Cosmopolitanism and unipolarity: the theory of hegemonic transition

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Cosmopolitans typically argue that the realization of cosmopolitan ideals requires the creation of global political institutions of some kind. While the precise nature of the necessary institutions is widely discussed, the problem of the transition to such an order has received less attention. In this paper, we address what we take to be a crucial aspect of the problem of transition: we argue that it involves a moral coordination problem because there are several morally equivalent paths to reform the existing order, but suitably placed and properly motivated political agents need to converge on a single route for the transition to be successful. It is, however, unclear how such a convergence can take place since the duty to create global institutions does not single out any coordination point. We draw on the so-called theory of hegemonic stability to address this problem and conceptualize what we call the hegemonic transition. From an explanatory point of view, we rely on the theory’s insights to explain how a hegemon may contribute to the creation of a rules-based international order by providing salient coordination points and accordingly, enabling coordination among states. From the normative point of view, we identify necessary conditions for the hegemonic transition to be morally permissible. To the extent that these conditions obtain, other states have pro tanto moral reasons to follow the salient coordination point provided by the leading state.
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First archival date: 2020-06-20
Latest version: 2 (2020-06-20)
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