Pre-Emptive Decline

  • Robert Denemark University of Delaware
Keywords: Decline, Fear, Great Powers, Hegemony, Rivalry

Abstract

Why do hegemonic powers appear to have so few viable policy levers with which to cope with their fears of decline, and often adopt policies that are least well-suited, if not antithetical to the task? In this work I suggest that status threat generates a set of typical and quite maladaptive responses at both the individual/organizational level, and in the context of popular political culture, that exacerbate decline. This phenomenon, “pre-emptive decline,” is evident in both elite-driven policy and mass political responses and is reviewed here in maladaptive courses of action adopted in 19th century Britain, and in the contemporary United States.

Author Biography

Robert Denemark, University of Delaware

Robert A. Denemark is professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.  His work concerns long-term global processes.

References

Anderson, Perry. 1974. Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism. London: New Left Books.

Archer, John. 2006. “Testosterone and Human Aggression: An Evaluation of the Challenge Hypothesis.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 30(3): 319-345.

Arrighi, Giovanni. 1994. The Long Twentieth Century. London: Verso.

______. 2007. Adam Smith in Beijing. London: Verso.

Arrighi, Giovanni and Beverly Silver (eds). 1999. Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bar-Tal, Daniel and Phillip Hammack. 2012. “Conflict, Delegitimization, and Violence.” Pp 29-52 in The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict, edited by Linda Tropp. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baumeister, Roy. 1989. “The Optimal Margin of Illusion.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 8(2): 176-189.

Baumeister, Roy and Steven Scher. 1988. “Self-Defeating Behavior Patterns Among Normal Individuals: Review and Analysis of Common Self-Destructive Tendencies.” Psychological Bulletin 104(1): 3-22.

Baumeister, Roy, Todd Heatherton, and Diane Tice. 1993. “When Ego Threats Lead to Self-Regulation Failure: Negative Consequences of High Self-Esteem.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64(1): 141-156.

Baumeister, Roy, Karen Dale, and Kristen Sommer. 1988. “Freudian Defense Mechanisms and Empirical Findings in Modern Social Psychology.” Journal of Personality 66(6): 1081-1124.

Bédarida, François. 1990. A Social History of England 1851-1990. London: Routledge.

Bergesen, Albert. 2006. The Depth of Shallow Culture. Boulder: Paradigm.

Bowler, Kate. 2013. Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boulding, Kenneth. 1975. “The Management of Decline.” Change 7(5): 8-9; 64.

Braudel, Fernand. [1949] 1976. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. New York: Harper Colophon.

______. 1984. Civilization and Capitalism 15th–18th Century. Volume III. New York: Harper and Row.

Briggs, Asa. 1987. A Social History of England. New York: Penguin.

Cameron, Kim, David Whetten, and Myung Kim. 1987. “Organizational Dysfunctions of Decline.” Academy of Management Journal 30(1): 126-138.

Chase-Dunn, Christopher, Peter Grimes and E.N. Anderson. 2019. “Cyclical Evolution of the Global Right.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 56(4): 529-555.

Cohrs, J. Christopher. 2012. “Ideological Bases of Violent Conflict.” Pp 53-71 in The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict, edited by Linda Tropp. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cottrell Geoffrey. 1972. Amsterdam: The Life of a City. Boston: Little Brown.

Daunton, Martin. 1989. “‘Gentlemanly Capitalism’ and British Industry 1820-1914.” Past and Present 122(February): 119-158.

Deiros, Pablo. 1991. “Protestant Fundamentalism in Latin America.” Pp 142-96 in Fundamentalisms Observed, edited by Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Diamond, Larry. 2018. “Illiberal, Nativist Populism: Is Economic Security the Cause?” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, April 2018.

Dobbs, Archibald. 1919. Education and Social Movements 1700-1850. London: Longmans.

Dodd, Philip. 1986. “Englishness and the national culture.” Pp 1-28 in Englishness: Politics and Culture, 1880-1920, edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd. London: Croom Helm.

Doty, William. 2004. Myth: A Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Dovidio, John, Tamar Saguy, Tessa West, and Samuel Gaertner. 2012. “Divergent Intergroup Perspectives.” Pp 158-175 in The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict, edited by Linda Tropp. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Driskell, J., R. Carson, and P. Moskal. 1988. “Stress and Human Performance: Final Report.” Orlando FL: Naval Training Systems Center, (August).

Edelman, Murray. 1971. Politics as Symbolic Action. New York: Academic Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 1979. The Wretched of the Earth, trans. C. Farrington. New York: Grove Press.

Gagnon, V.P. 1994-1995. “Ethnic Nationalism and International Violence: The Case of Serbia.” International Security 19(3): 130-166.

Gauchat, Gordon. 2012. “Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974-2010.” American Sociological Review 77(2): 67-87.

