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Review: Unpacking Hegemony,

The Social Foundations of Hiearchical Order

Ahmet Ziya AKIN

In this article,Kupchan has started his study mention to Robert Gilpin’s War and Change
article.Kupchan states that Gilpin’s study has examined the main cause of decreasing
hegemonic power and its cycling process also this period is inevitable and hegemony shifting
cause from competition for position and status.Therefore,stability has break down by states
who rivalry between each other in order to obtain hegemony. But Kupchan criticize this
article in terms of focusing heavily on material variables. Kupchan’s article based on a
package of ideas and norms which includes cultural and historical origins of international
system and it has contribute to establishing international relations. Also these ideas or norms
can be regional or global.In this point, Kupchan refers to Pax Britannica and Pax Americana,it
may have been peaceful transition because both orders based on ‘’Anglo-Saxon’’ package of
ideas and norms. Generally Western primacy give way to multiple centers of power,
international system will be globalized and the world became interdependent but all of this
process can not consider without West’s material and ideological dominance.In this
framework Kupchan has examined that four dimension of hegemonic order: Geopolitical
logic, Socioeconomic logic, Cultural logic, Commercial logic. These four dimension have
been examined on the basis of four hegemonic power: Ottoman Empire,Imperial China,Great
Britain,United States.All of these great powers seeks to spread its own cultural,socioeconomic
and political norms as demonstrated by World War I-II and Cold War.Moreover Kupchan
states that normative preferences and social and cultural orientations has an effect on
character of hegemony.

Ottoman Empire

Firstly, if we look to geopolitical logic of Ottoman Empire,imperial authority belong to

sultan who is serve as caliph,the leader of Islamic world, from the early sixteenth century.So
absolute power implementation was sharia. Structure of order was vertical hierarchy which is
shaped by Islamic conception of absolute authority.Istanbul was the center of development of
social linkages but sometimes imperial administrations had lost control over the
counterweights to the sultan’s power.Hub-and-spoke mode of rule has been applied.
If we examine the socioeconomic logic of Ottoman society,it was patrimonial,sultan was the
top of social hierarchy Civil administrations and military troops serves as his personal
staff.Merchants were limited by hierarchical state.Moreover they were unable to accumulate
remarkable wealth.Another socioeconomic part of structure is Janissaries (sultan’s personal
army) were held responsible for preventing the emergence of potential threat against imperial
authority.Janissaries have grew by system of conscription (devsirme).In the early nineteeth
century, Sultan Mahmud II removed Janissery troops and he killed all members of system.
Cultural logic has affected from Islamic tradition and there is no distinction between secular
and sacred in Ottoman realm.Ulema was an important advisor of sultan and sharia has been
used in imperial governance.However Islamic laws have affected to daily life in terms of
education,commerce and justice system. Muslim polity could be felt in Ottoman
realm.Moreover Ottoman Empire did not exclude non-Muslims from cultural area, all regions
embraced by Ottomans. In the governence,Sunni policies and doctirines has applied but
Shiites and Sufis were treated bu authority.The Millet system has pursued toward non-
Muslims also they have right to establish its own political and religious
foundations.However,Armenians,Greeks Orthodox and Jews have been ruled by its own
religious laws and they have judged by seperate courts.
The Ottoman Empire’s commercial logic based on merchantalist economy policy.Trade
policies and prices have controlled by imperial officials but this control handled mostly by
Greeks,Jews,Armenians.On the other hand,Ottoman Empire did not have modern banking
system as a consequence of the Islamic trade and laws.

In sum,Ottoman Empire’s social normas were too deeply embedded and its instutions too
flexible.Mostly empire’s instutions influenced bu Islam tradition and laws so centralized
control of religious,political and economical life can appear in Ottoman realm.

Imperial China

Chinese Empire spread its hegemony into Eastern Asia many centuries.Origin of raise era
has shown as Shang era in the fifteenth century. Qing dynasty was last imperial dynasty of
Imperial China and it collapsed in 1912.During between these ages,many various dynasties
and its hegemonies had managed Imperial China.Generally, normative structure shaped by
Confucian conception.
Geopolitical logic based on tributary sytem and hierarchial order which composed of
concentric circles had shaped according to this system.During the Qing dynasty,Imperial
China pursued expansionist policies and it gained more than doubled the size of its territory.
Therefore new areas have governed by vertical hierarchy of bueraucracy.Although its
structure of vertical line, bueraucracy was limited.However Confucian tradition has an effect
on central bueraucracy and governance. According to John Bryan Starr Imperial China is ‘’a
minimal state with maximal reach’’.1 The tributary system was bilateral and it created the
hub-and-spoke like Ottomans, so relations with other states had established by this way.On
the other hand cultural proximity was important rather than geographic proximity for
spreading of Chinese hegemony towards inner and outer states such as Japan,Korea,Vietnam.
The main tool of spreading hegomony was Sinicization.This tool has serve as a legitimacy of
authority and it has provided to cultural achievements rather than material power.From this
perspective, Chinese hegemony has unique concept and its hegemonic order has contributes to
pacifying policies.

