After the end of World War II, various iterations of hegemony studies focused on such topics as the connection between hegemonic powers and the provision of international public goods, the causes of war during hegemonic transitions, and the stability of hegemonic orders. In this article, we discuss and forward the emergence of a new wave of international hegemony studies. This research program concerns itself with the politics of hegemonic orders and hegemonic ordering. It treats hegemonic orders as means, mediums, and objects of cooperation and contestation. It sees hegemons as not simply order makers but also order takers whose domestic political processes significantly interact with the dynamics of international order. It incorporates insights about how different dimensions of hegemonic orders interact to shape the costs and benefits of hegemony. In short, it treats hegemony and hegemonic orders as objects of analysis amenable to multiple theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

During his successful presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly argued that the existing international order weakens the United States. Previous American presidents and diplomats, he claimed, struck terrible international bargains on trade, arms control, and alliances. He “made clear that he sees allies as business partners, and relationships with them in transactional terms: Pay up or we won’t protect you.”1 The irony of Trump’s position was not lost on many analysts. As Thomas Wright notes, “Trump believes that America gets a raw deal from the liberal international order it helped to create and has led since World War II.”2 Since assuming office, Trump’s foreign-policy preferences have been, at best, partially translated into concrete policy outcomes. But his routine disparagement of the basic orientations and commitments of American hegemony and liberal order has produced significant doubts about American leadership.

These doubts coincide with significant developments outside the United States. The People’s Republic of China is now, by some measures, the world’s largest economy. Under President Xi Jinping, China has grown more assertive in its efforts to shape regional and global international relations. Many observers view the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as parts of a broader attempt to reorder international relations along Beijing’s preferred lines.3 Russia, meanwhile, has emerged as a more direct challenger to important parameters of the current international order; Moscow uses a variety of instruments to disrupt and undermine American hegemony and liberal order.4 The European Union (EU) still suffers the aftershocks of the 2008 Great Recession, now further complicated by the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” referendum and its subsequent triggering of the Article 50 withdrawal process. Some see events in the EU as part of a wider populist backlash against liberal international order.5

Hegemonic-stability and power-transition theories provide two venerable frameworks for understanding these developments. They comprise part of a broader family of theories of interstate hegemony.6 Such theories focus on a particular kind of international hierarchy: those in which a leading political community uses its outsized military and economic capabilities to organize, at least in part, relations among weaker polities. In many respects, Russian and Chinese behavior tracks well with the notion that periods of power transitions generate increasingly assertive—and potentially revisionist—behavior by other great powers; trends within the “Western democracies” might similarly reflect contemporary shifts in military and economic power.

Until relatively recently, these approaches have done more to establish the parameters for such processes than provide direct insights into them. For example, they do not tell us very much about the causes and consequences of specific counter-hegemonic strategies.7 This is because much of the explanatory and theoretical focus of traditional theories of interstate hegemony rests on a relatively narrow subset of issues. These issues include the connection between the existence of a preeminent power and the provision of international public goods, whether open trade or generalized security; the relationship between power transitions and international conflict; and understanding alliance behavior within unipolar systems.

These debates, in turn, often pivot on the general factors that might contribute to the stability of hegemonic systems—power asymmetries, legitimacy, threat, and the relative attractiveness of hegemonic order.8 This tends to sideline not only analysis of the full range of strategies that actors use to contest or uphold international order but also how variation within and between hegemonic orders might shape power politics—at least beyond the durability and stability of hegemonic systems.9 For similar reasons, they confront problems when contemplating the possibility, highlighted by Trump’s foreign-policy dispositions, that a hegemonic power may actively aim to undermine the very order that it constructed.

A more recent wave of work focuses on these, and related, concerns. It also reconfigures more traditional approaches to interstate hegemony. An increasing number of scholars break from the impulse to treat hegemony as an independent variable and system-wide war as the major outcome of interest. Instead, they show interest in how hegemonic orders operate in practice; how they produce opportunities and constraints for actors in world politics; the dynamics of power-political competition within and over order; and the mutually interdependent relationship between preeminent powers and the orders they create, sustain, and seek to alter.10 Some incorporate new ways of understanding international structures, and hence of theorizing international order, such as in terms of networks, relations, and social fields.11 Moreover, this “third wave” of scholarship includes work that engages—whether implicitly or explicitly—with scholarship on interstate hegemony but does not necessarily characterize itself as part of the research program. Examples appear in the growing body of work on international hierarchy12 and the politics of unipolarity.13

This project aims to consolidate and push forward this third wave of scholarship on interstate hegemony.14 What are its overarching characteristics?

  • The treatment of the politics of hegemonic orders as important in their own right. This involves a greater focus on processes at work in hegemonic politics and hegemonic ordering, such as the bargaining, contestation, and cooperation that operates within hegemonic systems.

  • The related emphasis on the analytical and causal significance of order in the study of interstate hegemony. That is, we see recent scholarship as correctly emphasizing hegemonic orders as means, mediums, and objects of power politics.

