COVID-19 is the most invasive global crisis in the postwar era, jeopardizing all dimensions of human activity. By theorizing COVID-19 as a public bad, I shed light on one of the great debates of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries regarding the relationship between the United States and liberal international order (LIO). Conceptualizing the pandemic as a public bad, I analyze its consequences for US hegemony. Unlike other international public bads and many of the most important public goods that make up the LIO, the COVID-19 public bad not only has some degree of rivalry but can be made partially excludable, transforming it into more of a club good. Domestically, I demonstrate how the failure to effectively manage the COVID-19 public bad has compromised America's ability to secure the health of its citizens and the domestic economy, the very foundations for its international leadership. These failures jeopardize US provision of other global public goods. Internationally, I show how the US has already used the crisis strategically to reinforce its opposition to free international movement while abandoning the primary international institution tasked with fighting the public bad, the World Health Organization (WHO). While the only area where the United States has exercised leadership is in the monetary sphere, I argue this feat is more consequential for maintaining hegemony. However, even monetary hegemony could be at risk if the pandemic continues to be mismanaged.
For over sixty years the United States has been the largest economy and most powerful country in the world. However, there is growing speculation that this era of hegemony is under threat as it faces huge trade deficits, a weaker currency, and stretched military resources. America's Global Advantage argues that, despite these difficulties, the US will maintain its privileged position. In this original and important contribution to a central subject in International Relations, Carla Norrlof challenges the prevailing wisdom that other states benefit more from US hegemony than the United States itself. By analysing America's structural advantages in trade, money, and security, and the ways in which these advantages reinforce one another, Norrlof shows how and why America benefits from being the dominant power in the world. Contrary to predictions of American decline, she argues that American hegemony will endure for the foreseeable future.
The recent “liberal international order” (LIO) debate has been vague about the institutions and issue areas that constitute the order. This is likely driven by competing views of “liberal” and, perhaps more importantly, by security scholars dominating the debate. From the perspective of scholars who explore the elements of the global monetary order (reserve currencies, international financial institutions, and central banks), the picture is different. Where security scholars point to a decline in US influence, scholars of global monetary politics see continued US dominance. Moreover, monetary prominence has been a precondition for the viability of great power projects of order building more generally. This symposium offers such a counter narrative. While the security challenges are real, the crises of the last decade have actually reinforced the centrality of the US dollar and American financial power in the international system.
Heavily reliant on the work of Charles P Kindleberger, theories of hegemony and power transition have been built on the largely unchallenged assumption that the United States acts as a global economic stabilizer in time of crisis. However, there has been no attempt systematically to delineate, operationalize and test whether the United States performs this role utilizing Kindleberger’s five functions. Proponents of these theories have, in contrast, characterized China as either a free-rider or a predator waiting to challenge American leadership in times of crisis. In evaluating these characterizations, we test two hypotheses that examine the extent to which the United States and China have performed these stabilizing functions with regard to three major economic crises (the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the 2001 “DotCom” crisis and the Great Recession of 2007–2009). Our findings suggest that Kindleberger’s functions are more evenly shared than conventional scholarship would predict and that China has played a supportive, stabilizing role. Without evidence of explicit collaboration between the two countries, these functions were shared. Furthermore, China played an increasingly important role in supporting the global economic system over time and the trend line suggests they will continue to do so in the future. If Kindleberger’s criteria are correct, the assumption of a single country, the United States, acting as a stabilizer is therefore empirically mistaken. If his criteria are flawed, major IR theories that have assumed the criteria to be true and/or have assumed that the United States plays this unique role in the global economy are in need of critical reassessment.
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