Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 May 2009
There is a growing discrepancy between the popularity of the hegemonic stability theory and the amount of material pointing to the theory's shortcomings, both analytic and empirical. This article begins with a discussion of the theory's major weaknesses and then offers an analysis of the theory's discourse. Using methods of structural analogy and the study of imagery, the investigation proceeds from the most superficial to the most deep-seated and universal imagery found in the theory's discourse. It argues that the idea of hegemonic stability and the notion of the benevolent hegemon have their roots in powerful and interrelated myths, including myths of the golden age, the Savior, and the death of the sun. It also argues that the ability of these myths to sway human emotions has interfered with the process of theory-building and scientific investigation, of which intuition is a vital component. It concludes that the continuing popularity of the hegemonic stability theory is based on the timeless appeal of the myths that it incorporates.
1. See Gilpin, Robert. U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation: The Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Basic Books, 1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gilpin, Robert, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Keohane, Robert O., “The Theory of Hegemonic Stability and Changes in International Economic Regimes, 1967–1977,” in Holsti, Ole R., Siverson, Randolph M., and George, Alexander L., eds.. Change in the International System (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980), pp. 131–62Google Scholar; Keohane, Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; Kindleberger, Charles P., The World in Depression, 1929–1939 (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Pelican Books, 1987)Google Scholar; Kindleberger, Charles P., “Systems of Economic Organizations,” in Calleo, David P., ed., Money and the Coming World Order (New York: New York University Press, 1976), pp. 15–40Google Scholar; Kindleberger, Charles P., “Dominance and Leadership in the International Economy: Exploitation, Public Goods and Free Riders,” International Studies Quarterly 25 (06 1981), pp. 242–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kindleberger, Charles P., “Hierarchy Versus Inertial Cooperation,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 841–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Krasner, Stephen D., “State Power and the Structure of International Trade,” World Politics 28 (04 1976), pp. 317–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Krasner, Stephen D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983)Google Scholar.
3. See Lake, David A., “International Economic Structures and American Foreign Economic Policy, 1887–1934,” World Politics 35 (07 1983), p. 518CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Keohane, , “The Theory of Hegemonic Stability and Changes in International Economic Regimes,” p. 156Google Scholar; and Snidal, Duncan, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985), p. 579CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
5. See Calleo, David P., Beyond American Hegemony: The Future of the Western Alliance (New York: Basic Books, 1987), pp. 218 and 220Google Scholar; and Calleo, David P. and Rowland, Benjamin, America and the World Political Economy: Atlantic Dreams and National Realities (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), p. 17Google Scholar.
9. See Gowa, Joanne, “Hegemons, International Organizations, and Markets: The Case of the Substitution Account,” International Organization 38 (Autumn 1984), pp. 661–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Evans, Peter B., “Declining Hegemony and Assertive Industrialization,” International Organization 43 (Spring 1989), pp. 207–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Regarding the ambiguities in After Hegemony, Snidal, makes a similar remark in “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” p. 581Google Scholar.
12. Strange, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony.”
14. See Calleo, David P., The Atlantic Fantasy: The US, NATO and Europe (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), p. 14Google Scholar; Gilpin, , U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation, p. 151Google Scholar; Lake, , “International Economic Structures and American Foreign Economic Policy,” pp. 540–42Google Scholar; Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 37Google Scholar; Russett, , “The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Hegemony,” p. 211Google Scholar; and Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (London: Allen & Unwin, 1988), pp. 689–90 and 694–95Google Scholar.
52. See Eichengreen, Barry, “Hegemonic Stability Theories of the International Monetary System,” Brookings Papers on International Economics, vol. 54 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1988)Google Scholar.
54. This does not amount to a dismissal of normative judgments in international politics or economics. Perhaps states should be benevolent rather than rational (predatory) in situations in which the two seem incompatible, but the difficulty lies in keeping the description separate from the prescription.
59. For a discussion regarding the British case, see McKeown, Tim, “Hegemonic Stability Theory and the Nineteenth-Century Tariff Levels in Europe,” International Organization 37 (Winter 1983), pp. 73–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a discussion regarding the U.S. case, see Mastanduno, Michael, “Trade as a Strategic Weapon: American and Alliance Export Control Policy in the Early Postwar Period,” International Organization 42 (Winter 1988), pp. 121–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Strange, , “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” especially pp. 209–14Google Scholar.
