… a core concept in Global Context and Atlas105

Concept description

Carla Norrlof (2015, reference below) defines hegemony as  the ability of an actor with overwhelming capability to shape the international system through both coercive and non-coercive means.

Norrlof writes:

“Usually this actor is understood to be a single state, such as Great Britain in the 19th century or the United States in the 20th and 21st century. However, it could also refer to the dominance of a cohesive political community with external decision-making power, such as the European Union. Hegemony is distinct from Empire because a hegemonic power rules by influencing other states rather than by controlling them or their territory. Unipolarity refers to the distribution of military capabilities, whereas hegemony also refers to economic, social, and cultural power. The literature on hegemony tries to explain the United States’ role in the international system as a function of its privileged position within the system. Some scholars also see hegemony as an institutionalized coalition of powerful and wealthy states. Central questions to the debate are whether a hegemonic actor is well placed to shape the system, what strategies hegemonic powers use to define the system, if there are particular costs and benefits associated with exercising hegemonic influence, if other states gain or lose from hegemony, and under what conditions hegemonic powers endure.

Richard Saull (2010, reference below), writes:

“Hegemony emerged as an analytical term to conceptualize different historical periods out of the combined post-1945 historical context of two key events: the dissolution of an international political order founded upon European colonial empires, and the establishment and evolution of a postwar liberal international economy under U.S. leadership. Within the subdiscipline of International Political Economy (IPE), the genesis of the concept of “hegemony” or “leadership” has two sources: the idea of hegemonic order or dominance within the world economy as articulated in Immanuel Wallerstein’s World-Systems Theory in the early 1970s, and the publication of Charles Kindleberger’s analysis of the Great Depression that initiated a debate involving neorealist and liberal-oriented scholars around what subsequently become known as “hegemonic stability theory.” John Ikenberry also articulated a nuanced understanding of hegemony from a liberal-institutionalist perspective with regard to the post-1945 international order. There exists a substantial amount of literature on the theory and history of hegemony within IPE, and much of this discussion has been fueled by ongoing developments in the world economy. Critics of hegemony situate and embed state power and behavior within the socioeconomic structure of capitalism, and also focus on class agency as central to the establishment and evolution of hegemonic orders. To varying degrees these scholars have drawn on the theory of hegemony developed by Antonio Gramsci.”

See also, International Order.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Global Affairs and International Relations (core topic) in Global Context and Atlas105.


Carla Norrlof (2015), Hegemony, Oxford Bibliographies, at http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0122.xml, accessed 10 March 2019.

Richard Saull (2010), Hegemony and the Global Political Economy, Oxford Research Encyclopedias, at http://oxfordre.com/internationalstudies/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.001.0001/acrefore-9780190846626-e-208, accessed 10 March 2019.

Page created by: Ian Clark and Bryan Roh, last modified 10 March 2019.

Image: DOC Research Institute, Brian Schmidt, photo credit gary718/Bigstock.com, at https://doc-research.org/2018/08/hegemony-conceptual-theoretical-analysis/, accessed 10 March 2019.