Jus Cogens

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Hegemony in a Multipolar World Order: Global Constitutionalism and the Großraum

  • Ryan MitchellEmail author
Original Article


Recent setbacks to international institutions and projects of global governance have been viewed as marking a resurgence of nation-state sovereignty. In fact, however, many of the major controversies and developments in contemporary international law and geopolitics concern the administration, autonomy, and internal hierarchy not of states, but of supra-state regions. The spatial logic of a world divided into such regions is best articulated in Carl Schmitt’s theory of the Großraum, which in various respects describes and explains key features of modern world order. Taking regional systems as self-constituting political units characterized by internal forms of dominance and legitimation aids in identifying the operation of hegemony in contemporary international law and institutions. It also makes possible a reinterpretation of global constitutionalist discourse as a democratizing project that finds its most important expressions in counter-hegemonic movements within the various “great spaces” constituting today’s world.


Hegemony International order Großraum 

In Carl Schmitt’s postwar essay “The New Nomos of the Earth,” he sketches three possible future geopolitical arrangements for a world enmeshed in Cold War tensions.1 The first is that a single superpower, either the USA or the Soviet Union, might actually (if improbably) prevail to emerge as the lone global sovereign over a unified world state. The second, which he describes as being the most likely, is that there might be a new version of the international order that had prevailed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, in which an exceptional “island” state commands the world’s waters but is balanced in many respects against continental competitors. The UK was the state originally occupying this role, but, of course, by the 1950s, the USA was its de facto successor:

England’s former domination of the oceans [could] be expanded to a joint domination of sea and air, which only the United States is capable of doing. America is, so to speak, the greater island that could administer and guarantee the balance of the rest of the world.2

While the first possible “constitutional” arrangement is described as the exercise of a hypothetical global sovereignty, this second Schmitt instead characterizes as based on a form of hegemony: an unequal relationship between states in which a superior party exerts a “leading” role—but not outright domination—over various subordinates, exercised mostly via supposedly neutral legal and political processes that it influences to its favor.3 Schmitt’s prognosis for a future of indirect control of world politics by a “greater island” hegemon is a continuation of themes developed in his scholarship since the 1920s, adapted to the new context of Cold War superpower rivalry. Over the same decades, other conservative German theorists of international law and geopolitics, such as Heinrich Triepel, had developed similar analyses of British and American dominance in the “liberal” world system, to which a late-unified Germany was bound to be a challenger.4

Hegemony, as the exercise of functional supremacy behind the veil of formal equality, also structures the third of Schmitt’s possible forms of world order, albeit with an important difference. In his third scenario, rather than a single “greater island” state acting as global hegemon, there are a number of great powers taking the lead in their own “greater spaces,” or Großräume. These states may act as mutual balances, but would achieve neither sovereign nor hegemonic authority over one another (as they would within their own regional spheres).5

Throughout his work, Schmitt’s Großraum concept is less critical of the inequalities it describes than hortatory. It is initially developed in the context of ambitions for a Greater German Reich with its own attendant European space and ability to exclude Anglo-American (and Soviet) influences.6 After the failure of this project, Schmitt’s Cold War works instead begin to suggest that his “world of Großräume” is the only order that can preserve peace and stability without sacrificing the diversity or the autonomy of non-Anglo-American cultures. Indeed, he associates this vision of a global patchwork of hegemonies with an explicitly anti-colonial ethos in his 1963 Theory of the Partisan, praising figures like Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel Castro as representatives of chthonic regional orders standing against liberal universalism.7

This late and eccentric Third World-ism of Schmitt’s did not have a significant influence on anti-colonial discourse in his lifetime. In recent years, however, his critiques of Anglo-American liberalism have informed diverse new strains of critical thinking on legal and political topics worldwide. This has included critical reflections on the post-1989 US-led “liberal world order” by scholars (of various ideological leanings) in Western Europe, Latin America, the USA, Russia, and, perhaps most notably, in a China increasingly set on reimagining its role in the world and on developing its own regional norms and institutions.8 Somewhat surprisingly, though, those who engage with Schmitt’s ideas on sovereignty often neglect to consider in detail how his later vision of a multipolar hegemony of regionally ruling powers supports neither universalized Western internationalism nor the self-determination of individual states, but rather suggests that autonomous supra-state regions are to be seen as the key political constituent units of world order.9

Recognizing and addressing this lacuna is all the more important today because the actually existing world order increasingly resembles something like Schmitt’s third future scenario. Powerful states, including but not limited to the USA, China, and Russia, enjoy exceptional powers or statuses in international legal processes and institutions as well as profound influence over their respective regions. The inequalities that characterize today’s global governance are as apt to be those between China and the Philippines, Russia and Georgia, Australia and Nauru, or Germany and Greece as that between, e.g., America and Nicaragua. What, then, constitutes a meaningful critique of hegemony in international order in a world that has been increasingly thoroughly pluralized, without being equalized?

This paper argues (1) that the critical analysis of international legal and political order depends upon developing a conceptualization of hegemony as a multipolar phenomenon; (2) that Schmitt’s account of the Großraum is a particularly useful aid in this project, particularly when put into conversation with more recent political discourse; and finally, (3) that a realist appreciation for localized power inequalities as emergent (and often decisive) features of facially neutral legal processes must underlie future attempts to implement counter-hegemonic reforms of the international system.