  • An attempt to more firmly incorporate the insight that hegemons do not simply supply international order for other actors. Rather, hegemons find their foreign and domestic relations structured by the very order that they help create and uphold. Hegemons are not just order makers but also order takers.15

  • A focus on how the dynamics of hegemonic orders and hegemonic ordering shape the costs and benefits of hegemony—as registered and understood by the leading state, as well as other international actors.

Pursuing these wagers, we contend, works best when we embrace theoretical diversity, especially in terms of different ways of understanding international order. This better enables scholars of interstate hegemony to unpack hegemonic orders into their constituent relations and practices; study more granular processes of hegemonic ordering and counterordering; take much more seriously the role of nonstate, transnational, and substate actors in these processes; and incorporate a broader understanding of the tactics, logics, and instruments through which states and other actors contest and uphold hegemonic orders.16

We use the phrase “hegemonic-order theory” to describe this third wave of international relations hegemony studies. Doing so signals its distinctiveness from hegemonic-stability theory, power-transition theory, and other particular schools of hegemony studies. We find the term useful, in part, because of its inclusive scope. It reflects not a repudiation, per se, of earlier frameworks but their incorporation into a broader research agenda. It differs from some first- and second-wave approaches in that it builds in no specific assumptions about the consequences that follow from a system having a preeminent power. Finally, as the preceding discussion makes clear, it takes very seriously the analytical and explanatory importance of “order”—thus rendering “hegemonic order,” rather than simply “hegemony,” its central concern.

In this introduction, we begin by looking back at prior waves, or phases, of hegemony scholarship, with an emphasis on the study of interstate hegemony in the United States. After this, we identify the theoretical and empirical impulses that have begun to produce a third wave of scholarship on hegemony. We then situate the articles within this wave.

  1. Michael McFaul, “Mr. Trump, NATO is an Alliance, Not a Protection Racket,” Washington Post, 25 July 2016,

    2 Thomas Wright, “Trump’s 19th-Century Foreign Policy,” Politico, 20 January 2016,

    3 Astrid H. M. Nordin and Mikael Weissmann, “Will Trump Make China Great Again? The Belt and Road Initiative and International Order,” International Affairs 94, no. 2 (1 March 2018): 231–49.

    4 Roy Allison, “Russia and the Post-2014 International Legal Order: Revisionism and Realpolitik,” International Affairs 93, no. 3 (1 May 2017): 519–43.

    5 Ronald F. Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash” (working paper, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, August 2016),

    6 For overviews, see Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Jacek Kugler and A. F. K. Organski, “The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation,” in Handbook of War Studies, ed. Manus I. Midlarsky (Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1989); Charles Kindleberger, The World in Depression 1929–1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (Spring 1982): 379–415.

    7 See Karen J. Alter and Sophie Meunier, “The Politics of International Regime Complexity,” Perspectives on Politics 7, no. 1 (March 2009): 13–24; Benjamin Daßler, Andreas Kruck, and Bernhard Zangl, “Interactions between Hard and Soft Power: The Institutional Adaptation of International Intellectual Property Protection to Global Power Shifts,” European Journal of International Relations (2018):; Brock Tessman and Wojtek Wolfe, “Great Powers and Strategic Hedging: The Case of Chinese Energy Security Strategy,” International Studies Review 13, no. 2 (June 2011): 214–40.

    8 See, for example, Jonathan M. DiCicco and Jack S. Levy, “Power Shift and Problem Shifts: The Evolution of the Power Transition Research Program,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43, no. 6 (December 1999): 675–704; Gilpin, War and Change; Robert Gilpin, “The Theory of Hegemonic War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 (Spring 1988): 591–613; G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Kugler and Organski, “The Power Transition”; David A. Lake, “Leadership, Hegemony, and the International Economy: Naked Emperor or Tattered Monarch?” International Studies Quarterly 37, no. 4 (December 1993): 459–89; Douglas Lemke and Suzanne Werner, “Power Parity, Commitment to Change, and War,” International Studies Quarterly 40, no. 2 (June 1996): 235–60; Barak Mendelsohn, Combating Jihadism: American Hegemony and Interstate Cooperation in the War on Terrorism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Knopf, 1968); Susan Strange, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” International Organization 41, no. 4 (Autumn 1987): 551–74; Stephen M. Walt, “Alliances in a Unipolar World,” World Politics 61, no. 1 (January 2009): 86–120; William C. Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security 24, no. 1 (Summer 1999): 5–41.

    9 We risk overdrawing this claim for heuristic purposes. Gilpin, of course, points to a variety of factors that explain the replacement of imperial cycles with hegemonic ones. And he provides analysis of the political economy of specific systems, such as the Roman imperial order. See Gilpin, War and Change. Indeed, some more explicitly Marxist approaches to hegemony also challenge this narrative to some degree. See Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (New York: Verso, 1994).

    10 Ian Clark, “Towards an English School Theory of Hegemony,” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 2 (June 2009): 203–28; Evelyn Goh, The Struggle for Order: Hegemony, Hierarchy, and Transition in Post–Cold War East Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Stacie E. Goddard, “When Right Makes Might: How Prussia Overturned the European Balance of Power,” International Security 33, no. 3 (Winter 2009): 110–42; Seva Gunitsky, Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017); Ikenberry, After Victory; G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011); Mendelsohn, Combating Jihadism.

