This paper briefly explains the basic postulates of the theory of Hegemonic
Stability Theory, characteristics required for a state to become a Hegemon and
the importance of a Hegemonic Power for international system stability. The
later section discusses the five important factors for a Hegemonic design to be
successful. The paper analytically discusses the Hegemonic Stability Theory and
International Political Economy. Further shortcomings Hegemonic stability
Theory are also been explained. In the last portion conclusion of the paper is
The hegemonic stability was first introduced by
economist Charles Kindleberger after analyzing the event of Great Depression.
States are considered to be rational and selfish actors which can go to any
extent for achieving its national interest and national security. The
international system is of anarchic nature which means that every state is
pursuing its own interest. Kindleberger argued that hegemonic state must
provide public goods to other states for securing peace and stability in
international arena. According to Hegemonic Stability Theory a Hegemon
(which has major political influence) is necessary for stability of international
The basic postulate of Hegemonic stability states that distribution of power
among states is the main is the main characteristic of viewing the nature of
international system. To be a Hegemon, a state must have three attributes:
The ability to implement the rules of the system;
The Will to do so;
A Commitment to a system which is perceived as mutually beneficial to the
major states.
Capability rests upon three attributes:
A large and rapidly growing economy;
Dominance in technological or economic sector;
Political power combined with effective military power military power
On hegemony
According to Oxford Bibliographies, “hegemony comes from the
Greek word hēgemonía, which means leadership and rule. In
international relations, hegemony refers to the ability of an
actor with overwhelming capability to shape the international
system through both coercive and non-coercive means”
(Norrlof, 2015). The Oxford English Dictionary defines
hegemony in the following manner: “leadership, predominance,
preponderance; especially the leadership or predominant
authority of one state of a confederacy or union over others.”
Importance of Hegemonic power for International system stability
The main axiom of Hegemonic stability theory is that there must be a single
power dominant in the international arena for the effective and peaceful
running of international system. When there is only one superpower in the
world structure it can manage international system, and can secure peace and
stability in a much efficient way. As we flash back into the history we realize
that after the World War 1 there was no Hegemon in the international arena
which worsen the situation and lead towards the Second World War. After
First World War both Britain and USA were not in the position to lead the
world community. When single power is dominant in the international society
it can better run the system by setting the rules and then implement those
rules. A Hegemon has also the authority of punishing a state which is found
guilty of violating the rules set by Hegemon. Punishing the violating states is
necessary for the Hegemon to develop its stature in the world community and
to set example for those revisionists who want to challenge the status quo.
Main Characteristics of a Hegemon:
A Hegemonic state should be a strong and stable combination of military,
economic, political, institutional and ideological. First of all for a state to be a
Hegemon it should have the mighty and effective military strength which can
operate in all situations with same effectiveness. Acquiring a powerful military
is the most important and basic factor for a state deeming to be a Hegemon.
Economic is the second crucial factor as military strength and all other factors
are interlinked with the economic factor. Better the economic condition of a
state better it has the chances to gain military strength and ultimately to be a
Hegemon. If state has a strong economic condition it can better control the
international institutions and in result can have effective control over the
world community. Third factor of political suggests that a Hegemon state
should have good relations with its allies in order to have better global reach. A
Hegemon state should have allies in every region of the world so it can manage
the whole world community. Fourth, Hegemonic power along with its allies
design most of the rules of international institutions which govern global
economic and political matters, So a Hegemonic state can alter the rules of
international system according to its interest and can manipulate the
international financial and political institutions. Fifth a Hegemonic state should
propagate its ideology in all parts of the world in order to increase its area of
influence. That is the same thing which both USA and USSR were doing during
the cold war era in the race of outdoing each other. So the promotion of
ideologies is also an important factor in an effective Hegemonic design.