Socioeconomic logic composed of five classes, which is constitute Qing society:

aristocrate,officials,degree-holding literati,free commoners,debesed persons.Confucian

John Bryan Starr,Understanding China: A Guide to China’s Economy,History,and Political Structure (New
York,NY: Hill and Wang,1997), p.41
tradition has played remarkable role in determining to social statis.So normative practice and
concencus has shaped China’s socioeconomic order.This tradition served as a guide for the
tributary system in Imperial China.

Cultural logic has an effect on creating of hegemony and it contributed to hegemony as well
as material power.According to Zhongguo, Imperial China referred to ‘’central kingdom’’ or
‘’center of civilizations’’ in terms of culture.Schools and teaching had based on leadership
and responsibility.2 On the other hand, Imperial China has pursued ‘’cultural assimilation’’
policy towards periphery states such as Tibeteans,Uighurs,Mongols.

Commercial Logic was broadly merchantalist but also central goverment seek to command
economy. The main source of Imperial revenue was taxation of agricultural production.3
Trade has seperated into two category: official and private trade.Both of two category of trade
has served to imperial wealth.Confucian order command to central goverment about
increasing of agricultural production and being sensitive to material wants of population.

In sum,China’s hegemony based on Confucian norms and order.Hierarchial control was a

part of cultural dominance as much as material superiority.Sinicization and assimilation
policies towards periphery states were as a key element of political and cultural effectiveness.

Great Britain

Geopolitical logic of Great Britain relience to naval mastery,for this reason it called with
seaborne empire.The Great Britain has seperated from Ottoman Empire and Imperial China in
terms of naval power and horizontanal linkages.Moreover Great Britain has show regard to
balance of power rather than eliminate or assimilate its neigbours and adversaries.This
balance of power concept did not included the domination.This balance of power strategy is a
‘’corner stone of English policy’’.This hegemonic structure take a roots from geographical
settings of Great Britain.Therefore Britain’s location has allowed to seaborne expansion.For
this reason, British merchants and emigrants have support by Royal Navy and Great Britain
took cognizance of shipbuilding.Royal Navy was main part of controlling mechanism on
transportation checkpoints.In contrast to the other island nations such as Japan, Great Britain
has unique imperial structure in terms of commercial activity.Also unlike the Ottoman
Empire,British Empire has sought to its profit rather than hierarchical control.However,
‘’splendid isolation’’ policy from the Continent based on British sea power.Continantal
commitment understanding take a roots from rationalist strategy and material conditions of
British strategic culture.The case point is Westphalian Treaty in 1648 for British balance of
power policy,therefore power balance in Europe had provide by British encourage.

Socioeconomical logic is different from Ottoman and Chinese societies in terms of

political power and wealth. Political power has disturbed between monarchy,aristocracy and
commercial class.After the Glorious Revoluation in 1688 parliamentery has took the role as
checking of power of monarchy but on the other hand commercial class has increased its

Rowe,China’s Last Empire,pp. 45-46
Kupchan, C. A. (2014). Unpacking hegemony: the social foundations of hierarchical order. Power, order, and
change in world politics, Cambridge, Cambridge UniversityPress,p.41
influence and interests.Britian has emerged as a imperial power and social order shaped
within the framework of these three agents of social power: monarchy,aristocracy and
bourgeoisie.Therefore political and economic elites emerged as a result of British
stratification and colonial rule.By the time of progress, Britain had switched economically
from merchantalism to free trade in the middle of nineteenth century.Also urbanization and
industralization process has provided to shifting of political power from monarchy to

Cultural logic rested on diversity such as religion,ethnicity and race.In contrast to Chinese
who pursued the assimilation policies towards miniorities,Britain has embraced the
differences cultures and it take a role as a universalizing mission.In this way, the English
language has served as spreading of western ideas. Religion,race and cultural difference has a
significant impact on Britain imperial domination. In addition,British Empire rested on
political and cultural hierarchy and Anglo-Saxon superiority.4 Also this concept has directed
to commercial and strategic consideration.

