A Stripped-Down Conception of Hegemony

Date Published:

Jan 1, 1999


This paper juxtaposes and examines two structural conceptions of benign hegemony. It begins with a critique of the prevailing conception of hegemony in the mainstream study of international relations (IR), by focusing specifically on Kenneth N. Waltz'a brand of neorealism, or "structural neorealism." It suggests that this conception is inadequate for comprehending hegemony as a political phenomenon in international politics. To the extent that this shortfall may have profound implications for the post–Cold War world, it must be remedied. Accordingly, the paper suggests that the prevailing conception must fist be stripped-down of its normative contents and reduced to its structural barebones. An attempt is then made to rebuild a unified conception of hegemony in a binary and comparative mode. A more "scientific" conception, the paper argues, must represent and incorporate two dichotomous or structural approaches to hegemony in international politics. The paper then analyzes the general contours of this "corrected" conception of hegemony, its basic properties, and some dependent variables. It closes by probing some of the strategic implications of this study for the post-Cold War security environment.