Hegemony, Hierarchy, and Unipolarity: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Hegemonic Order Studies
- Carla NorrlofCarla NorrlofDepartment of Political Science, University of Toronto
Scholars of international political economy in the 1970s explored the relationship among a dominant power, leadership, and openness. The discussion soon centered on the concept of hegemony, meaning a situation in which a single state exercises leadership in creating and maintaining the fundamental rules of the international system. The scholarly arguments that ensued focused on the rationale for, and durability of, hegemony, and seemed relevant because of a shared assumption that U.S. dominance, so strong during the quarter-century after World War II, was declining. However, the debate was premised on a shared but incorrect empirical perception that American hegemony was declining. When similar questions arose again at the end of the 20th century, the terminology used was less that of hegemony than of unipolarity and hierarchy, and the key question was whether exercising continuing leadership would be so costly to the hegemon that its decline would be generated by its leadership. The issues of hegemony raised in this literature have taken on renewed relevance with the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.