63. See Gilpin, , U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation, p. 217Google Scholar: “The relative power of the U.S. has dramatically declined.… The U.S. has suffered a major decline in power. This undermining of American hegemony and its implications are fundamental facts of international relations in the 1970s.”
64. See Huntington, Samuel P., “The U.S.: Decline or Renewal?” Foreign Affairs 67 (Winter 1988), pp. 76–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Nye, Joseph S. Jr, “America's Decline: A Myth,” The New York Times, 10 04 1988Google Scholar; Bator, Francis, “Must We Retrench?” Foreign Affairs 68 (Spring 1989), pp. 93–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Strange, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony.” Susan Strange's error in reproducing a chart in her article does not detract from the overall validity of her argument, which in this case rested heavily on the unqualified notion of structural power. See Helen Milner and Jack Snyder, “Lost Hegemony?” and Strange, Susan, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony: Reply to Milner and Snyder,” International Organization 41 (Autumn 1988), pp. 749–51Google Scholar.
83. Kaiser, Karl, “A View from Europe: The U.S. Role in the Next Decade,” International Affairs 65 (Spring 1989), p. 209CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Moïsi, Dominique: “Force et faiblesse des Etats-Unis” (Strength and weakness of the United States), Politique Etrangère 1 (Spring 1989). pp. 45–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
85. For a discussion of Europe's decline, see Stoffaes, Christian, Fins de monde: Declin et renouvean dans i'économie mondiale (Ends of worlds: Decline and renewal in the world economy) (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1987)Google Scholar: and de Montbrial, Thierry. ed., RAMSES, 1986–87 (Annual report on world systems and strategies, 1986–87) (Paris: Atlas Economica. 1986), pp. 291–366Google Scholar.
87. See Krasner, International Regimes; and Keohane, After Hegemony.
89. Keohane, Robert O., “U.S. Foreign Economic Policy Toward Other Advanced Capitalist States: The Struggle to Make Others Adjust,” in Oye, Kenneth, Rothschild, Donald, and Lieber, Robert, eds., Eagle Entangled: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Complex World (London: Longman, 1979), p. 96Google Scholar.
95. Bachelard, Gaston, La psychanalyse du feu (A psychoanalysis of fire) (Paris: Gallimard, 1949), p. 127Google Scholar. Translations of quotes by Bachelard (as well as quotes by other French authors) are my own. Some of the major works by Bachelard have been made available to the American public by Beacon Press in Boston. In addition, a short introduction to Bachelard's work in English can be found in Smith's, Charles RockGaston Bachelard (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982)Google Scholar. La psychanalyse dufeu was translated in 1964 by Alan C. M. Ross, with a preface by Northrop Frye, and was published in London by Routledge & Kegan Paul.
103. Vladimir Propp and the Russian formalists initiated the structuralist study of narratives, as discussed in Propp's Morphology of the Folktale, 2d ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968)Google Scholar. Greimas, A. J. coined the term “actant” and laid the groundwork for the use of structuralism in literary criticism in La semantique structurale (Structural semantics) (Paris: Larousse, 1966)Google Scholar. Northrop Frye elaborated on the link between mythology and structure in Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957)Google Scholar. And Roland Barthes studied the ideological function of social codes in Mythologies (Paris: Seuil, 1957)Google Scholar. For a good methodological introduction to the study of comparative narratives, see Coster, Michel de, L'analogie en sciences humaines (Analogy in social science) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1979)Google Scholar.
106. Kindleberger, , The World in Depression, p. 304Google Scholar. Note the persuasive power achieved by the language itself in this sentence. The impression of logical consistency comes from the use of “stabilized” instead of “stable.” “Stabilization” (a process) presupposes an agent, whereas “stability” (a desired state) does not. The logic of the argument stems from pure semantics.
109. This idea is borrowed from Robert Triffin's more general reflections on the paradoxes of the gold exchange standard, as set forth in Gold and the Dollar Crisis: The Future of Convertibility (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1960)Google Scholar. The so-called Triffin dilemma as used in the theory of hegemonic stability emphasizes the hegemon's point of view, rather than that of the system as a whole.