    11 Julian Go, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Marina E. Henke, “The Politics of Diplomacy: How the United States Builds Multilateral Military Coalitions,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 2 (1 June 2017): 410–24; Marina E. Henke, “The Rotten Carrot: US-Turkish Bargaining Failure over Iraq in 2003 and the Pitfalls of Social Embeddedness,” Security Studies 27, no. 1 (January–March 2018): 120–47; Paul K. MacDonald, Networks of Domination: The Social Foundations of Peripheral Conquest in International Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Jeppe Mulich, “Transformation at the Margins: Imperial Expansion and Systemic Change in World Politics,” Review of International Studies 44, no. 4 (October 2018): 694–716; Daniel H. Nexon and Iver B. Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory: A Field-Theoretic Account,” European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 3 (September 2018): 662–86; Thomas Oatley et al., “The Political Economy of Global Finance: A Network Model,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (March 2013): 133–53.

    12 See, for example, Alexander D. Barder, “International Hierarchy,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015),; David A. Lake, Hierarchy in International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009); Janice Bially Mattern and Ayşe Zarakol, “Hierarchies in World Politics,” International Organization 70, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 623–54.

    13 Walt, “Alliances in a Unipolar World.”

    14 Neal G. Jesse et al. also describe three phases of hegemony. For them, the first wave “focused mainly on international political economy (IPE)” and the problem of open “international economic systems,” the second wave “emerged . . . after the end of the Cold War” and focused on the lack of balancing against the United States, while the third wave concerns “the nature of the lead state’s interaction with others in the system.” As the next section illustrates, we deviate somewhat from this rather neat division. For example, its periodization cannot accommodate power-transition theory. But we should stress the broad similarities in our account, especially with respect to the issues that they see as important in third-wave hegemony studies. See Neal Jesse et al., “The Leader Can’t Lead When the Followers Won’t Follow: The Limitations of Hegemony,” in Beyond Great Powers and Hegemons: Why Secondary States Support, Follow, or Challenge, ed. Kristen P. Williams, Steven E. Lobell, and Neal G. Jesse (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 1–32; quotes on 4, 6; Judith Kelley, “Strategic Non-Cooperation as Soft Balancing: Why Iraq Was Not Just about Iraq,” International Politics 42, no. 2 (June 2005): 153–73.

    15 As noted earlier, this insight is most advanced in Marxist-inflected understandings of hegemony. See Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century; Peter Burnham, “Neo-Gramscian Hegemony and the International Order,” Capital & Class 15, no. 3 (Autumn 1991): 73–92; Robert W. Cox, Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987). It also appears in some practice-theoretic accounts. See Go, Patterns of Empire; Nexon and Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory.”

    16 Not all of these concerns receive attention in this issue, especially the role of nonstate actors. For cognate arguments and examples, see Daniel Flemes and Leslie Wehner, “Drivers of Strategic Contestation: The Case of South America,” International Politics 52, no. 2 (February 2015): 163–77; Stacie E. Goddard and Daniel H. Nexon, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics: A Framework for Analysis,” Journal of Global Security Studies 1, no. 1 (February 2016): 4–18; Evelyn Goh, “Understanding ‘Hedging’ in Asia-Pacific Security,” PacNet 43 (31 August 2006): 31; Kai He, “Institutional Balancing and International Relations Theory: Economic Interdependence and Balance of Power Strategies in Southeast Asia,” European Journal of International Relations 14, no. 3 (September 2008): 489–518; T. V. Paul, “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy,” International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 46–71; T. J. Pempel, “Soft Balancing, Hedging, and Institutional Darwinism: The Economic-Security Nexus and East Asian Regionalism,” Journal of East Asian Studies 10, no. 2 (July 2010): 209–38; Tessman and Wolfe, “Great Powers and Strategic Hedging.”

    17 Perry Anderson, The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony (New York: Verso Books, 2017), 1.

    18 Mark Edward Lewis, “The City-State in Spring-and-Autumn China,” in A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures, ed. Mogens Herman Hansen (Copenhagen, Denmark: C. A. Reitzals Forlag, 2000), 365; See also Victoria Tin-bor Hui, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 77n49.

    19 For example, pro-Habsburg propaganda asserted that Latin Christendom needed monarchia to guarantee peace, as well as guard against heretics and infidels. Their opponents charged that unchecked Habsburg leadership would, in practice, represent a “mere tyranny,” an “unchristian slavery.” A similar rhetorical battle developed as Bourbon power waxed nearly a century later. Thus, David Armitage notes that “apprehensions that one European power was aiming at universal monarchy could be used to inspire others to ally against the potential aggressor, so that what began as an analytical theory of empire ultimately became a justification for defensive aggression within Europe.” This duel between notions of hegemonic stability and of the balances of power, albeit stripped of much of its explicit normative content, remains a key division in contemporary realist theory. Franz Bosbach, “The European Debate on Universal Monarchy,” in Theories of Empire, 1450–1800, ed. David Armitage (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998), 89–90; David Armitage, “Introduction,” in Theories of Empire, 1450–1800, ed. David Armitage (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998), xx.

