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The Persistent myth of lost hegemony

  • Susan Strange (a1)

There is not much significant theorizing outside America and, within America, most recent theorizing has tended to become more abstract or else has falsely assumed that the United States is no longer a hegemonic power. But rather than criticize what has been done, I shall outline a different approach, identifying four major global structures—security, production, finance, and knowledge—within which states, corporate enterprises, and others operate. I conclude that America is dominant in all four structures. International studies therefore ought to develop a theory of empire which can be applied by U.S. policymakers, if these studies are to have any basis in reality and any practical use.

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1. Myrdal, G., Objectivity in Social Research (London: Dudworthy, 1970).

2. See, for example, Keohane, R. O., After Hegemony, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), which goes to great pains to explain the simpler versions of game theory. Also Snidal, D., “Hegemonic Stability Theory Revisited,” International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985). He follows a comprehensive review of the theory with the cautious verdict that game theory is “a useful beginning rather than a reliable conclusion.”

3. “Domesticism” is the term used by Henry Nau in his exchange with Bergsten, Fred, “The State of the Debate: Reagonomics,” Foreign Policy 59 (Summer 1985). “Unilateralism” is used by Sewell, Pat in “The Congenital Unilateralism and Adaptation of American Academics,” paper presented at the annual conference of the American Political Science Association, 09 1986.

4. Russett, B., “The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Hegemony; or Is Mark Twain Really Dead?International Organization 39 (Spring 1985). Arrighi, G., “A Crisis of Hegemony,” in Amin, Samir et al. , Dynamics of Global Crisis (London: Macmillan, 1982); Gill, S., “U.S. Hegemony: Its Limits and Prospects in the Reagan Era,” Millennium 15 (Winter 1986). A useful work still in progress is Mjøset's, Lars forthcoming Modern Hegemonies Compared (University of Oslo, Department of Sociology).

5. Russett, , “Is Mark Twain Really Dead?” p. 208 ff.

6. Snidal, , “Hegemonic Stability Theory Revisited.” Cf. Gilpin, R., U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation: The Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Basic Books, 1975), p. 34.

7. Krasner, S., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983).

8. Kindleberger, C. P., The World in Depression, 1929–1939 (London: Allen Lane, 1973).

9. Friedman, M. and Schwarz, A., A Monetary History of the United States 1867–1960 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971).

10. Galbraith, J. K., The Great Crash, 1929 (London: Deutsch, 1980).

11. Kindleberger, C. P., World in Depression, pp. 291–94. Walt Rostow (ironically in agreement with much neo-marxist analysis) has also emphasized the global and systemic rather than the narrowly domestic causes of the interwar depression; Rostow, W. W., The World Economy: History and Prospect (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), and other works.

12. Gilpin, U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation.

13. The trend has been followed in many university courses on international relations. See Little, R. and McKinlay, R. D., Global Patterns and World Order (London: Frances Pinter, 1979), and the earlier Readings for an Open University World Politics course, edited by R. Little, M. Shackleton; and Smith, M., Perspectives on World Politics: A Reader (London: Croom Helm, 1981). See also Brown, M. Barratt, Models in Political Economy (London: Frances Pinter, 1986) and Staniland, M., What is Political Economy? (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985).

14. See Stein, A., “The Hegemon's Dilemma: Great Britain, the United States, and the International Economic Order,” International Organization 38 (Spring 1984).

15. Olson, M., The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation and Social Rigidities (1982).

16. Olson, M., The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965).

17. Wallerstein, I., The Politics of the World-Economy: The States, the Movements and the Civilizations (1984). See also his antecedents, Braudei, F., La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen a L'époque de Philippe (Paris: Arcnand Collin, 1986) and Perroux, F., Le capitalisme (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948).

18. Ibid., pp. 37–44.

19. S. Krasner, ed., International Regimes.

20. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 216.

21. Ibid., p. 244.

22. B. Russett, “Is Mark Twain Really Dead?”

23. Calleo, D., The Imperious Economy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982).

24. Nau, “Reaganomics.”

25. Lawson, F., “Hegemony and the Structure of International Trade Re-assessed: A View from Arabia,” International Organization 37 (Spring 1983).