George, Elizabeth, Prithviraj Chattopadhyay, Sim Sitkin, and Jeff Barden. 2006. “Cognitive Underpinnings of Institutional Persistence and Change: A Framing Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 31(2): 355.

Gibbon, Edward. [1781] 1994. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: Penguin.

Gills, Barry, Jamie Morgan, and Heikki Patomäki. 2018. “President Trump as Status Dysfunction.” Organization 26(2): 291-301.

Girling, John. 1993. Myths and Politics in Western Societies. New Brunswick: Transaction.

Gladstein Deborah and Nora Reilly. 1985. “Group Decision Making Under Threat: The Tycoon Game.” Academy of Management Journal 28(3): 613-627.

Goldfrank, Walter. 1978. “Fascism and World Economy.” Pp 75-117 in Social Change in the Capitalist World Economy, edited by Barbara Hockey Kaplan. Beverly Hills: CA: Sage.

Goleman, Daniel. 1989. “What is Negative about Positive Illusions? When Benefits for the Individual Harm the Collective.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 8(2): 190-197.

Green, Thomas. 1997. Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Hermans, Erno, Hein J. F. van Marle, Lindsey Ossewaarde, Marloes J. A. G. Henckens, Shaozheng Qin, Marlieke T. R. van Kesteren, Vincent C. Schoots, Helena Cousijin, Mark Rijpkema, Robert Oostenveld, and Guillén Fernández. 2011. "Stress-Related Noradrenergic Activity Prompts Large-Scale Neural Network Reconfiguration." Science 334(6059): 1151-1153.

Hobsbawm, Eric. 1968. Industry and Empire. Suffolk: Chaucer Press.

Hofstadter, Richard. 1963. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. New York: Knopf.

Horne, Donald. 1969. God is an Englishman. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Horowitz, Donald. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Janis, Irving. 1972. Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Jelen, Ted and Linda Lockett. 2014. “Religion, Partisanship, and Attitudes Toward Science Policy.” SAGEOpen (Jan-March 2014): 1-8. DOI 2158244013518932

Kahneman, Daniel and Amos Tversky. 1979. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Rise.” Econometrica, 47(2): 263-291.

Kapferer, Bruce. 1988. Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Kaufman, Stuart. 2001. Modern Hatreds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

______. 2015. Nationalist Passions. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Kazhdan, Alexander and Arthur Cutler. 1982. “Continuity and Discontinuity in Bizantine History.” Byzantion 52: 460.

Klein, Gary. 1996. “The Effects of Acute Stressors on Decision-Making.” Pp 49-88 in Stress and Human Performance, edited by James Driskell and Eduardo Salas. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kumar, Krishan. 2003. The Making of English National Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lachmann, Richard. 2020. First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers. London: Verso.

Langman, Lauren and George Lundskow. 2016. God, Guns, Gold and Glory: American Character and its Discontents. Leiden: Brill.

Luce, Edward. 2019. “Blessed are the Wealthy.” Financial Times, Life and Arts (Saturday 20 April/Sunday 21 April).

McCloskey, Donald. 1970. “Did Victorian Britain Fail?” Economic History Review 23: 446-459.

McFarlin, D. and J. Blascovich. 1981. “Effects of Self-Esteem and Performance Feedback on Future Affective Preferences and Cognitive Expectations.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40(3): 521-531.

McFarlin, Dean, Roy Baumesiter, and Jim Blascovich. 1984. “On Knowing when to Quit: Task Failure, Self-esteem, Advice, and Nonproductive Persistence." Journal of Personality 52(2): 138-155.

Mack, Edward. 1941. Public Schools and British Opinion Since 1860. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mandler, Peter. 2006. The English National Character. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Modelski, George and William R. Thompson. 1996. Leading Sectors and World Powers: The Coevolution of Global Politics and Economics. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Murphy, Andrew. 2009. Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment from New England to 9/11. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mutz, Diana. 2018. “Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains the 2016 Presidential Vote.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(19): E4330-E4339; DOI: pnas.1718155115.

Muurlink, Olav, Adrian Wilkinson, David Peetz, and Keith Townsend. 2012. “Managerial Autism: Threat-Rigidity and Rigidity’s Threat.” British Journal of Management 23(S1): S74-S87.

Newsome, David. 1961. Godliness and Good Learning: Four Studies on a Victorian Ideal. London: Murray.

Ocasio, William. 1993. “The Structuring of Organizational Attention and the Enactment of Economic Adversity: A Reconciliation of Theories of Failure-Induced Change and Threat-Rigidity.” MIT Sloan School of Management Working Paper 3577-93.

Payne, Peter. 1990. "Entrepreneurship and British Economic Decline." Pp 25-58 in British Culture and Economic Decline, edited by Brian Collins and Keith Robbins. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Plotnick, Linda, Murray Turoff and Gert Van Den Eede. 2009. “Reexamining Threat Rigidity: Implications for Design.” Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 10 pages.

