Hegemonic Decline, West European Unification, and the Future Structure of the Core

Volker Bornschier

Abstract


This paper queries the applicability of hegemonic cycle theories to the emerging structure in the core of the world political economy and argues that we are likely, following this period of relative decline in American hegemony, to witness the emergence of hegemonic social practices in the absence, however, of a hegemonic state. Contrasting new beginnings with past patterns, we will suggest arguments why history will not be repeated. Drawing on our research on the Single European Act (SEA), we argue that the bargain struck between the Commission of the European Union and West European transnational corporations, which culminated in the SEA, represents more than a decisive step towards economic and political union. We see it, more significantly, as embodying Europe's response to its declining position through an attempt to articulate a new societal model capable of successfully replacing the disarticulated post-WWII Keynesian social-welfare model, and of competing with the Japanese and American societal models. In the future, it is very unlikely that power among the actors in the Triad will be so unevenly distributed as to permit the rise of a new hegemonic state. While it would seem, judging from historical experience, that the presence of a hegemonic state was functionally necessary for the establishment of hegemonic social practices in the core, we argue that another mechanism has now moved to the forefront. Due to pressures generated through increasing economic globalization, linked to demands associated with the quest for legitimacy on the part of democratic governments, we foresee, following a period of increased economic competition, the convergence of social practices around a single societal model.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.1995.42

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Copyright (c) 2015 Volker Bornschier

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