Hegemony Studies 3.0

This summer, the journal Security Studies published a special issue edited by Dan and John Ikenberry—one including an article by Alex on the reversal of liberal ordering in Eastern and Central Eurasia. More about that in a later post.

The introduction to the special issue is free to read. It provides an overview of the evolution of the study of international hegemony. For the perplexed, it also answers a basic question: so what exactly is hegemony, anyway?

As Perry Anderson notes, “The origins of the term hegemony are Greek,” and, as “an abstract noun, hēgemonia first appears in Herodotus, to designate leadership of an alliance of city-states for a common military end, a position of honour accorded to Sparta in resistance to the Persian invasion of Greece.” A broadly similar concept appears in ancient China to describe military leadership of city-state leagues: the “ruler of the dominant state was given the title of ‘senior’ or ‘hegemon’ (ba) by the Zhou king, who charged him to defend what was left of the Zhou realm. Formally these leagues were hierarchical groupings of independent states, bound together through treaties” that were, in turn, affirmed by historically specific practices.

Whatever the terminology, these two examples suggest that the basic idea of a hegemonic power likely appears in a variety of historical settings; hegemony probably constitutes a ubiquitous feature of international relations, broadly understood.

But what about “third wave” hegemony studies? You can read the article to learn more (warning: it’s intended for a purely academic audience), but, in brief, it puts the “order” back into the study of hegemonic orders. Not surprisingly, this is what we try to in Exit from Hegemony: show how American-led liberal ordering shapes not only the behavior of countries like Russia and China, but also of the United States itself.

About Dan Nexon 50 Articles
Daniel Nexon is an associate professor in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change.