    20 Anderson provides a reflective genealogy that takes up many of these strands. See Anderson, The H-Word.

    21 Compare Adam Watson’s “pendulum” model or long-cycle theory. See Adam Watson, The Evolution of International Society: A Comparative Historical Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2009); George Modelski, “The Long Cycle of Global Politics and the Nation-State,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 20, no. 2 (April 1978): 214–35.

    22 See Clark, “Towards an English School Theory of Hegemony”; Goh, The Struggle for Order. Goh discusses English School approaches in this issue. See Evelyn Goh, “Contesting Hegemonic Order: China in East Asia,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 614–44.

    23 This focus comes with costs, which we readily acknowledge. In particular, it is obviously parochial. As the preceding implies, we see ample room for more global genealogies of the study of interstate hegemony. Unfortunately, we are not qualified to tell such stories. See, for example, Amitav Acharya, “Global International Relations (IR) and Regional Worlds,” International Studies Quarterly 58, no. 4 (December 2014): 647–59; Peter Fibiger Bang, “Lord of All the World—The State, Heterogeneous Power and Hegemony in the Roman and Mughal Empires,” in Tributary Empires in Global History, ed. Peter Fibiger Bang and C. A. Bayly (New York: Springer, 2011), 171–92; David C. Kang, East Asia before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Emilian Kavalski, “Relationality and Its Chinese Characteristics,” China Quarterly 226 (June 2016): 551–59; Manjeet S. Pardesi, “Mughal Hegemony and the Emergence of South Asia as a ‘Region’ for Regional Order-Building,” European Journal of International Relations (2018):; Nicola Spakowski, “China in the World: Constructions of a Chinese Identity in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century,” in Trans-Pacific Interactions: The United States and China, 1880–1950, ed. Vanessa Künnemann and Ruth Mayer (New York: Springer, 2009), 59–81; Wang Yuan-kang, “Managing Regional Hegemony in Historical Asia: The Case of Early Ming China,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 5, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 129–53; Yaqing Qin, “A Relational Theory of World Politics,” International Studies Review 18, no. 1 (March 2016): 33–47.

    24 Kindleberger, The World in Depression 1929–1939; Michael C. Webb and Stephen D. Krasner, “Hegemonic Stability Theory: An Empirical Assessment,” Review of International Studies 15, no. 2 (April 1989): 183–98.

    25 Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics. For an earlier discussion linking dominant powers to ideological order, see Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939 (London: Macmillan, 1946). For theoretically rich treatments of status in world politics, see Rebecca Adler-Nissen, “Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society,” International Organization 68, no. 1 (January 2014): 143–76; Joslyn Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression: Evidence from the Scramble for Africa,” Security Studies 25, no. 3 (July–September 2016): 385–419; Marina G. Duque, “Recognizing International Status: A Relational Approach,” International Studies Quarterly 62, no. 3 (September 2018): 577–92; Lilach Gilady, The Price of Prestige: Conspicuous Consumption in International Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018); Steven Michael Ward, “Lost in Translation: Social Identity Theory and the Study of Status in World Politics,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (December 2017): 821–34.

    26 Which clearly has antecedents. See, for example, John Bakeless, The Economic Causes of Modern War: A Study of the Period: 1878–1918 (Moffat, Yard & Company, 1921), 7–8.

    27 Douglas Lemke, Regions of War and Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Douglas Lemke, “Great Powers in the Post–Cold War World: A Power Transition Perspective,” in Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century, ed. T. V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortmann (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004); Douglas Lemke and Suzanne Werner, “Power Parity, Commitment to Change, and War,” International Studies Quarterly 40, no. 2 (June 1996); A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958); A. F. K. Organski and Jacek Kugler, The War Ledger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). A comprehensive treatment of this wave would require attention to theories of international leadership and long-cycle theory: George Modelski and William R. Thompson, “Long Cycles and Global War,” in Handbook of War Studies, ed. Manus I. Midlarsky (Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1989); George Modelski and William R. Thompson, Leading Sectors and World Powers: The Coevolution of Global Economics and Politics (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).

    28 Cf. DiCicco and Levy, “Power Shift and Problem Shifts”; for formal elaborations, see Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, “Known Unknowns: Power Shifts, Uncertainty, and War,” International Organization 68, no. 1 (January 2014): 1–31; Robert Powell, “Uncertainty, Shifting Power, and Appeasement,” American Political Science Review 90, no. 4 (December 1996): 749–64; Robert Powell, In the Shadow of Power: States and Strategies in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

    29 See, especially, Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987).

    30 Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1979).

    31 William C. Wohlforth, “Gilpinian Realism and International Relations,” International Relations 25, no. 4 (December 2011): 499–511. Scholars sometimes characterized Gilpin and Waltz as “neorealists.” Gilpin spends significant time grappling with Waltz’s framework, which he characterizes as an oligopolistic model of international order. Gilpin’s richer understanding of international politics was also pushed toward the margin by a shift away from realist and Marxist approaches to international political economy (IPE) in the United States after the Cold War. It also likely suffered from its very richness in an era marked by increasing emphasis on theoretical simplicity and falsifiability. Still, some realists argued that the end of the Cold War vindicated power-transition accounts. See Randall L. Schweller and William C. Wohlforth, “Power Test: Evaluating Realism in Response to the End of the Cold War,” Security Studies 9, no. 3 (Spring 2000): 60–107.

