Literature review on US Hegemony

By John Dudovskiy

US HegemonyAccording to Nye (2011) wars and military conflicts between countries are never going to cease in the future because confrontionism is deeply rooted in human genes.

Generally, the debate regarding hegemony can be divided into two broad and opposing categories. On one hand, supporters of Habermas such as Catley and Mosler (2007), Russett (2011) and Baker (2011) do believe that it is possible for countries to engage in international relations without dominant power in an effective manner.

On the other hand, supporters of Foucault such as Schake (2009), Balogun (2011), and Nye (2011) argue that international relations cannot be facilitated without power, but the nature of power can be represented in various formats. In other words, according to this stance hegemonic power will always influence international relations; however, the level of evidence of this influence varies according to a range of factors.

Lee (2010), Russett (2011) and Baker (2011) find positive correlation between rising military power of a state and its hegemonic ambitions. Table 2.1 illustrates major hegemonic wars during the last several centuries and contains information about their results.

Hegemonic War Duration Results
Thirty Years’ War 1618 – 1648 Defeat of Habsburg
Wars of Louis XIV 1667 – 1713 Defeat of France
Napoleonic Wars 1792 – 1814 Defeat of France; Emergence of Britain as hegemon
World War I 1914 – 1918 Defeat of Germany
World War II 1939 – 1945 Defeat of Germany; Emergence of the USA as hegemon

Table 2 Hegemonic wars during last several centuries and their results

Source: Lee (2010)

US Hegemony in the 20th Century and Its Perception by other Countries

According to Catley and Mosler (2007) the US hegemony has mainly started after the World War II of 1939 – 1945. Specifically, Catley and Mosler (2007) link this fact to the chosen stance of the US during the World War II that allowed the country to emerge from the war with minimum amount of losses in terms of resources and infrastructure compared to other major superpowers of the time.

Schake (2009) specifies hegemonic ambitions as a tool for US presidents to increase the level of their approval ratings among the electorate. Specifically, Schake (2009) refers to the fact that the approval rating of US President George Bush has soared to more than 80 per cent after the announcement of war on terrorism in 2001, believed by some parties to be a tool to increase the level of hegemony of the US.

Hildebrandt (2009) argues that while all countries including US allies in strategic issues such as the UK and Japan are generally discontent towards increasing level of US hegemony they are intimated by the US not to express the level of their discontent publicly. Hildebrandt (2009) further reasons that only a handful of countries such as Russia, Iran and China have expressed discontent towards the US hegemony in various ways.

According to Zhang (2012), China is becoming increasingly active in terms of expressing its discontent with the hegemonic position of the US, and Zhang (2012) links this tendency with increasing role of China in the global economy. Moreover, Zhang (2012) explains Chinese conception on the major differences between the US and China regarding world order in the following manner:

  United States China
Strategic goal Strengthening and perpetuating a unipolar world and ultimately achieving world hegemony Working for a multi-polar world and ultimately achieving democratisation of international politics
Ideal status of countries in the world The world to be made up of one country (USA) as the leader and all the other countries as followers The world to be made up of sovereign equals with all countries, large and small, being equal
Intervention Supporting intervention in other counties’ internal affairs by using excuses as human rights Opposing power politics and intervention in other countries’ internal affairs
Solution of international conflicts Use of military force when necessary Solution through dialogue, consultation, and cooperation
Military alliance Strengthening military alliance Opposing military alliance
Threat to peace and stability Reluctance to submit to the world leader Hegemonism and power politics
Grand strategy Pressing in Eurasia from both the West and the East toward the middle, integrating Europe and Japan under its leadership, and pressuring Russia and China Together with other countries, especially other secondary powers, developing each country’s own capability and move the world toward multi-polarity
National security Absolute security of the United States at the expense of other countries’ security Relative security of all countries at the expense of any country’s capability to intervene in another country’s internal affairs
Social systems Americanised democracy being the ideal form of social system which the US has the right to help spread to all the other countries Peaceful coexistence of all countries regardless of their social systems and each country having the right to decide its own social system

Chinese conception on the major differences between the US and China regarding world order

Source: Zhang (2012)

According to Catley and Mosler (2007) terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2011 have proved a turning point in terms of providing the country with the tool in terms of ‘flexing its muscles’ and imposing its hegemonic ambitions in practical levels. In other words, Catley and Mosler (2007) argue that US has been able to launch its military operations in Afganistan and other places on the name of ‘war on terrorism’ after the terrorist attacks that became widely known as 9/11.

