The American Empire as a Resource of Legitimacy of the United States Post-Cold War Dominance

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-1-46-55
A. Bogdanov,
Saint Petersburg State University, 7–9, Universitetskaya Emb., Saint Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation.

Received 10.06.2022. Revised 25.07.2022. Accepted 20.10.2022.

Abstract. Empires are normally referred to such forms of direct rule that rely primarily on violence and coercion. These features lead to permanent lack of political legitimacy and make imperial polities vulnerable to various sorts of resistance and contestation. In international politics, fragility of “imperial” legitimacy is exacerbated by persistence of “anarchy” as omnipresent condition, characterized by the absence of supreme authority beyond the nation-states’ borders. Similar concerns are normally articulated by international relations scholars regarding the so-called “American empire”, which rests upon highly inequitable relations between the U.S. and its “clients”, “satellites” and “semi-sovereign protectorates” scattered across the globe. While conventional accounts consider these arrangements as based primarily on illegitimate relations of crude dominance, this article examines the “American empire” rather as legitimizing vehicle of the United States’ post-Cold War power than the tool of serving Washington’s needs. To this purpose, the author engages theoretical insights of A. Giddens’ “structuration theory” and explores the United States’ “empire” as a structure of domination, relying on sharp asymmetry of material and positional resources, and the rules, which assign legitimate capacities and set the standards of appropriate behavior. In doing so, the author seeks to overcome shortcomings of the existing approaches, which consider “social structures” as the means of either attaining collective goals or building the U.S.-led imperial order. After all, the paper demonstrates how structural properties of the “American empire” serve to organize practices of subordination and intervention as legitimate patterns of the relationships between Washington and its “clients” and “satellites” in the world periphery.

Keywords: United States, empire, power, legitimacy, international order, protectorates, patron–client relationship, social structure


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For citation:
Bogdanov A. The American Empire as a Resource of Legitimacy of the United States Post-Cold War Dominance. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2023, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 46-55. EDN: AISYXJ

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