chapter  2
22 Pages

Geopolitics and hegemony

Our study of social power’s role in international politics gets underway by probing its relationship with the classical Realist world of geopolitics and hegemony. For millennia, social power has played a key role in establishing and maintaining empires through hegemony, a practice which is now generally frowned upon. When European Commission President José Manuel Barroso admitted (in July 2007) that he likes “to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of [an] empire”, his remark caused a stir. His rather innocuous comment was widely considered an unnecessary provocation, conjuring up the image of a European Superstate which sets many member states’ teeth on edge.1 Barroso’s remark was followed by the soothing words that “[w]hat we have [in Europe] is the first non-imperial empire”,2 which is a paradox worth unraveling. Similarly, US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers famously described the US as the “first nonimperialist superpower.”3