112. The vision of the hegemon as a supplier is evident in the following passage by Gilpin: “The core is principally defined by its performance of certain functions in the international economy. In the first place, it performs the role of a central banker. The core supplies the international currency and liquidity; in effect it establishes and manages the international monetary system. Second, it plays a critical role in creating and organizing the international trading system.… Finally, through private investment or foreign aid or both, the core supplies investment capital and generates development throughout the system.” See U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation, p. 48.
115. See Goldfinger, Charles, La géofinance: Pour comprendre la mutation financière (Geofinance: Understanding the financial transformation) (Paris: Seuil, 1986), p. 325Google Scholar; and Bourguinat, Henri, Les vertiges de la finance Internationale (A dizzy international finance) (Paris: Economica, 1987)Google Scholar.
116. See Brender, Anton, Un choc de nations (Clashing nations) (Paris: Hatier, 1988)Google Scholar; and Bachelard, , L'eau et les reves, p. 18Google Scholar. The equivalence between money and water in the imagination is also established via the notion of language. “Fluency” characterizes a way of speaking. Bachelard, noting that “language wants to flow” and does “flow naturally,” argues that “liquidity is the very desire of language” (p. 250). Kindelberger, , in “The Politics of International Money and World Language,” Princeton Essays in International Finance, no. 51, 08 1967Google Scholar, closes the associative chain by drawing a parallel between language and the dollar as a world currency, with both seen as crucial media provided by the United States. One resulting equation is money = language = water, and perhaps another is language = knowledge/information = technology. In the future, the “information standard” may replace other standards, as Walt Wriston suggests in “The World's Replacement for the Gold Standard,” Wall Street Journal, 31 12 1985Google Scholar.
128. Freud, Sigmund, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18 (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), p. 97Google Scholar.
135. See Rosenau, James N., “Before Cooperation: Hegemons, Regimes, and Habit-Driven Actors in World Politics,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 849–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Kindleberger, , “Systems of Economic Organizations,” p. 38Google Scholar; and Kindleberger, Charles P., International Economics, 4th ed. (Homewood, 111.: Richard D. Irwin, 1968), p. 215Google Scholar: “It is well known that benevolent despotism is the optimum form of government.” The influence of Plato's philosopher-king, occasionally mentioned by Kindleberger, may be felt in this statement.
137. In his radio address of 17 June 1940, for example, Pétain stated, “I present France with the gift of my person, in order to alleviate her distress.”
138. Le Monde, 19 March 1988.
140. For a discussion of the “socio-cosmological image,” see Manning, , The Nature of International Society, p. 4Google Scholar. Regarding the particular metaphors listed here, see Strange, , “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” p. 570Google Scholar; Mackintosh, Ian, Sunrise Europe: The Dynamics of Information Technology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986)Google Scholar; and Rosenau, , “Before Cooperation,” p. 10Google Scholar.
145. Bergsten, C. Fred, Keohane, Robert O., and Nye, Joseph S. Jr, “International Economics and International Politics: A Framework for Analysis,” in Bergsten, C. Fred and Krause, Lawrence B., eds., World Politics and International Economics (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1975), p. 17Google Scholar.
147. Shakespeare, Macbeth, act 2, scene 2, lines 90–91 and 93–94.
150. For a study of the notion of cyclical time, see Eliade, Mircea, Le mythe de I'éternel retour: Archetypes el répétition (The myth of eternal return: Archetypes and repetition) (Paris: Gallimard, 1949)Google Scholar.
151. de Romilly, Jacqueline, “La notion de nécessité dans l'histoire de Thucydides” (The notion of necessity in Thucydides' history), in Casanova, Jean-Claude, ed., Science et conscience de la société: Mélanges en ihonneur de Raymond Aron (Science and conscience of society: Selected papers in honor of Raymond Aron) (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1971), p. 118Google Scholar.
162. In “The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Hegemony,” Russett uses these expressions ironically when reassuring those of his contemporaries who may be alarmed by such dire predictions. The entire quotes are as follows: “The sky has not fallen” (p. 220). “It is not quite a case where ‘all instruments agree’ it is a dark, cold day” (p. 210). According to the theory of hegemonic stability, the interregnum between two successive hegemonies (as in the 1930s and at the present time) is particularly fraught with danger and uncertainty. Within the daily sun cycle, this corresponds with nighttime; and within the yearly cycle, it has traditionally corresponded with the end of the year's fertility cycle, a time when demons and spirits rise from the dark (Halloween or All Saints' Day). Similarly, ghosts’ alleged favorite hour is midnight, the exact breaking point between two cycles.
