Towards an English School Theory of Hegemony

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English School (ES) writers have never developed a systematic account of hegemony, and most set out with assumptions that are `antihegemonial'. The writings of Hedley Bull, in particular, appeared to reject any notion of a legitimate hegemony. However, a social theory of hegemony that emphasizes its consensual nature does appear consistent with other ES positions, particularly on the role of the Great Powers. This article excavates an ES theory of hegemony. It develops the argument for hegemony as a potential institution of international society, by analogy with the role of the Great Powers, and by extension of other ES principles. This stresses not just the material power of the Great Powers, but their degree of social recognition. Accordingly, it suggests that such a view of hegemony is no more paradoxical than, say, ES acceptance of war as a similar institution. This fills a major void in ES theory which otherwise has nothing of interest to say about international order in conditions of primacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-228
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


  • English School
  • hegemony
  • international society
  • legitimacy
  • primacy


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