International System

International System: Whether Hegemony is Possible or even Desirable

The study is an illustration of how the international system has developed and how the area has achieved significant balance. Key transformations have occurred in the political, economic, and military aspects since the phenomenon took a new twist in the 19th century. Today, the international system is more developed and balanced. The advancement and balance achieved in the area makes hegemony impossible and undesirable and more countries advocate for their sovereignty, which deter attempts to encourage hegemonic control.

The nineteenth century according to Buzan and Lawson was characterized by significant events that was enough to warrant being termed as an epochal transformation. It is during this time that the international system for the initial time in history became truly global. Various factors contributed to the globalization of the international system during the period. One of these was the increase in productivity and population as well as advancement and complexity of physical technologies and social orders, have generated a broader, more deeply interconnected international order (Buzan and Lawson 20). The widened magnitude, intricacy and technological capabilities of agrarian polities implied that they had more robust relationships with neighbors and people in other regions. Robust relationships continued to develop in various aspects, including the political, cultural, economic, and military arena (Buzan and Lawson 20). Consequently, the levels of interdependence within the international realm have expanded over time, suggesting that more societies have become less self-constrained and more enlightened to the developments happening elsewhere. As societies expanded and more functionally differentiated, variations between them became more apparent and interactions between them increased. Other factors that made the international system to become truly global during the long nineteenth century include, the advancements in industrialization, ideologies of progress, and the desire for rational state-building that were all witnessed during the transformative era (Buzan and Lawson 21). Many nations started to reconstruct their international relations policies and emphasized on making ties with other nations. Whereas the adoption of an international system happened spontaneously and with more insight, Buzan and Lawson inform that the basic pattern of the global change shares significant similarities to those prompted by the change from hunting and gathering to cities and agriculture.

Today, the international system is larger and nations interact on different fronts. Significant developments have occurred in international politics with states paying considerable attention to developing IR policies that are reflective of their agenda. The area receives much emphasis because IR permits nations to cooperation with each other, bring together resources, and share information as a way of addressing global concerns that has influence beyond a particular region or country. Some of the contemporary global issues that get more attention because of their potential impact on people and nations include climate change, terrorism, and pandemic (Buzan and Lawson 197) such as the COVID-19 health crisis that continues to affect many countries. Economic-wise, advancements in free trade that provide an avenue for nations to exchange services and goods has impacted significantly on the economic stability in many countries. Furthermore, movement of labor as witnessed in the migration of the labor force is beneficial for all participating nations (Buzan and Lawson 197). The result of the international system on the economy is increased jobs in nations where jobs are required, which can impact positively on the national economy and improve the living standard. Besides, military operations have developed increased balance as a result of the improvements achieved in the international system. For example, the production of the Military Balance report each year reiterates the need to achieve harmony in the way military operations happen (Buzan and Lawson 214). Whereas states have unique policies to guide military alignment and operations in the various jurisdictions, the Military Balance framework require nations to formulate organizations, equipment, and structures that are not aimed at harming people or causing unnecessary destructions. The advancements in the international system can be termed as having created more balance in how the area operates.

The depth with which countries have become incorporated into the international system does not allow any room hegemony and make the practice undesirable. In international relations, hegemony refers to a scenario where one or more countries show dominance over other states. Initially in Greece, the hegemon city-state enjoyed dominance over other city-states, especially military-wise. The global history has witnessed various instances of hegemony, especially in the past before the influence of the international system became widely accepted and spread out. The 1st-15th centuries AD witnesses some incidences of hegemony (Buzan and Lawson 241). The Pax Romana peace treaty outlined conditions that promoted dominance in Europe between the 1st and 2nd century. Dominating groups such as the Umyya Caliphate practiced hegemony in the Arabian world during the 7th century, with Charlemagne taking dominance in Europe from the 9th to 11th century (Buzan and Lawson 242). Significant instances of hegemony were also witnessed from the 16th-19th centuries. For example, a significant portion of Europe witnessed hegemony during the reign of Charles I of Spain whose influence commenced in 1516. France witnessed a similar incident during the time of Louis XIV whose influence during the 17th century extended to neighboring territories. The 20th century also witnessed some instances of hegemony. Buzan and Lawson inform that like the 19th century, the 20th century was marked with numerous Great Powers but no instance of global hegemon was reported (245). Nations such as the U.S. gained significant authority over certain territories, especially during and after World War I. Japan also gained substantial influence but to a lesser extent as compared to the U.S. The governments of these nations pursued policies to broaden their spheres of influence regionally with the U.S. taking control in Latin America while Japan dominating East Asia.

The 21st century has also witnessed some form of hegemony although the present forms are less dominating and influential. Various sentiments on whether the U.S. was or is still a hegemon continue to arise since the Cold War came to an end in the late 1980s. Buzan and Lawson assert that the U.S. does not practice global hegemon because it lacks the military and financial resources to impose a formal and proper control on a global scale (250). However, some still believe that the leadership style applied globally is as a result of influence from the U.S. and term the impact as hegemonic. The U.S. through agencies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization continue to influence political, military, and economic aspects in many nations, especially in the Global South, which appears as having a hegemonic effect (Buzan and Lawson 253). Concerns have also emerged that China could gain hegemonic influence although contentions between the Asian country and the U.S. continues.

Even though concerns of hegemony are still present in the 21st century, it is apparent the level at which the international system has advanced creates no room for such dominance to take place. A fundamental feature of international law is that a state can generally regulate all operations with the territory over which is has control (Buzan and Lawson 259). Outside its jurisdiction, a state is regulated to influencing activities of its people and vessels mandated to operate within the territory. However, concerns have emerged surrounding the applicability of the principle of sovereignty that acts as an indispensable part of modern international law. Critics feel that international law champion for the sovereign desire of Western states to a larger extent and deters certain legal and political activities in some states (Buzan and Lawson 261). Nonetheless, states have continued to embrace approaches that they believe will help to overcome hegemony. For example, the need to form friendly ties with neighboring states has gained prominence over the years as an effective way to suppress hegemonic influence. States have also increased their focus on national security and bestowing more mandate to international organs such as the United Nations Organization that is committed upholding international peace and security, safeguarding human rights, and encouraging friendly ties among nations.


The study illustrates how it is now difficult to practice hegemony at a time that the international system is more balanced. More nations have made ties that influence their politics, economy, and military practices and have enacted measures that enable them to enjoy more sovereignty unlike before when certain nations openly claimed control over certain territories. States believe that being free from hegemonic influence presents a chance to make decisions that benefit individual states as well as encourage stability at the international level.

Work Cited

Buzan, Barry and George Lawson. The Global Transformation: History, Modernity and the Making of International Relations. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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