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Exit Happenings


Exit from Hegemony received its first two reviews in the last two weeks. John Ikenberry said some nice things in his capsule review at Foreign Affairs, and Daniel Larsion wrote about the book at The American Conservative.

The core of the book is a survey of three different sources for the unraveling of U.S. hegemony: major powers, weaker states, and transnational “counter-order” movements. Cooley and Nexon trace how Russia and China have become increasingly effective at wielding influence over many smaller states through patronage and the creation of parallel institutions and projects such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). They discuss a number of weaker states that have begun hedging their bets by seeking patronage from these major powers as well as the U.S. Where once America had a “near monopoly” on such patronage, this has ceased to be the case. They also track the role of “counter-order” movements, especially nationalist and populist groups, in bringing pressure to bear on their national governments and cooperating across borders to challenge international institutions. Finally, they spell out how the U.S. itself has contributed to the erosion of its own position through reckless policies dating back at least to the invasion of Iraq.

The conventional response to the unraveling of America’s hegemony here at home has been either a retreat into nostalgia with simplistic paeans to the wonders of the “liberal international order” that ignore the failures of that earlier era or an intensified commitment to hard-power dominance in the form of ever-increasing military budgets (or some combination of the two). Cooley and Nexon contend that the Trump administration has opted for the second of these responses. Citing the president’s emphasis on maintaining military dominance and his support for exorbitant military spending, they say “it suggests an approach to hegemony more dependent upon military instruments, and thus on the ability (and willingness) of the United States to continue extremely high defense spending. It depends on the wager that the United States both can and should substitute raw military power for its hegemonic infrastructure.” That not only points to what Barry Posen has called “illiberal hegemony,” but also leads to a foreign policy that is even more militarized and unchecked by international law.

I found it particularly interesting to see what Larison took away from the book. Even though Larison has generally aligned with a lot of us on the left on specific foreign-policy issues, he obviously comes at this from a different place than Alex and I do.

You can also listen to me discuss the book on Cato’s Power Problems podcast; Alex and I were on Background Briefing talking about Trump foreign policy. Marc Lynch interviewed me about Exit from Hegemony on the POMEPS podcast. There are at least two more podcasts about the book coming in May.

Alex and I have some pieces coming out that cover aspects of the book. Oxford University Press expects some more reviews in the coming month.

But, most importantly, you can watch the virtual book launch live on Monday, April 27 at 12.00pm. Emma Ashford has kindly agreed to serve as critic, so it should be fun.

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