    32 See Joanne Gowa, “Rational Hegemons, Excludable Goods, and Small Groups: An Epitaph for Hegemonic Stability Theory?” World Politics 41, no. 3 (April 1989): 307–24; Isabelle Grunberg, “Exploring the ‘Myth’ of Hegemonic Stability,” International Organization 44, no. 4 (Autumn 1990): 431–77; Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984); Lake, “Leadership, Hegemony, and the International Economy”; Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change”; Duncan Snidal, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 579–614; Webb and Krasner, “Hegemonic Stability Theory.” For more recent criticisms, see Margit Bussmann and John R. Oneal, “Do Hegemons Distribute Private Goods? A Test of Power-Transition Theory,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, no. 1 (February 2007): 88–111; Richard Ned Lebow and Benjamin Valentino, “Lost in Transition: A Critical Analysis of Power Transition Theory,” International Relations 23, no. 3 (September 2009): 389–410.

    33 Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World.”

    34 Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, “The Nature and Sources of Liberal International Order,” Review of International Studies 25, no. 2 (April 1999): 179–96.

    35 Ikenberry, After Victory; Randall L. Schweller, “The Problem of International Order Revisited: A Review Essay,” International Security 26, no. 1 (Summer 2001): 161–86. For a symposium of reflections on After Victory and the debates it engaged and inspired, see British Journal of Politics and International Affairs 21, no. 1 (February 2019).

    36 See Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth, “Hard Times for Soft Balancing,” International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 72–108; Kai He and Huiyun Feng, “If Not Soft Balancing, Then What? Reconsidering Soft Balancing and US Policy toward China,” Security Studies 17, no. 2 (April–June 2008): 363–95; Neal Jesse et al., “The Leader Can’t Lead When the Followers Won’t Follow”; Kelley, “Strategic Non-Cooperation as Soft Balancing”; Robert A. Pape, “Soft Balancing against the United States,” International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 7–45; Paul, “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy”; T. V. Paul, “Introduction: The Enduring Axioms of Balance of Power Theory and Their Contemporary Relevance,” in Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century, ed. T. V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortman (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 1–25.

    37 Clark, “Towards an English School Theory of Hegemony”; Mendelsohn, Combating Jihadism.

    38 Stuart J. Kaufman, Richard Little, and William C. Wohlforth, eds., The Balance of Power in World History (New York: Palgrave, 2007); Jack S. Levy, “What Do Great Powers Balance Against and When?” in Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century, ed. T.V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortman (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 29–51. For an overview, see Daniel H. Nexon, “The Balance of Power in the Balance,” World Politics 61, no. 2 (April 2009): 330–59.

    39 G. John Ikenberry, “America’s Imperial Ambition,” Foreign Affairs 81, no. 5 (September/October 2002): 44–60.

    40 See Anna M. Agathangelou and L. H. M Ling, Transforming World Politics: From Empire to Multiple Worlds (New York: Routledge, 2009); Alexander D. Barder, Empire Within: International Hierarchy and Its Imperial Laboratories of Governance (New York: Routledge, 2015); Terry Boswell, “American World Empire or Declining Hegemony,” Journal of World-Systems Research 10, no. 2 (2004): 516–24; Yale H. Ferguson, “Approaches to Defining ‘Empire’ and Characterizing United States Influence in the Contemporary World,” International Studies Perspectives 9, no. 3 (August 2008): 272–80; G. John Ikenberry, “Liberalism and Empire: Logics of Order in the American Unipolar Age,” Review of International Studies 30, no. 4 (October 2004): 609–30; Daniel H. Nexon and Thomas Wright, “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate,” American Political Science Review 101, no. 2 (May 2007): 253–71; Marc J. O’Reilly and Wesley B. Renfro, “Evolving Empire: America’s ‘Emirates’ Strategy in the Persian Gulf,” International Studies Perspectives 8, no. 2 (May 2007): 137–51; Miriam Prys and Stefan Robel, “Hegemony, Not Empire,” Journal of International Relations and Development 14, no. 2 (April 2011): 247–79; Jennifer Sterling-Folker, “The Emperor Wore Cowboy Boots,” International Studies Perspectives 9, no. 3 (Augst 2008): 319–30.

    41 Interestingly, participants in these debates sometimes sought, in essence, to synthesize hegemonic-stability and structural-realist strands of realism. That is, to bring together “hegemony” and “balance-of-power” realism. Jack S. Levy and William R. Thompson, Causes of War (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), chap. 2; see also Liu Feng and Zhang Ruizhuang, “The Typologies of Realism,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 1, no. 1 (July 2006): 129–30.

    42 See Michael Mastanduno, “System Maker and Privilege Taker: U.S. Power and the International Political Economy,” World Politics 6, no. 1 (January 2009): 152.

