merely demonstrated the ideological strength of neoliberal principles, is harder to ascertain. However, as the 1990s progressed it became noticeable that the influence of neoliberalism had grown to a level where it appeared to be truly global. As such, the much heralded idea that a ‘variety’ of capitalisms exist within international politics had been questioned as a result of this dominance. This is an acknowledgement that different types of capitalism exist within different national traditions. The ‘Anglo-Saxon’ tradition, favoured by the anglophone countries (the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and so on) provide the general characteristics of neoliberalism — minimal state interference in the economy, low taxation and little regulation. This contrasts with the continental form of ‘Rhine capitalism’ that was for a long period a feature of German capitalism. Here, a more regulated form of capitalism has traditionally been practised, relying on tighter regulation and greater corporate control of economic output, which is at odds with the neoliberal tradition (Hall and Soskice 2001). Added to that has been the Scandinavian or Nordic model of capitalism, where low corporate tax and flexibility have been coupled with high welfare protection and high individual income tax (Palan and Abbott 1996).
Owen Worth

7. Regionalism

Abstract
The idea that a hegemonic order can be challenged by promoting regional groupings within global politics is not a new one. The liberal era of the nineteenth century was to an extent challenged by the emergence of European rivalries that sought to use the politics of imperialism to extend territorial power (Keohane 1984; Cox 1987). The geopolitical world that emerged was one that created a number of regions run and directed by their European ‘masters’ at the centre. The result was the emergence of conflict between these European spheres of influence that culminated in the two world wars in the first half of the twentieth century. The idea of regionalism as a continued potential for conflict did not disappear with the end of the Second World War. Just years after the end of the war, George Orwell, writing from his home on the Scottish island of Jura, satirized in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four a world split into three regional blocs. The characteristics of the blocs were marked by continued conflict and constant fear of attack.
Owen Worth

8. The Idea of Counter-Hegemony

Abstract
The notion of counter-hegemony is one that has been used increasingly to understand a process that confronts the central principles of a hegemonic order. As a term, it is interesting concept and seems to provide a number of different potential outcomes. As a concept, it has been associated principally with Gramsci, though it is not one that Gramsci himself used. His concern was with building a hegemonic project that could challenge the capitalist structures of his day. As I outlined in Chapter 4, this was largely built on a Leninist strategy. As Lenin argued for a socialist movement that could fashion a working-class consciousness, then so did Gramsci (Joseph 2002). As we saw in Chapter 4, however, Gramsci’s understanding of a hegemonic strategy was far deeper than Lenin’s, as it tackled the facets and complexities of civil society and popular belief. Gramsci argued that it needed to challenge existing norms and practices that are central to the existing order.
Owen Worth

Conclusion: Rethinking Hegemony in Global Politics

Abstract
What can we conclude from this study of hegemony, and how can we look to provide a more nuanced definition to avoid the confusion of the dual meaning it sometimes attracts? As outlined at the beginning of the book, two different understandings of hegemony have often been used in the area of international politics: one that understands hegemony as a mechanism where one state controls others in the international system; and the other being the process that occurs when one class in society asserts its dominance over others by establishing certain ideological principles through which order can be maintained. As we have seen, the historical distinctions between these two are not as different in their understandings of hegemony as one might have thought.
Owen Worth
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