Reich and Lebow have joined a long list of writers who have announced the end of U.S. hegemony and the coming of the next world order. In fact, they argue that hegemony has been dead for many decades. “Hegemony is a fiction propagated to support a large defense establishment, justify American claims to world leadership, and buttress the self-esteem of voters,” they proclaim. But they have an odd notion of what constitutes hegemony, which they equate with “the blunt exercise of force.” Reich and Lebow note that influence is far more important than raw power and identify three functions that leading states must perform to sustain order in today’s allegedly post-hegemonic international system: agenda setting (advocating policies and principles of order), custodianship (stabilizing the world economy), and sponsorship (initiating rules and institutions). These are perfectly good points, but the main critique relies on a straw man: political scientists and policymakers are well aware of the distinction between raw power and influence. Indeed, the field of international relations even has a term for the strategy of influence that Reich and Lebow advocate. That term is “hegemony.”
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