167. Tudor, Political Myth.
175. Ibid., pp. 23–24. Note that in some textbooks, the world of pure economics is explicitly referred to as a “Garden of Eden,” and barriers to trade imposed by political authorities are considered the “original sin.” See the discussion on the second best argument in Lindert, Peter H., International Economics, 8th ed. (Homewood, 111.: Richard D. Irwin, 1986), p. 148Google Scholar.
177. See Enriquez, Eugène, De la horde à I'état: Psychanalyse du lien social (From horde to state: A psychoanalysis of the societal link) (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), pp. 141 and 145Google Scholar. One example of the “slain savior” motif can be found in C. S. Lewis's fairy tale, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the most widely read stories in the English-speaking world. In this tale, a wicked witch casts a spell on the kingdom of Narnia. The king, the mighty and generous Asian, must undergo a ritual sacrifice in order to lift the spell and bring spring again to the country. He is eventually resurrected—in a splendid sunrise. In addition to its Christian symbolism, the tale, written in Britain in 1944, reflects the “beware of the spies” atmosphere and excitement surrounding the expectation of the landing of American troops in Europe. The historical parallel is striking at the beginning of the tale, and the religious parallel becomes most evident toward the end. Both point to the following equation, which is active in the Western mind: Asian = Christ = America. I am indebted to David Long for drawing this tale to my attention.
179. John 19:34.
182. Shakespeare, King Lear, act 3, scene 4, line 42.
187. Freud also, of course, recognized the impact of early childhood experiences. Everyone has heard of the Oedipus complex, which may be relevant here, especially since the name “Oedipus,” meaning “swollen feet,” is said to stand for the dilated, reddened, setting sun (see Ginestier, , La pensee de Bachelard, p. 178)Google Scholar. However, the works by Freud used here concentrate on phylogenesis rather than ontogenesis.
198. Sometimes the free riders are divided into two types, the hungry weakeners and the ambitious challengers, as in this passage by Gilpin: “The Russians and OPEC have raised the price to the U.S. of maintaining its global commitments [weakeners] at the same time that European and Japanese economic competition [challengers] has decreased America's capacity to pay.” See U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation, p. 218.
202. See Girardet, Mythes et mythologies poliiiques.
203. Bachelard, Gaston, La formation de I'esprit scientifique: Contribution a une psychanalyse de la connaissance objective (The development of the scientific mind: Contribution to a psychoanalysis of objective knowledge) (Paris: Vrin, 1938), p. 16Google Scholar.
205. Millenarianism, the idea of America's moral superiority, and the notion of America's succession of England in the religious order are all enduring features of U.S. religious-political mythology. See Fitzgerald, Frances, “The American Millennium,” in Ungar, Sanford J., ed.. Estrangement: America and the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1985), pp. 253 and 276Google Scholar; and Eliade, Mircea, “La nostalgie du paradis et la naissance de l'Amérique” (The nostalgia for paradise and America's birth), in Pauwels, Louis, ed.. La fin du monde? (The end of the world?) (Paris: Retz, 1977), pp. 67–76Google Scholar. Similarly, according to Greenstein, American political culture makes for a widespread sensitivity to the benevolent leader figure, typically seen in children's political attitudes. See Greenstein, Fred I., “The Benevolent Leader: Children's Images of Political Authority,” in Dahl, Robert A., ed.. Readings in Modern Political Analysis (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968). pp. 341–55Google Scholar.
210. See, for example, Frank, Andre Gunder, “The Development of Underdevelopment,” Monthly Review 17 (09 1966), pp. 17 and 20CrossRefGoogle Scholar: “A whole chain of constellations of metropoles and satellites relates all parts of the system from its metropolitan centre in Europe or the U.S. to the farthest outposts in the Latin American countryside.… [This structure] serves to suck capital or economic surplus to the world metropolis.”
222. See Lawson, , “Hegemony and the Structure of International Trade Reassessed,” p. 137Google Scholar; Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 35Google Scholar; and Frieden, Jeff, “Sectoral Conflict and U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, 1914–1940,” International Organization 42 (Winter 1988), pp. 59–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar.