The second face of hegemony: Britain’s repeal of the Corn Laws and the American Walker tariff of 1846

TitleThe second face of hegemony: Britain’s repeal of the Corn Laws and the American Walker tariff of 1846
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsJames, SC, Lake, DA

We posit three "faces" of hegemony characterized by distinct instruments and targets of hegemonic influence. The second face is inadequately understood and central to the Walker Tariff of 1946.

In the absence of evidence, the link between hegemony and openness lacks plausibility; a correlation may exist, but scholars justifiably doubt that a causal connection flows. We argue that hegemonic leaders do pursue policies designed in part to construct an open and liberal international economy but that these policies are often of a more subtle and indirect nature than commonly presumed.

Two kinds of processes can be distinguished:

1. Benevolent model: developed by Kindleberger, focuses on providing certain collective goods necessary for a stable and liberal international economy. States share similar free trade preferences and are stymied only by collective action dilemma.
2. Coercive model: states have different and often conflicting commercial interests. Constructing and maintaining free trade regime requires that the hegemon actively manipulate the policies of other nation-states.

Three complementary and mutually reinforcing processes or "faces" of coercive hegemony:

1. Hegemon implements positive or negative sanctions aimed directly at foreign governments in an attempt to influence their choice of policies. Economic sanctions, foreign aid, military support or lack thereof. Has received most scholarly attention and least empirical support.
2. Hegemon uses its international market power or its ability to influence the price of specific goods to alter the incentives and political influence of societal actors in foreign countries. These individuals, sectors, firms or regions then exert pressure upon their governments for alternative policies that are more consistant with the interests of the dominant international power. This is a "Trojan horse" strategy in which the hegemon changes the constellation of interests and political power within other countries in ways more favorable to its own interests.
3. Hegemon uses ideas and ideology (propaganda) to structure public opinion and the political agenda in other countries so as to determine what are legitimate and illegitimate policies and forms of political behavior. Parallel to Gramsci's conception of domestic class hegemony. But the conception of process central to this face remains amorphous.

Second face:

1. Subtle and based on invisible hand.
2. Need not require that the hegemonic leader be aware of its own motivations.
3. Not necessarily hegemonic, but alterations in hegemon's trade policy have the greater impact and are most likely to shift the balance of political power in favor of other countrie's free trade coalition.