    43 See Carla Norrlof, “Strategic Debt,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 41, no. 2 (June 2008): 411–35; Carla Norrlof, America’s Global Advantage: US Hegemony and International Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Carla Norrlof, “Dollar Hegemony: A Power Analysis,” Review of International Political Economy 21, no. 5 (September 2014): 1042–70; Carla Norrlof and William C. Wohlforth, “Is US Grand Strategy Self-Defeating? Deep Engagement, Military Spending and Sovereign Debt,” Conflict Management and Peace Science (2 November 2016): See also Carla Norrlof and William C. Wohlforth, “Raison de l’Hégémonie (The Hegemon’s Interest): Theory of the Costs and Benefits of Hegemony,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 422–50.

    44 See also Richard W. Maass, Carla Norrlof, and Daniel W. Drezner, “Correspondence: The Profitability of Primacy,” International Security 38, no. 4 (Spring 2014): 188–205; Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America: The Case against Retrenchment,” International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2012/13): 7–51; Doug Stokes, “Achilles’ Deal: Dollar Decline and US Grand Strategy after the Crisis,” Review of International Political Economy 21, no. 5 (2014): 1071–94; and Thomas Oatley, A Political Economy of American Hegemony: Buildups, Booms, and Busts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

    45 Michaël Aklin and Andreas Kern, “Moral Hazard and Financial Crises: Evidence from American Troop Deployments,” International Studies Review 63, no. 1 (2019): 15–29.

    46 For key statements, see John M. Hobson and J. C. Sharman, “The Enduring Place of Hierarchy in World Politics: Tracing the Social Logics of Hierarchy and Political Change,” European Journal of International Relations 11, no. 1 (March 2005): 63–98; Mattern and Zarakol, “Hierarchies in World Politics.” See also Jack Donnelly, “Sovereign Inequalities and Hierarchy in Anarchy: American Power and International Security,” European Journal of International Relations 12, no. 2 (June 2006): 139–70; David A. Lake, “The New Sovereignty in International Relations,” International Studies Review 5, no. 3 (September 2003): 303–23; Meghan McConaughey, Paul Musgrave, and Daniel H. Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy: Logics of Political Organization, Hierarchy, and International Structure,” International Theory 10, no. 2 (July 2018): 181–218; Ole Jacob Sending and Iver B. Neumann, “Governance to Governmentality: Analyzing NGOs, States, and Power,” International Studies Quarterly 50, no. 3 (September 2006): 651–72; Ann Towns, “The Status of Women as a Standard of ‘Civilization,’” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 4 (December 2009): 681–706; Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Ayşe Zarakol, After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Ayşe Zarakol, ed., Hierarchies in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

    47 See, in particular, Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall, “Power in International Politics,” International Organization 59, no. 1 (January 2005): 39–75; For examples, see Rebecca Adler-Nissen, “The Diplomacy of Opting Out: A Bourdieudian Approach to National Integration Strategies,” Journal of Common Market Studies 46, no. 3 (June 2008): 663–84; Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (New York: Routledge, 2013 [1984]); Didier Bigo, “Pierre Bourdieu and International Relations: Power of Practices, Practices of Power,” International Political Sociology 5, no. 3 (September 2011): 225–58; Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014); Charlotte Epstein, “Who Speaks? Discourse, the Subject and the Study of Identity in International Politics,” European Journal of International Relations 17, no. 2 (June 2011): 327–50; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon, 1977); Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1978); Wendy Larner and William Walters, eds., Global Governmentality: Governing International Spaces (New York: Routledge, 2004); Anna Leander, “The Power to Construct International Security: On the Significance of Private Military Companies,” Millennium 33, no. 3 (June 2005): 803–25; Vincent Pouliot, International Pecking Orders: The Politics and Practice of Multilateral Diplomacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Sending and Neumann, “Governance to Governmentality”; Laura Sjoberg, ed., Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2010); Cynthia Weber, “Queer Intellectual Curiosity as International Relations Method: Developing Queer International Relations Theoretical and Methodological Frameworks,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 1 (March 2016): 11–23.

    48 For overviews, see Agathangelou and Ling, Transforming World Politics; Acharya, “Global International Relations (IR) and Regional Worlds”; Sanjay Seth, ed., Postcolonial Theory and International Relations: A Critical Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2013); Rosa Vasilaki, “Provincialising IR? Deadlocks and Prospects in Post-Western IR Theory,” Millennium 41, no. 1 (September 2012): 3–22.

    49 See Tudor A. Onea, “Between Dominance and Decline: Status Anxiety and Great Power Rivalry,” Review of International Studies 40, no. 1 (January 2014): 125–52; Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevcehnko, “Status Seekers: Chinese and Russian Responses to U.S. Primacy,” International Security 34, no. 4 (Spring 2010): 63–95; Thomas J. Volgy and Stacey Mayhall, “Status Inconsistency and International War: Exploring the Effects of Systemic Change,” International Studies Quarterly 39, no. 1 (March 1995): 67–84; Steven Ward, “Race, Status, and Japanese Revisionism in the Early 1930s,” Security Studies 22, no. 4 (October–December 2013): 607–39; Steven Ward, Status and the Challenge of Rising Powers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017); William C. Wohlforth, “Unipolarity, Status Competition, and Great Power War,” World Politics 61, no. 1 (January 2009): 28–57.