Commercial logic rested on adopted the merchantalist policies and Britain supported the
free market economy and open trade abroad.During the last period of nineteenth century
Britain enforced the liberal system and integrated to global economy.This policy has pursued
with the aim of protection of a stable balance of power in Europe. Cultural universalism has
supported with this commercial policies.In short, British Empire was the first to promote free
markets and an open system of international trade.

The United States

Geopolitical logic of the United States not stick to its geopolitical position, it has
constructed hegemony in the world.So United States material preponderance supported by
military interventions.Hegemony has emerged from hierarchy in the same time.Since the Cold
War era in Europe, United States deployed a large military presence on the continent also
NATO and European Community have established by United States efforts.These
organizations has served as a balancer and they enable politic and economic sanctions to
states when it required.In East Asia, the United states has constructed a hub-spoke structure
and it based on bilateral alliances also US power.The United States has military operation
capacity and security arrangements on strategicly important points such as Persian Gulf.
Geopolitical logic of the United States depends on geopolitical realities and pragmatic
relations with regional states.In contrast to Great Britain, United States has tried to spread of
ideological objectives rather than its commercial influence.US strategy shaped by both World
Wars effects, security concepts and concerns based on these wars and actors such as Japans
and Pearl Harbor or Soviet Union and Cold War.Ideological objectives includes that drive out
the adversaries and spreading democracy towards world.Therefore the US identity has
concrete with freedom and democracy also this objectives will have contribute to US
hegemony. From this aspect,US has more grand strategy than Britain.

See Stuart Anderson, Race and Rapprochement: Anglo-Saxonism and Anglo-American Relations,
NJ: Associated University Presses,1981
Socioeconomic logic based on egalitarian socioeconomic order in the United States but also
illiberal and economic oligarchy can be seen.However,the dominating position of the United
States has been providing through some institutions which are applying the Washington
Concencus.Also private sector is one of the important role during the shaping of hegemony
and it aimed that exporting economic liberalism.All of commercial and financial opportunities
has been providing by US companies to abroad.

Cultural logic shaped with Iraq invasion in 2003 and US started to establish the liberal
hegemony rather than formal empire.The difference of US hegemony is embracing of all
people who contain different religion,race and ethnicity.On the other hand, Congress and
public serve as a controlling mechanism in governance.After the World War I, the US
president Woodrow Wilson put forward to self-determination and colonialism ideas and the
US would try to spread these opinions with the aim of construction of US leadership in the
world. The US culture has also immigrant and multi-cultural nation so the US has embraced
the universal hegemony like Great Britain. Within this framework the US has long term
foreign policies about the universalization of liberal political values across all cultures.In
terms of this aim,Washington wants to became a major supporter of racial and gender equality
in the international system.

Commercial logic aims that the sustaining of liberal international trade order.In this context,
US aims to decreasing of trade tariffs and open the way for free trade and global
competition.Therefore US had established the Bretton Woods organizations after the Second
World War which includes IMF and World Bank.In this way the US applying to different
logics into different regions.

Hegemonic transitions,normative diversity and the rise of China

In sum,Kupchan has examined that four great power and its different ordering
norms.Kupchan mention to Gilpin’s implication that all of four kind of hegemony created its
own social structures in order to sets of political,economic and other interests.In other word,
in order to understanding of the normative dimensions of hegemony, different orders should
examined correlatively it. Also writer mentioned that the transition of power occured from
clashes between norms.In today’s world Western norms are universal norms also Ikenberry
says that ‘’The global position of US may be weakening but the international system the US
leads can remain the dominant order of the twenty-first century.’’5 Also writer mentioned that
according to Ikenberry China has emerged as a great power and China does not want to
change the international principals of liberal economy, they wish to gain more leadership and
authority. Also Kupchan made some analyses about states who are not ready for embrace by
West such as Brazil,Turkey,India. These states following their own pathes in terms of,
ideologically,culturally and socioeconomically.Also according to writer,China’s material
primacy will as a founder of strategic,economic and cultural centrality.Unlike US, China’s
hegemony will characterized by cultural particularism,not universalism.

Ikenberry, G. John. "The rise of China and the future of the West: can the liberal system survive?." Foreign
affairs (2008), p.23