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.
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