    50 Gilpin, War and Change, 30, 228–30.

    51 Lemke, Regions of War and Peace, 22.

    52 Lake, Hierarchy in International Relations.

    53 See Ahsan I. Butt, “Anarchy and Hierarchy in International Relations: Examining South America’s War-Prone Decade, 1932–41,” International Organization 67, no. 3 (July 2013): 575–607; Detlef Nolte, “How to Compare Regional Powers: Analytical Concepts and Research Topics,” Review of International Studies 36, no. 4 (October 2010): 881–901.

    54 See Lake, “The New Sovereignty in International Relations.”

    55 On the distinction, or the lack thereof, between empires and hegemons, see Boswell, “American World Empire or Declining Hegemony”; Nexon and Wright, “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate”; Prys and Robel, “Hegemony, Not Empire.” Note that the United States has long had, and retains, imperial possessions.

    56 Goh, “Understanding ‘Hedging’ in Asia-Pacific Security”; Goh, The Struggle for Order.

    57 Martha Finnemore, “Legitimacy, Hypocrisy, and the Social Structure of Unipolarity: Why Being a Unipole Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be,” World Politics 61, no. 1 (January 2009): 58–85; Stephen M. Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005).

    58 Walter Russell Meade, “The Return of Power Politics: The Revenge of the Revisionist Powers,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 3 (May/June 2014),

    59 Julia Bader, “China, Autocratic Patron? An Empirical Investigation of China as a Factor in Autocratic Survival,” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 1 (March 2015): 23–33; Gustavo A. Flores-Macías and Sarah E. Kreps, “The Foreign Policy Consequences of Trade: China’s Commercial Relations with Africa and Latin America, 1992–2006,” Journal of Politics 75, no. 2 (April 2013): 357–71; Tessman and Wolfe, “Great Powers and Strategic Hedging”; Yong Wang, “Offensive for Defensive: The Belt and Road Initiative and China’s New Grand Strategy,” Pacific Review 29, no. 3 (May 2016): 455–63.

    60 Kang, East Asia Before the West; Yuen Foong Khong, “The American Tributary System,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 6, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 1–47; Andrew Phillips, “Contesting the Confucian Peace: Civilization, Barbarism and International Hierarchy in East Asia,” European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 4 (December 2018): 740–64; Feng Zhang, Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015); Ji-Young Lee, “Diplomatic Ritual as a Power Resource: The Politics of Asymmetry in Early Modern Chinese-Korean Relations,” Journal of East Asian Studies 13, no. 2 (August 2013): 309–36; Ji-Young Lee, China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016); Ji-Young Lee, “Hegemonic Authority and Domestic Legitimation: Japan and Korea under Chinese Hegemonic Order in Early Modern East Asia,” Security Studies 25, no. 2 (April–June 2016): 320–52.

    61 Barder, “International Hierarchy.”

    62 David Wilkinson, “Unipolarity without Hegemony,” International Studies Review 1, no. 2 (Summer 1999): 141–72.

    63 Zarakol, Hierarchies in World Politics, 1; See also Jack Donnelly, “The Discourse of Anarchy in IR,” International Theory 7, no. 3 (November 2015): 393–425; McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy.”

    64 Paul Musgrave and Daniel H. Nexon, “Defending Hierarchy from the Moon to the Indian Ocean: Symbolic Capital and Political Dominance in Early Modern China and the Cold War,” International Organization 72, no. 3 (Summer 2018): 591–626, quote on 595.

    65 Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan, 12. See also G. John Ikenberry, ed., Power, Order, and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

    66 Michael W. Doyle, Empires (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 40.

    67 The lack of clear distinction goes a long way back, per Anderson, The H-Word, 3; See also David A. Lake, “Anarchy, Hierarchy and the Variety of International Relations,” International Organization 50, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 9. Some even consider “hegemony” another way of saying “empire.” See Niall Ferguson, “Hegemony or Empire?” Foreign Affairs 82, no. 5 (September–October 2003): 154–61.

    68 McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy”; See Ikenberry, “Liberalism and Empire”; Alexander Cooley, Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States, and Military Occupations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).

    69 See, for example, Ikenberry, After Victory; Charles A. Kupchan, “The Normative Foundations of Hegemony and the Coming Challenge to Pax Americana,” Security Studies 23, no. 2 (April–June 2014): 219–57.

    70 Evelyn Goh, “Contesting Hegemonic Order.”

    71 Alexander Cooley, “Ordering Eurasia: The Rise and Decline of Liberal Internationalism in the Post-Communist Space,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 588–613.

    72 Michael Mastanduno, “Partner Politics: Russia, China, and the Challenge of Extending US Hegemony after the Cold War,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 479–504.

    73 F. Gregory Gause III, “‘Hegemony’ Compared: Great Britain and the United States in the Middle East,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 565–87.

    74 On American bargaining with the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, see Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security 40, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 7–44.

    75 Norrlf and Wohlforth, “Raison de l’Hégémonie.”

    76 See Strange, The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

    77 Daniel W. Drezner, “Counter-Hegemonic Strategies in the Global Economy,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 505–31. Also see Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman, “Weaponized Interdependence,” International Security (forthcoming).

    78 Inderjeet Parmar, “Transnational Elite Knowledge Networks: Managing American Hegemony in Turbulent Times,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 532–64.

