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Socialization and hegemonic power

  • G. John Ikenberry (a1) and Charles A. Kupchan (a2)


Hegemons exercise power in the international system not only by manipulating material incentives but also by altering the substantive beliefs of elites in other nations. Socialization—the process through which leaders in these secondary states embrace a set of normative ideals articulated by the hegemon—plays an important role both in establishing an international order and in facilitating the functioning of that order. This article develops the notion of socialization in the international system and examines three hypotheses about the conditions under which it occurs and can function effectively as a source of power. The first hypothesis is that socialization occurs primarily after wars and political crises, periods marked by international turmoil and restructuring as well as by the fragmentation of ruling coalitions and legitimacy crises at the domestic level. The second is that elite (as opposed to mass) receptivity to the norms articulated by the hegemon is essential to the socialization process. The third hypothesis is that when socialization does occur, it comes about primarily in the wake of the coercive exercise of power. Material inducement triggers the socialization process, but socialization nevertheless leads to outcomes that are not explicable simply in terms of the manipulation of material incentives. These hypotheses are explored in the historical case studies of U.S. diplomacy after World Wars I and II and the British colonial experience in India and Egypt.



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We gratefully acknowledge valuable comments and suggestions from Hayward Alker, Henry Bienen, George Downs, Michael Doyle, John Lewis Gaddis, Fred Greenstein, Steph Haggard, John Hall, Robert Jervis, Peter Katzenstein, Robert Keohane, Stephen Krasner, M. J. Peterson, David Rapkin, John Ruggie, Jack Snyder, and Steve Walt. Research for this article was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts Program on Integrating Economics and National Security and by the Center of International Studies, Princeton University.

1. The groundwork for this article was laid out in an earlier essay that sought to deepen our understanding of the nature of legitimacy in the international system. See Ikenberry, G. John and Kupchan, Charles A., “The Legitimation of Hegemonic Power,” in Rapkin, David, ed., World Leadership and Hegemony, vol. 5 of International Political Economy Yearbook (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, forthcoming). Some of the historical material contained in the present article draws on our earlier essay.

2. Some scholars have made general distinctions among political, economic, and ideological aspects of power. See Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power, vol. 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), especially pp. 2228; and Boulding, Kenneth, The Three Faces of Power (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1989).

3. See George, Alexander, “The ‘Operational Code’: A Neglected Approach to the Study of Political Leaders and Decision Making,” International Studies Quarterly 13 (06 1969), pp. 190222. George argues that the operational code consists of two levels of beliefs: deep philosophical beliefs and instrumental beliefs. Our notion of norms is similar to George's category of instrumental beliefs. For further discussion of this level of beliefs and how to measure them, see Kupchan, Charles A., “France and the Quandary of Empire, 1870–1939,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, 1989. To clarify the presentation, we distinguish among norms, value orientations, interests, and preferences in the following way. Norms are general principles upon which a certain vision of international order is based. Value orientations are norm-based attitudes toward specific policy issues and types of behavior. Interests are the broad objectives of policy, such as prosperity, political stability, and security. Preferences are the ordering of alternative courses of action or policy choices.

4. As discussed below in the case studies, the content of norms changes over time. During the nineteenth century, for example, British hegemony in the European system was facilitated by principles of free trade. British domination in certain colonial areas, most notably India, was similarly facilitated by the importation and spread of liberalism. During the post-World War II era, the U.S. hegemonic system has been infused with norms of liberal multilateralism and democratic government.

5. A similar distinction between types of acquiescence (or “acceptance”) is made by Mann: ”pragmatic acceptance, where the individual complies because he perceives no realistic alternative, and normative acceptance, where the individual internalizes the moral expectations of the ruling class and views his own inferior position as legitimate.” See Mann, Michael, “The Social Cohesion of Liberal Democracy,” American Sociological Review 35 (06 1970), pp. 423–39.

6. For a discussion of the use of international market power, see James, Scott C. and Lake, David A., “The Second Face of Hegemony: Britain's Repeal of the Corn Laws and the American Walker Tariff of 1846,” International Organization 43 (Winter 1989), pp. 129.