Pollard, Sidney. 1989. Britain’s Prime and Britain’s Decline: The British Economy 1870-1914. London: Edward Arnold.

Rodrik, Dani. 2018. “Populism and the Economics of Globalization.” Journal of International Business Policy 1: 12-33.

Robbins, Keith. 1990. “British Culture vs. British Industry.” Pp. 1-23 in British Culture and Economic Decline, edited by B. Collins and K. Robbins. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Rubinstein, W. 1990. “Cultural Explanations for Britain’s Economic Decline: How True?” Pp. 59-90 in British Culture and Economic Decline, edited by Brian Collins and Keith Robbins. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Saffin, N.W. 1973. Science, Religion and Education in Britain 1804-1904. Kilmore Australia: Lowden Publishing.

Sanderlands, Lloyd, Joel Brockner, and Mary Glynn. 1988. "If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again: Effects of Persistence-performance Contingencies, Ego Involvement, and Self-esteem on Task Performance." Journal of Applied Psychology 73(2): 208-16.

Sanderson, Michael. 1995. Education, Economic Change, and Society in England 1780-1870. (Second Edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

______. 1999. Education and Economic Decline in Britain, 1870 to the 1990s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schlesinger, Arthur. [1981] 2004. The Imperial Presidency. New York: Mariner Books Reprint.

Schwabe, Lars and Oliver Wolf. 2009. “Stress Prompts Habit Behavior in Humans.” The Journal of Neuroscience 29(22): 7191-7198.

Shaham, Yarvin, Jerome Singer and Monica Schaeffer. 1992. “Stability/Instability of Cognitive Strategies Across Tasks Determine Whether Stress Will Affect Judgmental Processes.” Journal of Applied Psychology 22(9): 691-713.

Silver, Harold. 1983. Education as History. London: Methuen.

Simon, Bernd, Birgit Aufderheide and Claudia Kampmeier. 2001. “The Social Psychology of Minority-Majority Relations.” Pp 303-323 in Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup Processes, edited by Rupert Brown and Samuel Gaertner. Oxford: Blackwell.

Spinner-Halev, Jeff, and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. 2003. “National Identity and Self-Esteem.” Perspectives on Politics 1(3): 515-532.

Staw, Barry, Lance Sandelands and Jane Dutton. 1981. “Threat-Rigidity Effects in Organizational Behavior: A Multilevel Analysis.” Administrative Science Quarterly 26(4): 501- 524.

Strachey, Lytton. 1918, Eminent Victorians. London: Chatto and Windus.

Taliaferro, Jeffrey. 2010. “Prospect Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis.” Pp 5943-5962 in The International Studies Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Denemark. Oxford: Wiley/Blackwell.

Taylor, Peter. 1991. "The English and their Englishness: "A Curiously Mysterious, Elusive and Little Understood People"." Scottish Geographical Magazine 107(3): 146-161.

______. 1996. The Way the Modern World Works: World Hegemony to World Impasse. Chichester: Wiley.

Taylor, Shelley, Rebecca Collins, Laurie Skokan, and Lisa Aspinwall. 1989. “Maintaining Positive Illusions in the Face of Negative Information.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 8(2): 114-129.

Thompson, E.P. 1965. “The Peculiarities of the English,” Socialist Register: 311-362.

Thomson, J.K.J. 1998. Decline in History. Cambridge: Polity.

Tomlinson, Jim. 2009. “Thrice Denied: ‘Declinism’ as a Recurrent Theme in British History in the Long Twentieth Century.” Twentieth Century British History 20(2): 227-251.

Toynbee, Arnold. 1934-1961. The Study of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tice, Diane. 1991. “Esteem Protection or Enhancement? Self-Handicapping Motives and Attributions Differ by Trait Self-Esteem.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60(5): 711-725.

Turchin, Peter. 2016. Ages of Discord. Chaplin Connecticut, Beresta Books.

Turner, John and Katherine Reynolds. 2001. “The Social Identity Perspective in Intergroup Relations: Theories, Themes, and Controversies.” Pp 134-152 in Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup Processes, edited by Rupert Brown and Samuel Gaertner. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1983. “Three Instances of Hegemony in the History of the Capitalist World-Economy,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 24: 1-2.

______. 2003. The Decline of American Power. New York: The New Press.

Wiener, Martin. 1981. English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit 1850-1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Willer, Robb, Christabel Rogalin, Bridget Conlon and Michael Wojnowicz. 2013. “Overdoing Gender: A Test of the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis.” American Journal of Sociology 118(4): 980-1022.

Willer, Robb, Ko Kuwabara and Michael Macy. 2009. “The False Enforcement of Unpopular Norms.” American Journal of Sociology 115(2): 451-490.

Published
2021-03-21
How to Cite
Denemark, R. (2021). Pre-Emptive Decline. Journal of World-Systems Research, 27(1), 149-176. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2021.1030