The theory of "Hegemonic Stability" has been regarded as one of the main contributions to the realist political science tradition in the United States in the research field of international political economy. Originally formulated by renowned scholars such as Robert Gilpin and Charles Kindleberger, the approach conveyed a peculiar understanding of the sources of stability and predictability in the international system centered around the leadership role of a single hegemonic power, like the U.S. The argument started from the classic realist assumption of an anarchic world order in which national actors would rely on self-help mechanisms and maximize their relative gains in the wake of fierce international competition. It then expressed the indispensable need for the existence of a hegemonic power, which would provide common goods, engage in conflict resolution, ensure peace and support the spread of economic interactions within the confines of a broadly liberal international system. Historical instances of long-term stability were cited from the 19th century "Pax Brittanica" during which the British Empire ensured both the maintenance of the global balance of power and the endurance of free trade by acting simultaneously as a global banker, security force and conflict resolution agent. Then the U.S. hegemony in the second half of the 20th century was presented as the era of "Pax Americana," during which global politics and economic stability was ensured thanks to the geo-strategic and geo-economic dominance of the U.S., and the extensive network of international institutions around the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. The crux of the hegemonic stability approach was the idea that in order to maintain political stability and economic expansion within the confines of a liberal international system, the existence of a single hegemonic global power was indispensable. The formation of regional cooperation arrangements and economic integration models were seen as useful adjuncts for hegemonic stability, chiefly aimed at facilitating burden sharing.
As the sociopolitical atmosphere and the tone of public policy makers gradually shifted towards the confines of the far right and the isolationism in Europe, serious questions about the future of the European project and the logic of regional integration began to be raised, especially after the global economic crisis. However, when European disintegration dynamics reached their zenith with the critical Brexit decision, and Donald Trump became the U.S. president on the basis of a protectionist, xenophobic and far-right political platform, the locus of public debates swiftly shifted towards the potential dangers concerning the sustainability of the liberal international system.
As things stand, the "Trumpamerica" seems to be extremely reluctant to carry the burden of providing the global public goods, such as: Security, stability, alliance building, regional leadership and conflict resolution for the maintenance of the liberal order formed on the basis of Bretton Woods institutions. Political messages coming in daily from the Trump administration, policy moves that cater protectionism, restriction of commercial and human movements, intentions to withdraw from the international and regional alliance networks and the preference for bilateral power politics signal that we might be on the eve of a global system transformation. Whether the isolationist, protectionist and xenophobic arguments of the administration are a method of surfing the current tide of far-right politics, or calculated steps taken in line with the U.S. establishment to determine the future trajectory of American foreign policy and economic strategy is yet to be seen. Frankly, we might need a couple of years to be exactly sure of the underlying trends of the daily political wrangling.
However, if the early signs are to be taken seriously, then it might be wise to brace ourselves for a new era of stiff global power competition, economic protectionism, rising geopolitical tensions and endemic instability. Although analyses talking about a "new Cold War" might be seen as a little premature, the fundamental dynamics of big power politics among the U.S., China and Russia seems destined to move towards a tangled path. Where these uncertain developments will leave global stability and the theorists of "hegemonic stability" is totally unclear. They might as well claim that the declining U.S. hegemony and the rise of multipolarity has triggered looming instability and unpredictability in the global system. Hence, humanity needs some form of restored hegemony.