7. See Keohane, Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 32; and Krasner, Stephen D., ”American Policy and Global Economic Stability,” in Avery, William P. and Rapkin, David P., eds., America in a Changing World Political Economy (New York: Longman, 1982), p. 32. The United States after World War II provides the premier case of the coercive potential of a remarkably diversified resource portfolio. “American leaders were able to bring into play a very wide range of resources with few opportunity costs for the United States,” argues Krasner. “American threats were credible because the United States would not lose much if they were carried out. American leaders could usually construct a link that would enable them to compel other actors to alter their policy. Inducements could be offered because the United States had resources that others needed much more than they were needed by the United States.”

8. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 39.

9. Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 34.

10. A variety of efforts have been made to develop more sophisticated models of hegemonic power, giving precision to its mechanisms and dynamics. Snidal outlines three forms of hegemony: that which is benign and exercised by persuasion; that which is benign but exercised by coercion; and that which is coercive and exploitative. See Snidal, Duncan, “Hegemonic Stability Theory Revisited,” International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985), pp. 579614. Hirsch and Doyle note three types of hegemonic power: cooperative leadership, hegemonic regime, and imperialism. See Hirsch, Fred and Doyle, Michael, Alternatives to Monetary Disorder (New York: McGraw Hill, 1977), p. 27.

11. Cox, Robert W., Production, Power and World Order (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 172. See also two works by Gill, Stephen: “Hegemony, Consensus, and Trilateralism,” Review of International Studies 12 (07 1986), pp. 205–21; and American Hegemony: Its Limits and Prospects in the Reagan Era,” Millenium: Journal of International Studies 15 (Winter 1986), pp. 311–36.

12. Weber, Max, Economy and Society, vol. 1, edited by Roth, Guenther and Wittich, Claus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 213.

13. Habermas, Jürgen, Legitimation Crisis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975), p. 101.

14. Our notion of socialization corresponds closely with that in the literature on political socialization. As Sigel states, “Political socialization refers to the learning process by which political norms and behaviors acceptable to an ongoing political system are transmitted from generation to generation.” See Sigel, R., “Assumptions About the Learning of Political Values,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, vol. 361, 1965, p. 1.

15. Our notion of socialization differs from that of Waltz. In Waltz's theory, socialization refers to a process through which actors come to conform to the structural norms of the international system. It is a process that “limits and molds” the behavior of states in ways that accord with the imperatives and constraints of international structures. See Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (New York: Wiley, 1979), pp. 7476. We refer to socialization as a process through which the value orientations of a leading state are transmitted to elites in other nations, regardless of the structural setting.

16. Merelman, Richard, “Learning and Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 60 (09 1966), p. 548. See also George, Alexander L., “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change in U.S. Foreign Policy: The Need for Policy Legitimacy,” in Hoist, Ole et al. , eds., Change in the International System (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980), pp. 233–62; and Trout, Thomas, “Rhetoric Revisited: Political Legitimacy and the Cold War,” International Studies Quarterly 19 (09 1975), pp. 251–84.

17. Our notion of socialization in the international system has a clear parallel to Durkheim's ”conscience collective”–a body of beliefs and values upon which moral consensus in domestic societies is based. The conscience collective, as Giddens suggests, provides domestic cohesion and conformity through “the emotional and intellectual hold which these beliefs and values exert over the perspectives of the individual.” See Giddens, Anthony, ed., Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), p. 5. We maintain that the emergence of shared norms and beliefs performs a similar role in the international context, facilitating cooperation and cohesion among sovereign states.

18. Merelman, “Learning and Legitimacy.”

19. For an application of this theory to international relations, see Larson, Deborah, The Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 4250.

20. A related process, involving the spread of policy-relevant knowledge, is described by Haas as “consensual knowledge.” See Haas, Ernst, “Why Collaborate? Issue-Linkage and International Regimes,” World Politics 32 (04 1980), pp. 357405. More generally, the literature on regimes addresses how norms and procedures guide state behavior. This literature, however, focuses more on how norms facilitate cooperation than on how norms emerge and take root among relevant states. Our notion of socialization may shed light on the processes through which regimes emerge. For a general review of the literature, see Haggard, Stephan and Simmons, Beth A., “Theories of International Regimes,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 491517.

