The international political system is peculiar: the lack of a world government entails a situation of substantial anarchy, in which pure power relations prevail. The weakest actors are subject to the might of the strongest and dispose of no efficacious, permanent methods for addressing constant threats. What, in such a context, is the role of hegemony, which is so unlike other forms of concentration of international power such as empire or dominion? Does hegemony exacerbate anarchy or facilitate co-existence? This book develops an original analysis of an ancient problem: can international order be founded exclusively on fear and threats? The author argues that hegemony can perform a set of functions that within states are entrusted to governments. This thesis is put to the test in four case studies: 15th-century Italy, the European state system in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Cold War, and the contemporary global system after 1989.
Marco Clementi teaches International Relations at the University of Pavia.