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close this bookUnited Nations University - Work in Progress Newsletter - Volume 13, Number 1, 1990
close this folderGlobalization, multilateralism and social choice
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe state: From buffer to transmission belt
View the documentMicro-regionalism vs. Macro-regionalism
View the documentThe elites of globalization
View the documentIntellectual equipment obsolescent
View the documentA post-hegemonic world?
View the documentThe UN in post-Westphalian world?

A post-hegemonic world?

The present crisis - essentially one of perception and comprehension - is bound up with another major transformation: the prospect of a post-hegemonic world. I am not using "hegemony" here in the conventional sense of the dominance of a very powerful state over the world system. Rather, I mean by hegemony a structure of values and understandings about the nature of world order that permeates a whole system of states and non-state entities.

In a hegemonic order, these values and understandings are relatively stable and unquestioned. They appear to most people as the natural order of things. Such a structure of meanings is underpinned by a structure of power, in which most probably one state is dominant, and the practices and ways of thinking of the dominant social strata of the dominant state inspire widespread emulation. In sum, hegemony frames thought and thereby circumscribes action.

Previous hegemonies have universalized the thought and practices of particular traditions of civilization: British in the 19th century, American in the post-World War II era. Globalization continues a process of cultural homogenization - emanating from the centres of world power, spread by the world media, and sustained by a convergence in modes of thought and practices among business and political elites.

A counter-hegemonic movement, generated as a response to globalization, will find its natural base in distinct cultural traditions - and will find in these various traditions the ground for a search for alternative development strategies. The challenge to a post-hegemonic world is how to live with diversity in a mutual recognition of the validity of different paths, indeed a mutual supportiveness in the pursuit of divergent but non-conflictual views of the good society.