21. Several considerations informed our selection of case studies. We were concerned primarily with understanding how and when socialization takes place, rather than with assessing the extent to which socialization affects outcomes. Accordingly, we focused on the early stages of interaction between a hegemon and secondary states. We also attempted to select a range historical cases that would allow us to probe the different mechanisms through which socialization takes place. In Britain and France after World War II, socialization occurred through the thick network of political, economic, and military ties that emerged between Western Europe and the United States. In Germany and Japan, the United States resorted to military occupation and explicit reconstruction of domestic institutions. The cases of India and Egypt allowed us to examine examples of colonial penetration. We were also careful to pick instances of both successful and unsuccessful efforts at socialization in order to enhance the analytic value of comparative analysis. Inasmuch as work in this area is relatively underdeveloped, we consider these cases to serve as “plausibility probes” in an effort to formulate and test initial hypotheses about the process of socialization in international relations.

22. Wilson, quoted in Link, Arthur, Wilson the Diplomatist: A Look at His Major Foreign Policies (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974), pp. 9697.

23. Wilson, quoted in Mayer, Amo, Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking: Containment and Counterrevolution at Versailles, 1918–1919 (New York: Knopf, 1967), p. 21.

24. Link, , Wilson the Diplomatist, p. 105.

25. Mayer, , Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking, p. 368.

26. Ambrosius, Lloyd, Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 2.

27. The April 1917 statement included the following passage: “The purpose of free Russia [was] not domination over other peoples, nor spoliation of their national possessions, nor the violent occupation of foreign territories, but the establishment of a permanent peace on the basis of self-determination of peoples. The Russian people [were] not aiming to increase their power abroad at the expense of other people; they [had] no aim to enslave or oppress anybody.” Quoted in Mayer, Arno, Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 75.

28. Martin, Laurence, Peace Without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the British Liberals (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1958), chap. 3.

29. London Times, quoted in Mayer, , Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking, p. 188.

30. Mayer, , Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, p. 311.

31. Martin, , Peace Without Victory, p. 21.

32. Mayer, , Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, p. 14.

33. Martin, , Peace Without Victory, pp. 132–34 and 148–54.

34. Ibid., p. 192.

35. Howard, Michael, The Continental Commitment (London: Temple Smith, 1972), pp. 110 ff.

36. These ideas are summarized by Gardner, Richard in Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy: The Origins and the Prospects of Our International Economic Order, expanded edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 1969). See also Calleo, David P. and Rowland, Benjamin M., America and the World Political Economy: Atlantic Dreams and National Realities (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973).

37. See Pollard, Robert A., Economic Security and the Origins of the Cold War, 1945–1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), chap. 1.

38. Watt, David, “Perceptions of the United States in Europe, 1945–1983,” in Freedman, Lawrence, ed., The Troubled Alliance: Atlantic Relations in the 1980s (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), pp. 2930.

39. Congressional report, quoted in Gardner, , Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy, p. 198.

40. See Edmonds, Robin, Setting the Mould: The United States and Britain, 1945–1950 (New York: Norton, 1986), chap. 8.

41. Milward, Alan S., The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945–1951 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 56.

42. See Hogan, Michael J., The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Europe, 1947–1952 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

43. See Maier, Charles, “The Politics of Productivity: Foundations of American International Economic Policy After World War II,” in Katzenstein, Peter, ed., Between Power and Plenty: Foreign Economic Policies of Advanced Industrial States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), pp. 2349.

44. Ikenberry, G. John, “Rethinking the Origins of American Hegemony,” Political Science Quarterly 104 (Fall 1989), pp. 375400.

45. Ruggie, John Gerard, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36 (Spring 1982), pp. 379415.

46. For a discussion of these groups in Britain, see Gardner, , Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy, pp. 3135.

47. Roosevelt, quoted in Dallek, Robert, The American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs (New York: Knopf, 1983), p. 147.

48. Montgomery, John D., Forced to Be Free: The Artificial Revolution in Germany and Japan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 45.

49. Katzenstein, Peter J., Policy and Politics in West Germany: The Growth of a Semisovereign State (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987), p. 16.

50. Ibid., p. 87.

51. Wallich, Henry C., Mainsprings of the German Revival (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1955), p. 372.