A range of authors such as Schake (2009) and Zhang (2012) express rather pessimistic viewpoint regarding the role of international institutions and international law in terms of facilitating international relations in a fair manner. For example Schake (2009) brands ‘international law’ as “a fancy dress for what powerful states agree to in principle” (Schake, 2009, p.3). Similarly, Zhang (2012) considers the UN as an instrument to impose foreign policy of the US.

Decline in the US Hegemony

Decline of the US hegemony has been speculated by international relations experts over the last several decades. Major reasons for the decline of the US hegemony have been speculated as depletion of natural resources (Lee, 2010), increasing expenditures of the country on international affairs (Russett, 2011), decline of competitive advantage of US manufacturers in global marketplace to newly emerging superpowers (Baker, 2011) and even consequences of moral issues (Balogun, 2011).

According to Balogun (2011) economic factors contributing to hegemonic decline can be divided into two categories: domestic and external. Specifically, domestic factors contributing to hegemonic decline include rising costs of government administration and growing frustration of local politicians with unfair advantage gained by other countries out of international trade.

The literature review has also found the impact of a range of social factors that contribute to the decline of the US hegemony. For example, Sobel (2012) refers to the concept of ‘erosion of family values’ when explaining the decline of US hegemony. Erosion of family values in the US is linked to the decline of the hegemony of the country by Sobel (2012) in a way that the value of ‘American Dream’ is depreciating in the perception of increasing numbers of people around the globe, with negative implications on the reputation of the US in general, hence the level of its hegemony.

External factors contributing to hegemonic decline, on the other hand, have been found to include rise of other national economies with more effective and sustainable competitive advantage such as China, India, and Brazil (Hildebrandt, 2009).



Baker, A. (2011) Constructing a Post-War Order: The Rise of US Hegemony and the Origins of the Cold War, Tauris & Co.

Balogun, M.J. (2011) Hegemony and Sovereign Equality: The Interest Contiguity Theory in International Relations, Springer Group

Bell, D.N. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2011) The crisis, policy reactions and attitudes to globalisation and jobs” WTO

Cassis, Y. (2011) Crises and Opportunities: The Shaping of Modern Finance, Oxford University Press

Castro-Mendivil, E. (2013) New Record: Federal Reserve owes more than USD 2 trillion in US debt,

Catley, R. and Mosler, D. (2007) The American Challenge: The World Resists US Liberalism, Ashgate Publishing

Gagnon, Y.C. (2010) The Case Study as Research Method: A Practical Handbook, Quebec University

Heathen, C. (2011) Who and What Caused The Great Recession

Heng, M.S. (2010) The Great Recession: History, Ideology, Hubris and Nemesis, World Scientific

Hetzel, R.L. (2012) The Great Recession: Market Failure or Policy Failure, Cambridge University Press

Hildebrandt, R. (2009) US Hegemony: Global Ambitions and Decline, Peter Lang

Joseph, J. (2013) Hegemony: A Realist Analysis, Routledge

Kahler, M. and Lake, D.A. (2013) Politics in the New Hard Times: The Great Recession in Comparative Perspective, Carnell University

Keohane, R.O. (2005) After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, Princeton University Press

Lee, L.R. (2010) US Hegemony and International Legitimacy: Norms, power and followership in the wars on Iraq, Routledge

Morrison, W.M. & Labonte, M. (2013) China’s Holdings of U.S. Securities: Implications for the U.S. Economy” Congressional Research Service

Nye, J.S. (2011) The Future of Power, Perseus Books Group

Roberts ,M. (2009) The Great Recession, Lulu Enterprises

Rosenberg, J.M. (2012) The Concise Encyclopedia of The Great Recession 2007 – 2012, Scarecrow Press

Russet, B.M. (2011) Hegemony and Democracy, Taylor & Francis

Schake, K.N. (2009) Managing American Hegemony: Essays on Power in a Time of Dominance, Hoover Press

Shor, F. (2011) Declining US Hegemony + Rising Chinese Power: A Formula for Conflict?

Sobczyk, J. and Atlas, T. (2013) US, UK Pressure for Action on Syria Hits UN Hurdle, Bloomberg,

Sobel, A.C. (2012) Birth of Hegemony: Crisis, Financial Revolution, and Emerging Global Networks, University of Chicago Press

Syria chemical weapons attack killed 1,429, says John Kerry (2013) BBC,

Tan, C. (2010) How stimulus packages have helped in the recession

Warner, J. (2006) Hegemony and the Nature of Order, Disaster Studies Group

Zhang, B. (2012) Chinese Perceptions of the US: an exploration of China’s foreign policy motivations, Lexicon Books


Category: Politics