In This Review

Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order
Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order
By Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon
304 pp, Oxford University Press, 2020

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States built and presided over a liberal hegemonic order, which now seems to be unraveling. In this important book, Cooley and Nexon provide one of the best guides to understanding how global orders rise and fall. The United States’ postwar effort to create an international order—what the authors describe as an “ecosystem”—that was friendly to liberal democracies led Washington to emphasize open markets, multilateral cooperation, and liberal values, giving its hegemony a “liberal internationalist” cast. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States gained “patronage monopoly”: it was left as the only state with an existing framework for ordering international relations. Other states had few options but to integrate into Washington’s grand liberal ecosystem. The authors’ key insight is that all of this has now changed. With the rise of China and Russia, countries around the world have alternative suppliers of development assistance, military security, and public goods—in effect, countries now have “exit options” from U.S. hegemony. Beyond the illiberal order building of China and Russia, the exit from U.S. hegemony occurs primarily through “bottom-up” processes in which nongovernmental organizations, transnational political movements, and non-Western international organizations create geopolitical “niches” in which countries can escape the dominance of the United States.