    79 Burnham, “Neo-Gramscian Hegemony and the International Order,” 75.

    80 Andreas Bieler and Adam David Morton, “The Gordian Knot of Agency—Structure in International Relations: A Neo-Gramscian Perspective,” European Journal of International Relations 7, no. 1 (March 2001): 24.

    81 See Stephen Gill, ed., Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Robert W. Cox, “Gramsci, Hegemony and International Relations: An Essay in Method,” Millennium 12, no. 2 (June 1983): 162–75; Christopher Chase-Dunn et al., “Hegemony and Social Change,” Mershon International Studies Review 38, no. 2 (October 1994): 361–76. On counter-hegemonic strategies in interstate politics, see, for example, Rosemary Foot, “Chinese Strategies in a US-Hegemonic Global Order: Accommodating and Hedging,” International Affairs 82, no. 1 (January 2006): 77–94.

    82 G. John Ikenberry and Charles A. Kupchan, “Socialization and Hegemonic Power,” International Organization 44, no. 3 (Summer 1990): 283–315.

    83 Strange, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony”; Strange, The Retreat of the State; Susan Strange, States and Markets (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015).

    84 See also Ted Hopf, “Common-Sense Constructivism and Hegemony in World Politics,” International Organization 67, no. 2 (April 2013): 317–54.

    85 Stacie E. Goddard, “Embedded Revisionism: Networks, Institutions, and Challenges to World Order,” International Organization 72, no. 4 (Fall 2018): 763–97; MacDonald, Networks of Domination; Paul K. MacDonald, “Embedded Authority: A Relational Network Approach to Hierarchy in World Politics,” Review of International Studies 44, no. 1 (January 2018): 128–50; Zeev Maoz et al., “Structural Equivalence and International Conflict: A Social Networks Analysis,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 50, no. 5 (October 2006): 664–89; Oatley et al., “The Political Economy of Global Finance”; Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, Miles Kahler, and Alexander H. Montgomery, “Network Analysis for International Relations,” International Organization 63, no. 3 (July 2009): 559–92.

    86 Larissa Bucholz, “What Is a Global Field? Theorizing Fields beyond the Nation-State,” in Fielding Transnationalism, ed. Julian Go and Monika Krause (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), 31–60; Julian Go, “Global Fields and Imperial Forms: Field Theory and the British and American Empires,” Sociological Theory 26, no. 3 (September 2008): 201–29; Go, Paterns of Empire; Musgrave and Nexon, “Defending Hierarchy from the Moon to the Indian Ocean”; David M. McCourt, “Practice Theory and Relationalism as the New Constructivism,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 3 (September 2016): 475–85; Nexon and Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory”; Pouliot, International Pecking Orders.

    87 Kindleberger, The World in Depression 1929–1939.

    88 Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change.”

    89 See, for example, Nordin and Weissmann, “Will Trump Make China Great Again?”; David C. Kang, “Getting Asia Wrong: The Need for New Analytical Frameworks,” International Security 27, no. 4 (Spring 2003): 57–85.

    90 Nolte, “How to Compare Regional Powers.”

    91 For a key statement, see Wilkinson, “Unipolarity without Hegemony.”

    92 Ideas and quote in the previous few paragraphs from: Paul Musgrave, “International Hegemony Meets Domestic Politics: Why Liberals can be Pessimists,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 451–78.

    93 Ikenberry, After Victory; Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan.

    94 Cooley, “Ordering Eurasia.”

    95 See John Lloyd, “The New Illiberal International,” New Statesman, 18 July 2018,; Mike Lofgren, “Trump, Putin, and the Alt-Right International,” Atlantic, 31 October 2016,; Jonathan Capehart, “It’s Not Just Trump: With Brexit and France Votes, Russia is Cultivating the Global Right,” Washington Post, 18 April 2017,

    96 If authoritarian states continue to make claims on, and seek to reorder, international politics, then we will need parallel accounts about their political systems. We find it notable that the Soviet bid for hegemony receives much less attention within hegemony studies proper.

    97 We thank one of our referees for this point.

    98 Karel van Wolferen, “Karl Rove’s Prophecy: ‘We’re an Empire Now, and When We Act, We Create Our Own Reality’” (Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalization, 5 February 2017),

    99 Ezra F. Vogel, Japan as Number One: Lessons for America, 1st Harper ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1985).

    100 Mattern and Zarakol, “Hierarchies in World Politics”; Zarakol, “Theorising Hierarchies: An Introduction,” in Hierarchies in World Politics, ed. Ayşe Zarakol (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 1–14.

Hegemony Studies 3.0: The Dynamics of Hegemonic Orders

Author(s): G. John Ikenberry &Daniel H. Nexon 

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Rusdin Tahir

Senior Lecturer [study on leaves] Department of Business Administration Science Faculty of Social and Political Science UNIVERSITY OF PADJADJARAN Jalan Raya Bandung-Sumedang KM 21 Jatinangor 45363, West Java, Indonesia Ph: +62 22 7792647,7796416 Fax: +62 22 7792647 Mobile: +62 81 123 9491; 822 919 356 65 Email:;; Web: Web: Web: Web: Web:

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