< < <
Date Index
> > >
Re: World Systems and the US aggression on Iraq
by Threehegemons
11 November 2002 18:20 UTC
< < <
Thread Index
> > >
Justin--I appreciate your post for helping to return to basic questions.  Your 
position that US hegemony is stronger than ever is similar to that of Perry 
Anderson and several other writers at New Left Review.  Why would any of us 
dispute it?

Hegemony, in world systems analysis (influenced by Gramsci), usually refers not 
only to ability to exercise military or financial force, but ability to lead in 
the perceived interests of the led (and that perception had better have deep 
seated roots, not just a trick of good p.r. (i.e. fraud)).  Hegemonies have 
typically accumulated strength economically before exercising power as world 
leaders.  And this is the first source of US weakness--the undisputed economic 
leader of the world after World War II, it is now simply one of three centers 
(and apparently China has used this downturn in the US economy to expand its 
position at the expense of the US in East Asia).  The US, however, set up many 
bureaucracies and networks to consolidate its hegemony, and, as you note, some, 
such as the IMF, World Bank, and the UN security council, are still around 
(others, such as the congress for intellectual freedom, are gone, and I suspect 
the CIA's ability to shape national politics worldwide has declined as well).  
The US can use these surviving instruments to legitimate its actions--but these 
institutions have collectively declined in legitimacy.  Although the IMF/World 
Bank has been hated in the global South for years, the anti-WTO protests in 
Seattle in 1999 were a key turning point--since then, the global corporate 
US-backed financial institutions have been on the defensive even in the North.  
I don't think the neglect of Argentina did much for their credibility.  This 
war may well be a similar turning point for the UN--however cravenly Russia, 
France and China (forget the UK, which as I've said for a while is basically a 
51st US state) acted, they haven't reshaped global public opinion in the least, 
which basically sees this attack as strictly in the interests of the US and 
Israel.  Furthermore, dynamic global networks have emerged out of the control 
of the US.  One is the NGO world of liberal internationalists--much closer, 
politically, to the mainstream of European than US thinking.  Another is the 
myriad transnational 
ethnic and religious networks.  I'm not quite sure how these networks will 
exercise power, but we may see them try...

Finally, I think the military power of the US is exaggerated.  The US has the 
largest, most deadly stockpile of arms in the history of the world.  But it 
lacks a population willing to fight and die for its causes.  The last war the 
US population really believed in was World War II, so every new war is compared 
to it.  But this metaphor fades quickly if US soldiers are actually expected to 
die.  Whatever the limits of Al Quaeda, its members clearly believe in what 
they are fighting for. They didn't join Al Quaeda to get money for a high 
school education or health care and housing for their families.

Steven Sherman

< < <
Date Index
> > >
World Systems Network List Archives
at CSF
Subscribe to World Systems Network < < <
Thread Index
> > >