In This Review

The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony
The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony
By Perry Anderson
Verso, 2017, 208 pp

In this short, engaging book, Anderson traces the term “hegemony” from its ancient Greek origins to the contemporary era. Thinkers of all the major schools of international relations theory have used the term. Realists employ it in describing the long sequence of order-building projects that the European great powers pursued in their bids for mastery. Marxists use it to characterize the way leading capitalist societies project their power. For liberals, “hegemony” often refers to the distinctively open and rule-based international orders established by the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century and the United States in the twentieth. Across these intellectual traditions, the impulse is similar: to describe a kind of preeminence that differs from empire by resting as much on consent and influence as on force and outright domination. Anderson, however, dismisses the arguments of theorists (including this reviewer) who have emphasized the “liberal hegemonic” features of the Western postwar order as mere window-dressing for American empire. But he offers his views about world order only indirectly, from the relative safety afforded by explaining other people’s ideas without clearly articulating his own.