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The benefits of all of these institutions for a hegemon are this:  if you disagree with the hegemon, you can vote against it, or sue it, or organize to get a representative of your foreign faction appointed to it, instead of shooting real bullets at the hegemon. That's why support for international institutions has been such a bedrock of US foreign policy since WWII, even when it looks like it's just an organizing platform for opposition.  It makes a lot more sense to listing to a meaningless harangue from an Iranian, or Cuban, or Venezuelan, or Libyan leader than to have to go to war against them.  Talking is just better than shooting most of the time as a basic imperial policy.  The institutions don't have to accomplish anything other than to prevent nations to trying to shoot at the US, so anything else they might also achieve, or not, are gravy.  
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:31:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes a lot more sense to listing to a meaningless harangue from an Iranian, or Cuban, or Venezuelan, or Libyan leader than to have to go to war against them.  Talking is just better than shooting most of the time as a basic imperial policy.  The institutions don't have to accomplish anything other than to prevent nations to trying to shoot at the US, so anything else they might also achieve, or not, are gravy.

This logic, however, is equally true between equal powers as it is between client and sovereign, and so does not distinguish between the two forms of relationship. To gain clear evidence of a subordinate relationship, you need to look for a record of decisions where the client goes against its direct national interest in order to curry favour with the hegemon.

Such a string of decisions exists for the European powers. But there is a change of management upcoming in Europe, because the current management has made denial of easily observed reality a major plank of its political program. And the new management may or may not continue to view a special Atlantic relationship as being in Europe's best interest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's problematic because determining "national interest" is a subjective exercise.  The British ran their colonial empire through a native colonial elite who could see the national interest as their own class interest. Even for an imperial power it's difficult to determine a true national interest except as the outcome of an internal political contest of who gets what, when, and how.  National interest is therefore an unobservable variable.

An alternative would be Karl Schmitt's solution to the problem of determining who is actually the sovereign power. (In his framework there is only one truly sovereign power in a given international system, so it is comparable to the use of "hegemon" in this discussion.) The sovereign power is the one that can break its own rules that it expects of everyone else in the system without actually undermining the institutional framework of the system for everyone else.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sovereign power is the one that can break its own rules that it expects of everyone else in the system without actually undermining the institutional framework of the system for everyone else.

I would say this is an understatement. Of course breaking the rules erodes ("undermines") the legitimacy of the "sovereign". It's just that it takes a lot of undermining for the sovereign to lose sufficient legitimacy for it to lose its hegemony.

Every time the sovereign uses its position to avoid the consequences of breakign the rules it increases the disaffection of its clients. And sovereigns derive their power from the consent of the governed.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess we should qualify it by saying, "without catastrophically undermining."
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:02:57 PM EST
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"until it does". The fall of regimes is not predictable. There's not much difference between the immediate crisis that precipitates the fall of a regime and the previous crisis which was resolved as usual.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:34:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would define catastrophic to mean creating the conditions where a major challenge to the hegemon's authority is possible.  For example, if the invasion of Iraq had triggered a withdrawal from NATO by US allies or even a military challenge by formerly US allies of that invasion.  Even if the US had eventually prevailed and restored the system, the catastrophic nature of the challenge still remains.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:01:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's problematic because determining "national interest" is a subjective exercise.

To an extent, but only to an extent. There are actions which are so obviously self-serving or short-sighted that they cannot be construed as being in the national interest. And there is a great deal of continuity in the policies countries pursue irrespective of the particular interests of their current management, because those actions enhance the ability of the polity - and thus any management - to achieve its international policy aims.

On both grounds, it is fairly obvious that the European Atlanticists and that neoliberals anywhere are not advancing the national interest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 02:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't disagree, but one of the arguments for empire, like the argument against nationalism in general, is that there are common interests as global citizens that may be different from interests of an arbitrarily defined national group.  For example, freer trade has the effect of reducing the effectiveness of national borders as a policy instrument, which can certainly harm the interests of industrial producers and their workers in a given country but can arguably add to the common good of the world as a whole.  For example, if US rice producers were to be forced to forgo their subsidies, poorer rice farmers in Haiti and other countries would likely benefit, so the global interest of the wider "imperial" constituency could be greater than the national interests of a particular country.  Whether it is or not is an almost entirely normative question based on competing values, not facts.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 02:38:29 PM EST
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It would be fascinating to see statistics on the development of wage share of GDP on a global level, since historical experience indicates that it has to stay between 2/3 and 3/4 for industrial capitalism to not break in catastrophic ways.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:07:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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