Skip to main content

The Mirage of Empire Versus the Promise of Hegemony

  • Chapter

Abstract

No one can doubt that the United States is currently the leading power in the world, and few at least in America would dispute that it needs to exercise world leadership in some fashion. The great debate is over what kind of leadership this should be and how it should be exercised. This essay offers only one idea, drawn primarily from the history of international politics: the United States has a choice between two modes of political leadership that, though they resemble each other and are often identified or considered interchangeable, nonetheless fundamentally differ in nature, practice, and effects. These are empire and hegemony. For purposes of world order and peace, the lure of empire, specious and inviting, is a mirage; the path of hegemony is genuinely possible and arguably necessary. The two, moreover, are not readily combined or compatible, but lead in contradictory directions. The current American pursuit of empire is undermining the chances for a useful, benign American hegemony, and if carried much further will end up promoting the very Hobbesian disorder it was supposed to prevent or overcome, one avoidable under a sane American hegemony.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. See n. 8; also P. W. Schroeder, “Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?” American Historical Review, 97, 2 (June 1992), 683–706

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Copyright information

© 2004 Paul W. Schroeder

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Schroeder, P.W. (2004). The Mirage of Empire Versus the Promise of Hegemony. In: Wetzel, D., Jervis, R., Levy, J.S. (eds) Systems, Stability, and Statecraft: Essays on the International History of Modern Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-06138-6_15

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-06138-6_15

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4039-6358-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-06138-6

  • eBook Packages: Palgrave History CollectionHistory (R0)