US Hegemony and its Impact on Global Order

Notes taken primarily from Andrew Heywood's book on Global Politics - no copyright infringement intended. 

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US Hegemony and Global Order
Rise to Hegemony
Since the end of the Cold War, the USA has commonly been referred to as an `American
empire', a `global hegemon' or a `hyperpower'. Comparisons have regularly been made
between the USA and the British Empire of the nineteenth century. However, the USA is a
hegemon of a very different, and perhaps unique, kind, with some suggesting that the only
helpful historical parallel is Imperial Rome. In particular, if the USA has developed into an
`empire', it has done so (usually) by eschewing traditional imperialism in form of war and
the formation of colonies. This happened for two main reasons:
1) As the child of revolution, the USA is a `political' nation define more by ideology
than by history or culture. The heritage of the USA incline it to oppose traditional
European imperialism but it has also given US foreign policy a recurrent moral
2) Size of US in comparison to the UK enabled it to develop economically through
internal expansion rather than external expansion.
In sharp contrast to settler colonies, the USA was and remains a receiver, not a sender, of
populations. The USA only became a truly global actor with its involvement in WWII and
its aftermath. The Cold War has also ensured that there will be no return to isolationism,
with the USA increasingly assuming a position of economic, political and military
leadership within the capitalist West.
The USA was chief architect of the institutions of the `mulilaterist' post-1945 world:
The United Nations
The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The World Bank
In this view, the USA provided the political framework for the growing world economy,
exercising the `military-territorial power of an enforcer'.
1970s ­ 1980s it was fashionable to proclaim the decline of US hegemony. This came
about through incidents such as; politico-cultural tensions rising of the civil rights
movement, youth `counter-culture', women's movement; the Watergate Scandal 1974;
resignation of Nixon; defeat in Vietnam; Iran hostage crisis; rise of economic competitors
Germany, Japan and `Asian tigers'. Indeed it became increasingly common during this
period to assert that the USA was succumbing to a tendency common amongst earlier
great powers to imperial over-reach. The tendency for imperial expansion to be
unsustainable as wider military responsibilities outstrip the growth of the domestic
The Reagan administration (1981-89) helped to strengthen Ame4rican nationalism
through entrepreneurialism, tax cuts, `rolled back' welfare and more assertive

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This involved the military build up against the Soviet
Union, sparking what is called the `Second Cold War'. Unlike its rivals it also invested huge
amounts in research, development and training giving the country an unchallengeable
lead in high-tech sectors of the global economy. The most significant event, however, was
the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union in the revolutions of 1989-91.…read more

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Some believe a kind of `new' imperialism may be the
only of bringing order to chaos.
Such analysis overlaps at significant points with neoconservatism ­ or `neo-con' ­ ideas
that had a particular impact on the Bush administration in the USA in the years following
9/11, and which were reflected in what came to be known as the `Bush Doctrine'.
Neoconservatism sought to preserve and reinforce what was seen as the USA's `benevolent
global hegemony'.…read more


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