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What is the Long Cycle theory? What do you mean by hegemon?

In economics, Long Cycle Theory is the theory that there are regular cycles (but not with mechanical regularity) of international economic activity, encompassing multiple trade cycles. People dating long cycles have tended to find periods on the order of eighty to a hundred years. There is, of course, much controversy over whether they exist, over the period of history for which they exist (if they do), and what are the proper ways to measure them (if they exist).

In political geography, there are a variety of competing theories about the system of competing states that can appeal to this economic long cycle, on one or more variant (several of them arrived at independently) of the argument put forward by Organski in 1958, Power Transition Theory (wp), which is that:

War is most likely, of longest duration, and greatest magnitude, when a challenger to the dominant power enters into approximate parity with the dominant state and is dissatisfied with the existing system. Similarly, alliances are most stable when the parties to the alliance are satisfied with the system structure.[3] This leads to the view that when the balance of power is unstable (ie. one or two nations have taken a dominant role in geopolitics), the likelihood of war is less.

Different versions of the argument go under the headings in political geography of World Systems theory and World-Systems theory.

The closely related Long Cycle Theory does not rely as heavily on the economic theory of the Long Cycle, since it focuses heavily on maritime projection of power and so is more about arguing about counts of ships and bases.

With nation states divided between great powers, which typically possess power projection beyond their region, middle powers that are influential in their region but with little influence beyond and therefore little ability on their own to challenge the existing system structure, and small powers with little influence in their region.

The hegemon is then the term used for the leading power among the great powers, based on the prevailing power resources of the day. Under any version of power transition theory, a period of balance of power is a tumultuous period likely to have a lot of conflict, and then hegemonic wars occur after a period of balance of power when a potential new hegemon has emerged, and one or more dissatisfied challengers make a move to carve out a stronger position for themselves in the emerging international system.

One of the concerns of some students of the cycles of hegemonic wars in political geography are how to establish a system were we can avoid having hegemonic wars.

In terms of ability to project power beyond their own region, it would seem that the great powers of the day are the US, China and the EU, with India being the only obvious candidate medium power with the prospect for emerging as a great power.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:38:52 AM EST
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