The United States as the Hegemon within the World Economy Essay
The United States as the Hegemon within the World Economy
Beyond the number of Great Powers that have played a central role in the international system since 1815, there is a body of historical theory which suggests that the working of the system has been critically dependent upon the role played by one central actor- the hegemon- that is responsible for the international order, both political and economic. Such a conception embodies both a theory of continuity, in as much as hegemons are important to the system in different historical settings, but also a theory of change since the rise and fall of hegemonies is a dynamic process.
The hegemon plays the leading role in establishing an institutional environment which is favorable to its own interests (free trade, informal empire) but also accepts costs in being the mainstay of the system(providing financial services, a source of capital, and a pattern of military support).
Hegemonic Stability and Adaptation
Robert Keohane has refined and critiqued the argument that international order requires a hegemon, admits that a leadership role requires political will as well as material resources. This is obvious but important point has remained underdeveloped. From realistic perspective, foreign- policy adaptation is induced by changes in a state’s international power position. Its pace and scope depends on how the changes are interpreted, the relationship between assessment of options is thus key analytic issue.
Turning First to constraints, in some classical real politic national leaders face inconsequential domestic impediments; the relevant environment is mainly or exclusively external. For example, rising states typically stretched declining hegemony thin by challenging their geopolitical primacy. This affected Britain dramatically at the turn of the twentieth century. As Japan and the United States built modern navies, Britain lost its global command of the seas. Although the Admiralty could have strengthened its pacific and American squadrons, the naval race with Germany took priority; Britain depleted its non- European fleets to concentrate on the East Atlantic.
Hegemonic governments resist adaptation. But this inertia is even more pronounced than for similar states; internal interests and fixed institutional routines are not the only reasons. Governmental and many private elites typically view international relations and their role in them in ways that promote expansion rather than adjustment to constraints.
Hegemonic Security System in United States
Security hegemons reap advantages by organizing subordinate states. Recent scholarship has focused on economic leadership, while recognizing that a successful economic hagemon requires sufficient military power to protect its partners from threats to their autonomy. Those security arrangements are the context in which adaptation became a U.S. policy issue.
Both Cold War blocs have been hegemonic security systems, even if, in retrospect, the Soviet Union lacked the economic strength to be a long- term system leader. For much of the post war period, the “ordering principle” of each was “boundary management”- preserving (if not expanding) the original coalition. There have been obvious differences between the two coalitions, as well as between them and traditional territorial imperiums, but key similarities as well. Security hegemonies, like economic ones, are sub systemic; the international systems has not been unipolar since the Roman Empire, if then, and attempts to make it so have invariably been self-defeating. For forty years, NATO has been the core of the American system.
Hegemonic security systems likewise provide mutual benefits. Allies deny certain kinds of access to a hegemon’s rivals and perhaps provide it greater global reach. Soviet leaders have generously supplied arms to regional clients to promote their geopolitical arms vise-a visa the United States.
Hegemonic states differ from others in two ways. One is the scope and impact of their structural power. Often a dominant state can change the rules rather than adapt its policies to them. Powerful states have more adaptive slack than others. Some times this is simply a function of aggregate capabilities. Even though the Soviet Union equaled and perhaps overtook the United states military during 1970s, American leaders still had the wherewithal to deter most threats, and thus to convince the attentive public that most commitments assumed during the 1940s and 1950s could be maintained. Structural power or relatively low vulnerability also means that hegemons can often force others to adjust to self-serving policies.
Consistency as well as continuity is important in hegemonial relationships, and only the hegemon can ensure them. Overall, consistency benefits most members of such coalitions. For smaller states, uniform rules and practices reduce uncertainty and risk aversion. This allowed most industrialized and many developing countries to focus on growth rather than comparative power position during the heyday of Bretton Woods.
Decline of Hegemony in United States
An important link between regime and hegemony theories is the theory of hegemonic stability first advanced by Charles Kindleberger (Keohane 1984; Gilpin 1987) in his analysis of the global economic problems following the crisis of 1929. In this perspective, particularly popular in the United States, single hagemons fulfill their leadership role better than groups of states. Thus, during the nineteenth century, Great Britain had a positive function as economic hegemon. Though the United States accepted this useful role after World War II, according to this theory, many current problems of the world economy can be traced to its partial loss of leadership capacity. In this perspective, hegemony is not identical to oppressive dominance.
In the perception of hegemonic stability theory, hegemons establish international regimes, i.e., orders as a public utility, which dissolve with the decline of hegemony. The neorealist position in the formulation of keohane has modified this thesis. Although the construction of central regimes depends upon a hegemon, once they have become institutionalized they may well survive hegemonic decline.
In fact, despite the decline of U.S. hegemony, important international regimes have not come apart completely, although they experienced profound crises. An example of an international regime that has come under pressure during hegemonic decline without fully disintegrating is the General Agreement on taraffis and Trade (GATT), which suffered setbacks during the 1970s and 1980s; within its framework ever more acute economic tensions are played out between North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
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