26. Laitin, D., “Capitalism and Hegemony: Yorubaland and the International Economy,” International Organization 36 (Autumn 1983).

27. McKeown, T., “Hegemonic Stability Theory and the 19th Century Tariff Levels in Europe,” International Organization 37 (Winter 1983).

28. Cowhey, P. and Long, E., “Testing Theories of Regime Change: Hegemonic Decline or Surplus Capacity?International Organization 37 (Spring 1983).

29. Strange, S. and Tooze, R., eds., The International Management of Surplus Capacity (London: Allen & Unwin, 1981).

30. Cafruny, A., “Ruling the Waves,” International Organization 39 (Winter 1985). See also S. Krasner, Structural Conflict, chap. 8.

31. Milward, A., The Reconstruction of Western Europe 1945–1951 (London: Methuen, 1984).

32. Jonsson, C., “International Air Transport,” International Organization 37 (Summer 1983).

33. , G. and Curzon, V., Politics and Trade, vol. 1, of Shonfield, A., ed., International Economic Relations of the Western World 1959–1971 (London: Oxford University Press, 1976).

34. Gardner, R., Sterling Dollar Diplomacy: The Origins and the Prospects of Our International Economic Order, 2d ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).

35. Strange, S., Casino Capitalism (London: Blackwell, 1986).

36. An argument often made in Europe. E.g. Junne, G., “Das amerikanische Rustungsprogramm: ein Substitut fur Industriepolitik,” Leviathan 13 (1984).

37. W. Dekker, in a speech to European Management Forum, Davos, Switzerland, February 1986.

38. Shelp, R., “The Service Economy,” mimeo, 1985, and Beyond Industrialization (New York: Praeger, 1981).

39. A common mistake is to suppose the oil companies ever entirely dominated the market in that they set oil prices, or that they lost power when OPEC, in alliance with the market, briefly did so. The oil companies’ prime purpose is profit, and in making profits out of oil. U.S. companies still lead.

40. See, for example, Vernon, R., Storm over the Multinationals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977); Dunning, J., The World's Largest Industrial Enterprises 1962–1983, (London: Macmillan, 1985); Casson, M., The Growth of International Business (London: Allen & Unwin, 1983).

41. The United States now holds resources in other currencies, but only because it is more convenient and less risky should the Federal Reserve Bank of New York decide (as in 1986–87) to buy dollars in order to arrest a decline in their value.

42. Feddersen, H., “The Management of Floating Exchange Rates; The Case of the D-Mark/ Dollar Rate 1973–1983,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, European University Institute, Florence, 1987.

43. Note that in banking parlance loans owed to a bank are assets.

44. UN Centre on Transnational Corporations, “Transborder Data Flows,” (1979).

45. H. Nefiodow, Paper presented at Financial Times-International Research into Multinationals Conference on Multinationals and Innovation, Munich, April 1986.

46. Junne, G., “Developments in Biotechnology,” mimeo, University of Amsterdam, 1985. See also Hamelink, C., Finance and Information (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1983).

47. See for example the analysis of policymaking processes in Destler, I. M., American Trade Policy: System under Stress (Wade: Institute of International Economics, 1986). On this point, Snidal observes (in “Hegemonic Stability Theory Revisited”) that when hegemony is exercised in ways that do not benefit the weaker states, they will chafe under the domination and may work for the demise of the hegemon. But in security and finance, their weakness will inhibit their opposition.

48. Even Keohane, who gives a peculiarly favorable account of the IEA, concluded that ruleoriented solutions were proposed but not implemented. After Hegemony, p. 234.

49. Hudson, M. noted earlier, “The U.S. strategy was to act first, to render the trade patterns of foreign countries a function of its own trade controls,” Global Fracture, p. 135. A chapter entitled, “America's Steel Quotas Herald a New Protectionism,” gives detailed evidence for this statement.

50. Sewell, “Congenital Unilateralism.”

51. Krauthammer, C., “The Poverty of Realism,” New Republic, 17 02 1986.

52. Holsti, K., The Dividing Discipline: Hegemony and Diversity in International Theory (London: Allen & Unwin, 1985).

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
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