Shifting hegemonies in a world of change

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Berlin, 30  August 2018. A workshop titled ‘Hegemonic strategies: Contours of global management strategies’ convened on Monday at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) in Berlin. It was the second in a trilogy of one-day conferences on the subject of ‘Re-inventing hegemonies’.

Like the first of the series in May, which was co-organised with Warsaw University, this edition was co-organised between the DOC and the Centre for Governance and Public Management (CGPM) at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Nine renowned international scholars presented papers analysing the mechanisms that characterise the evolution, establishment, and eventual disappearance of hegemonies at global and regional levels. DOC Berlin’s workshop was focused on a variety of responses by key state and non-state actors to maintain strategic control over the ‘system’, or, to put it in Immanuel Wallerstein’s terms, to maintain a “quasi monopoly on geopolitical power”. Also discussed were ways in which some actors – whose strength has been increasing in recent decades, such as China, Russia, India, Iran, Vietnam, and others – have developed new tools in gaining power internationally.

The series, which will be completed with a final session in Shanghai in April 2019, is structured around the notion of hegemonies (and counter-hegemonies) and their role in shaping the new international political and economic system. It brings together academics from the US, China, India, Russia, and the European Union. Carleton professor Piotr Dutkiewicz underlined the importance of the plural ‘hegemonies’ in order to properly depict the present era as one of shifts and alterations in power relations as much globally as regionally and between individual countries as well as non-state actors like international institutions and global ‘think tanks’.

Political science professor Randall Germain stated in his paper that any expectations that the United States might soon cease to be as powerful as it is were likely to be proved wrong. He based his conclusion on two arguments: the pervasive global presence – and an important pillar for investment and trade – of the US dollar and a US-influenced set of values, centered around liberalism and individualism, which has permeated societies around the globe. Without any heir apparent, neither in terms of currency nor values, Germain cannot imagine the US relinquishing its hegemonic status any time soon.
Professor Xin Zhang of East China Normal University, Shanghai, similarly stressed the role of money in 21st century capitalism, a role of much higher importance than ever before. Financialisation, as he referred to it, is the pre-requisite for hegemonic power under contemporary conditions – infinitely more so than military might or the size of standing armies.

While there was general consensus that the European-shaped cultural, military, and political hegemony of past centuries had drawn to an end, there was considerable debate as to whether the US-centred postwar world order still holds, or whether it is already yielding to new rivals such as China or post-Soviet Russia.

Leslie Pal, a public policy professor at Carleton looked at the T20, the annual summit of think tanks from the G20 countries. His findings proved that via their dominance of the international think tank ecology, developed Northern and Western societies, having lost political and economic clout, still exert a significant hegemonic influence over the design of policy solutions and advice. As that is but a shadow of former glory, Pal named his paper ‘Twilight of hegemony: The T20 and the defensive re-imagining of global order’.

Swati Parashar, an associate professor at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, presented her work on the postcolonial state and its urge to affirm domestic hegemonic power by subjugating, as is the case with India, ethnic and caste minorities. To a much greater extent than her Western colleagues, Parashar underlined the need to go back in history, “a thousand years and more”, in order to understand the motives and mentalities even of one’s own country. She deplored the lost sense and knowledge of pre-Western history as one of the impediments to recovering from centuries of European hegemony in a post-Western world.

Please find pictures of the event here.

Professor Dutkiewicz is also planning a similarly themed roundtable, ‘Hegemonies and counter-hegemonies: The new global distribution of power and influence’ during the Rhodes Forum taking place from 5-6 October in Greece.