In This Review

Partial Hegemony: Oil Politics and International Order
Partial Hegemony: Oil Politics and International Order
By Jeff D. Colgan
Oxford University Press, 2021, 300 pp

In this groundbreaking study, Colgan shows that, contrary to the notion of a single coherent world system, international order in fact takes a great variety of forms across different regions and sectors of the globe. The book explores this insight through an illuminating account of the rise and fall of the 1970s-era OPEC regime, which demonstrated that although the United States and the other advanced industrial democracies may have dominated and led the global system, they were unable to control the massive wealth-transferring efforts of weak and peripheral oil-exporting states. OPEC eventually declined in influence because it was unable to control the market, although it continued to generate political benefits for its members. In telling this story, Colgan shows how a diverse and unexpected group of states were able to set the terms of the order within a specific functional setting, at least for a little while. The larger contribution of the book is to complicate received notions of U.S. hegemony and the liberal international order, which, according to Colgan, miss the political agency of weaker actors, such as oil-exporting developing countries, and the ideologies behind and movements for decolonization and self-determination. If Colgan is right, great powers may have less control over the global system than they assume.