The DOC’s new project, ‘(Re) constructing hegemonies’, is conceptualised around four interlocking processes which – we assume – shape the new economic and political order and force great powers to compete fiercely on the global stage again in an attempt to reassert their influence, reinforce the obedience of others within the world system (through state and non-state actors), and secure favourable conditions for their future wellbeing.
First of all, China is in the process of overtaking the US as the world’s largest economy and a few others countries (like India for instance) are steadily increasing their presence in global and regional markets. Secondly, Russia has broken the US security umbrella in the Middle East and is determined to play a more significant role worldwide. Thirdly, the EU, slowly but with some determination, has started to rethink the whole model of regional integration. Finally, the US has re-engaged in forcefully protecting its hegemonic status at the expense of the ‘others’, even close allies like Canada.
A new incarnation of the old game is well underway. The goal is to maintain or increase multifaceted domination and to secure obedience and control by key international actors over strategically important processes, institutions , and resources.
But this new phase of the old game requires state and non-state actors to enhance old tactics and/or develop new tactics and strategies to maintain hegemonic control over the ‘system’ – or, to put it in Immanuel Wallerstein’s terms, to maintain a “quasi monopoly on geopolitical power”.
Our project is shaped around three main themes:
- Hegemony as a conceptual map;
- Hegemonic strategies;
- Hegemony in action and the geopolitics of hegemony.
We start from the premise that the dynamics of the system are shaped by its main contradictions. A multifaceted confrontation is already in place and has been highlighted by the structural contradictions in-built within the global system. “We have entered a new phase in international affairs”, states Bruce Jones of Brookings, leaving behind us the brief moment characterised by untrammeled American dominance. Many of the changes underway are beyond America’s control. However, some dynamics could still be shaped by concerted and disciplined American policy – and might. “Whether we are capable of that”, writes Jones, “in the current moment remains to be seen, as does the price Americans are willing to pay to do so”.
The new phase of re-shaping global order has been variously described as a new Cold War or a “G-zero”, i.e., a world of every country for themselves. To me, it rather resembles asymmetric multipolarity, where the biggest player (the US) is unhappily forced to share some of its power with eager followers: China; the EU; Russia; and few others.
The key contradiction in this phase of the evolution of the world system seems to be a confrontation between those who would like to maintain some form of hegemony and those who support an emerging multipolarity. On one side of this struggle, there is the US and its allies and followers, and on the other side, there are ‘the others’. The hegemon always wants to maintain its hegemony in order to secure better living conditions, clearer economic and political prospects, and stability for its citizens. The problem is that maintaining hegemony – in the ‘old’ form whereby the state is the predominant hegemonic force – is almost impossible in the current stage of globalisation, and therefore the hegemon has to engage in a confrontation with multipolarity, represented by ‘the others’, using either more sophisticated or new forms of subordination. Clearly, the ‘us versus others’ couplet will shape the coming years of world order.
This contradiction has so far produced two major outcomes: a lack of trust and fear as politics.
Trust can be an important asset, a supportive market-cum-politics component. In a situation where protectionism is on the rise and rules are neglected, trust evaporates quickly, increasing the level of unpredictability in the new incarnation of the Hobbesian system. Fear, on the other hand, was always part of traditional politics, but now fear is becoming politics. Most current policies are not based on rational calculations or interests; they are based on fear. For example, the US migration policies in the US, Poland, and Hungary have nothing rational about them; they are based on the fear of migrants, not on rational cost-benefit calculations. Similarly, fear is guiding the policy agenda in areas like state budgets, education, healthcare, and security policies.
Our project will analyse these processes from a multidisciplinary perspective in order to better understand this new phase of globalisation.