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C:\Research\Globalism\US&globalization7.wpd 23Jul04 11:29 am The U.S. and Globalization Page 1 of 15 “The United States and Globalization: Struggles with Hegemony Bruce E. Moon, Lehigh University, USA Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R.D. Underhill, eds. Political Economy and the Changing Global Order (Oxford University Press, 2005) Introduction Most nations can only react to globalization, but the United States, as the system’s dominant economic and political actor, is also able to affect the speed and character of the globalization process itself. By promoting the institutions that integrated national economies after World War II, it appears that the U.S. acted as predicted by hegemonic stability theory (HST). 1 As American economic dominance later faded, the global system drifted away from the coherence of its original Bretton Woods design. The result is a chaotic patchwork of inadequate governance at the system level, while the management of trade relations has fallen increasingly to the regional level. Both patterns lend credence to HST explanations centered on the relative decline of the hegemonic power, but they tell only part of the story. America’s distinctive foreign policy tradition and peculiar political, economic, and social structure offer a further explanation for the character of the globalization that has emerged. The idiosyncratic vision and reluctant hegemony of the United States also explains why globalization’s core institutions lie in crisis while the negotiations to rescue them stagger on the verge of collapse. At the end of World War II, the United States exhibited the two most important characteristics required of a candidate to champion global liberalism. 2 First, it possessed the dominance that affords a hegemon both the greatest incentive and the greatest capacity to advance globalization. As the most productive economy, it was the most likely to benefit from open goods markets. As the largest source of both supply and demand for capital it was also the most likely to exploit open capital markets. Its power could be used to persuade or coopt a majority of nations, compel most of the remainder, and isolate the few dissenters. Second, the liberalism of the American domestic economy demonstrated that “its social purpose and domestic distribution of power was favorably disposed toward a liberal international order”. 3 However, America’s dominance is accompanied by a profound isolationism that induces episodic and inconsistent unilateralist impulses. Furthermore, American liberalism is colored by unique circumstances that make the U.S. commitment to it only skin-deep. The effects of these eccentricities were discernible in the Bretton Woods design but eventually became dominant in both American policy and the global regime it sponsored. Today they threaten the continued viability of the international architecture that has governed the process of globalization for more than half a century.
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