Good-Bye Hegemony! Power and Influence in the Global System

In This Review

Good-Bye Hegemony!: Power and Influence in the Global System
by Simon Reich and Richard Ned Lebow
Princeton University Press, 2014
208 pp. $95.00

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.”