52. Montgomery, , Forced to Be Free, p. 194.

53. The Truman administration, in a major statement of postsurrender policy on 6 September 1945, argued that the Japanese people were to “be encouraged to develop a desire for individual liberties and respect for fundamental human rights, particularly freedom of religion, assembly, speech, and the press.” Most important, the Japanese were “to become familiar with the history, institutions, culture, and the accomplishments of the United States” and, by so doing, turn themselves into a “New Deal-style Democracy.” Quoted in Dallek, , The American Style of Foreign Policy, p. 149. Compliance with the precepts of a liberal multilateral order, in the view of U.S. officials, must begin with liberal reforms at home. Only with these economic and political reforms could the nations of the industrial world, victors and vanquished alike, abide by American-inspired norms.

54. For contrasting views on this issue, see the contributions of Edwin Reischauer, J. W. Dower, Sodei Rinjiro, and Takemai Eiji in the following book: Wray, Harry and Conroy, Hilary, eds., Japan Examined: Perspectives on Modern Japanese History (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), pp. 331–63.

55. Reischauer, Edwin, The Japanese (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 106.

56. Ibid., p. 107.

57. SCAP reasoned that Japan's experience with republican government during the 1920s made the British model more appropriate than the American model. See Reischauer, , The Japanese, p. 106.

58. See McNelly, Theodore H., “‘Induced Revolution’: The Policy and Process of Constitutional Reform in Occupied Japan,” in Ward, Robert E. and Yoshikazu, Sakamoto, eds., Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987).

59. Ibid., p. 108.

60. J. W. Dower, “Reform and Consolidation,” in Wray, and Conroy, , Japan Examined, p. 348.

61. Reischauer, , The Japanese, pp. 108–9.

62. Eiji, Takemai, “Some Questions and Answers,” in Wray, and Conroy, , Japan Examined, pp. 359–60.

63. Kosaka, Masataka, A History of Postwar Japan (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1972), p. 65.

64. Note that U.S. policy in both Germany and Japan was predicated on the assumption that changes in domestic institutions and structures would lead to desired changes in foreign policy. In Britain and France, it was focused more narrowly on altering elite norms about international behavior. The more ambitious approach in Germany and Japan was at least in part due to the wide variance between the ideas being propagated and the norms existing in the target country.

65. For an insightful study of the dynamics of metropolitan penetration, see Doyle, Michael, Empires (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 141231.

66. J. A. Cramb, cited in Hutchins, Francis, The Illusion of Permanence: British Imperialism in India (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 149.

67. Grant, cited in ibid., p. 5.

68. Spear, Percival, The Oxford History of Modern India, 1740–1975, 2d ed. (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 137.

69. Ibid., p. 205.

70. Stephen, cited in Hutchins, , The Illusion of Permanence, p. 126.

71. Spear, , The Oxford History of Modern India, pp. 206–8.

72. Ibid., p. 7.

73. The gradual consolidation of British rule in the mid-1800s by no means removed all resistance to the colonial presence. The mutiny of 1857, which came as a great surprise to the British, demonstrated the potential for latent resentment to be mobilized. It was not until the last two decades of the century, however, that an organized nationalist movement began to systematically undermine British rule.

74. See Hutchins, , The Illusion of Permanence, pp. 190–91.

75. Seal, Anil, The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 1415.

76. Tignor, Robert, Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, 1882–1914 (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 24 and 48–49. See also Safran, Nadav, Egypt in Search of Political Community (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961), p. 54.

77. Milner, Viscount, England in Egypt (London: Edward Arnold, 1920), p. 290.

78. Marlowe, John, Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800–1953 (London: Cresset Press, 1954), p. 251.

79. Tignor, , Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, p. 105.

80. Milner, , England in Egypt, p. 301.

81. Tignor, , Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, p. 319.

82. Milner, , England in Egypt, p. 299. See also Safran, , Egypt in Search of Political Community, p. 55.

83. Tignor, , Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, p. 338.

84. Marlowe, , Anglo-Egyptian Relations, p. 189.

85. Tignor, , Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, pp. 123–37.

86. Cottam, Richard, Foreign Policy Motivation: A General Theory and a Case Study (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), p. 239.

87. Ibid., p. 236.

88. Mitchell, Timothy, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 9798.

89. Marlowe, , Anglo-Egyptian Relations, p. 254.

90. Shonfield, Andrew, “International Economic Relations of the Western World: An Overview,” in Shonfield, Andrew, ed., International Economic Relations of the Western World, 1959–1971, vol. 1 (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 98.


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