According to Robert Keohane, ‘to be considered hegemonic in the world
political economy…a country must have access to crucial raw materials, control
major sources of capital, maintain a large market for imports, and hold
comparative advantages in goods with high value added, yielding relatively
high wages and profits. It must be stronger on these dimensions taken as a
whole than any other country’. Keohane emphasises the economic factors
most. Keohane’s criterion of hegemonic power only emphasises factors that
are related to economy and trade. Suzan Strange suggests four elements of
structural power that can be called hegemony’s global position; 1. The ability
to threaten or protect other countries’ physical security by resorting to arms
(security element); 2. The ability to control the global system of production of
goods and services (production element); 3. The ability to shape the
international capital market of finance and credit (financial element) 4. The
ability to direct the development, accumulation and transfer of knowledge
(knowledge element).
Hegemonic stability Theory and International Political Economy:
Hegemonic stability theory analyzes that absence of a Hegemon from world
order was the reason for the Great Depression. After the First World War
Great Britain were not in the position of a super power that created a power
vacuum and every state got involved in race of attaining maximum power.
International political Economy is a branch of International Relation which
analyzes both politics and economics. IPE is of the view that political and
economic relations of states are interlinked with each other. Both political and
economic relations depend on each other and can’t be viewed separately. So
International Political Economy provides a much more comprehensive and
multi dimensional approach to the study of international Relations. According
to International Political Economy the political atmosphere of a country affects
its trade relations with other country. India and Pakistan are the classic
example of this case which depicts that the political relations of both countries
affect the bilateral trade relations. IPE's most important contribution to Cold
War international relations theory was the HST. It was developed by Charles P.
Kindleberger in the early post-war era, and focuses on the motives and
behavior of a hegemonic state. The Hegemon is a wealthy and powerful state
that undertakes to supply public goods to the international system. These
include stable money, security (such as freedom of the seas), and a system of
free trade that can be shared by all and that, in fact, works best when widely
shared. The provision of public goods is costly; however, the Hegemon gains
even if it disproportionately bears the expense alone because of its dominant
position in the world system. (Veseth, 2017).
The main argument is that a Hegemon is needed in international community in
order to achieve cooperation among the states in the economic sector. In the
absence of a Hegemon the cooperation among the states is impossible to
achieve because of the anarchic nature of the International system. Hegemonic
Stability Theory advocates that a predominant state becomes a Hegemon to
structure the international economic system according to its wish in order to
pursue its interests.
Shortcomings of Hegemonic Stability Theory
Hegemonic Stability theory evolved over the period of time into the theory of
Hegemonic fatigue or decline. It depicts that Hegemony is a self limiting and
self defeating making it temporary. A Hegemon cannot sustain its Hegemony
for forever which is also propagated by the proponents of Long Cycle theory
which states after every 60 or 70 year a new power emerges in the awake of a
significant war. When a Hegemonic state bears the burden of organizing the
international system the free rider states prosper and the Hegemonic state
gets weaken. Hegemonic state becomes over committed to organize and
improve the structure of international system that there comes a point that
Hegemonic state gets weak to the extent that it is impossible for it to sustain
its hegemony. Britain’s fall during the nineteenth century and the collapse of
Breton Woods System are the most common examples of Hegemonic decline.
In this century the exit of Great Britain from European Union can also be
viewed in the same concept as UK considers that the burden of other nations is
taking a heavy toll on their national growth.
International system is more likely to be stable and secure in the presence of a
Hegemon. In the presence of a Hegemon the international system becomes
chaotic because of the anarchic nature of the international system. A Hegemon
is necessary to run the economic structure of the world as well. In order to
become a Hegemon state need to have powerful military and rapidly growing
economy. On the other hand it is also self limiting and self defeating concept as
well, as the Hegemon has to bear the burden of organizing the international
system and the expense of free riding states which weaken it to the extent that
it loses its Hegemonic ability and a new Hegemon rises.
Dirzauskaite, Goda, and Nicolae Cristinel Ilinca. Understanding “Hegemony” in International
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Krasner, Michael C. Webb and Stephen D. “Hegemonic Stability Theory: An Empirical Assessment.”
JSTOR, 1989: 183-198.
Liu, Tony Tai-Ting, and Hung Ming-Te. “Hegemonic Stability and Northeast Asia:What
Hegemon?What Stability?” Journal of Asia Pacific Studies, 2011: 216-230.
POWER AND.” Global Journal of Political Science and Administration, 2015: 65-79.
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