1 Schmitt and the League: the “Absent Presence” of International Legal Hegemony

1.1 Systematic Exercise of Indirect Influence

To develop Schmitt’s account of hegemony, one must first draw the distinction between this informal or indirect exercise of power and the explicit command authority of the decisionist sovereign that is the most familiar trope associated with his work.10 This differentiation is at times considered in light of two periods in Schmitt’s oeuvre, one lasting from his first writings through the late 1930s, in which he focused primarily (though never exclusively) on domestic legal matters, and the other commencing from the late 1930s, after which the focus of his major writings was primarily upon international law and legal history.

It is true that Schmitt “reinvents” himself as a commentator on primarily international legal questions over the course of the 1930s, partially in reaction to the quickly deteriorating situation of international relations and partially due to his marginalization within elite Nazi circles due to allegations he was not ideologically in line with the regime.11 However, there is an important international component throughout his work, already present in The Concept of the Political and Political Theology, as well as in his textbook on Constitutional Theory. These key writings of the 1920s, while certainly focusing on domestic debates regarding the constitutional structure of the Weimar Republic and the relationship between legal norms and political will, also feature extended and often somewhat overlooked discussions of Germany’s place in the international system.

Key to such discussions is the presentation of an interesting dynamic that is best understood by reference to Schmitt’s own distinction between sovereignty and hegemony. The former term he reserves for the domestic power of the state within its own territory, as exemplified in the famous figure of the Executive who is able to “decide upon the state of exception,”12 and thus to suspend any legal norm. There are few limitations explicitly placed upon this power in Schmitt’s writings of the 1920s, and he has since then become so associated with the figure of the all-powerful sovereign that the many evident implicit limitations upon the power of the sovereign in these works can go unremarked. Chief among such limitations, of course, is the subjection of the individual sovereign state to the norms and decisions of international organizations or groups of other states.

Schmitt’s critical appraisal of the League of Nations is, arguably, equally central to his thought as is his decisionist sovereign. For the power of the German sovereign developed in his work is, in practical terms, at all times limited in terms of its practical possibilities by the international system that imposes rules regarding economics, warfare, territorial administration, diplomacy, and other such matters.

As Schmitt writes, the League is not simply a neutral legalistic institution in which universal norms are developed and then applied to member states. Rather, it is in essence a vehicle for indirect Anglo-American administration of world affairs, and its authority functions as a condition of impossibility for the full national sovereignty of any state whose affairs it administers. The role of the USA in particular reveals the logic of this newly emerging Nomos:13

... the Americans enjoy full participation in European affairs, for example in questions of minorities, the Memel conflict, Austrian-German customs union, etc. This is a very interesting system. There is in fact system in it, not deliberate planning [bewuste Planmäßigkeit] in the Machiavellian sense; rather, what is characteristic of these unique methods of American politics rests simply upon the fact that the United States, in European matters, can be officially absent but effectively present.

In this passage, as elsewhere, Schmitt equates the phenomenon of hegemony not with the exercise of full sovereign power by the deliberate political action of a state or its officials, but rather with a form of indirect or veiled influence that he characterizes as being “officially absent but effectively present.” In any number of disputes or decision-making processes, the USA has established a stance geared towards exerting a determinative role upon their outcomes, albeit without taking on the risks or reciprocal obligations of direct participation.

Some of Schmitt’s examples are illustrative of this dynamic. He interprets the League of Nations’ decisions against Germany on issues such as the rejected Austrian-German customs union of 1922 and the Memel conflict over border territory with Lithuania, as well as the entire system of the minority treaties and administration, as being closely related to an invisible American influence on the League of Nations system. This was of course the case from the very beginning, as despite America’s refusal to join the League, the latter was in considerable part the product of Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy, and the examples cited by Schmitt owed much to Wilsonian views on self-determination, global governance, and punishment of international “bad actors.”14

Other forms of indirect intervention abounded, including various dimensions of the way that the USA, acting via the League, was able to set the terms for Germany’s postwar reemergence onto the world stage—indeed even setting the terms for many aspects of its internal constitution and domestic affairs, as in the Dawes Plan of 1924 where a panel of “neutral experts” under American leadership effectively imposed conditions on Germany over war debt ranging from reorganization of the Reichsbank to the levying of specific new taxes. Such initiatives were always presented as “neutral” acts of rule-setting or application, mediation, or the objective adjudication of disputes. Yet in substance they were determined by the interests of an officially absent USA.15

It would be a mistake to see these comments as merely partisan complaints about a set of geopolitical disputes, for they are intended to be much more significant. They rather sketch a specific form of the wielding of power on the international stage in which neutrality and objectivity themselves are weaponized, are made instruments for the furtherance of a state’s authority.16 The point of this analysis is not that the USA has found an insidious way to wield power without it being noticed—rather it is that the USA has accomplished the feat of publicly and openly wielding influence that nonetheless takes on the appearance of neutral, rules-based order. This is a phenomenon that Schmitt sees as originating in the US Monroe Doctrine, not only as a practical matter of a US policy of foreign activist intervention, but also as a genuine political/legal innovation in a world-historical sense. The Anglo-American hegemony over Europe that crystallized in the League of Nations system is, he claims, an extension of the existing logic of the traditional US posture towards the Americas.

The Monroe Doctrine was first articulated by US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, asserting that the USA rejected in principle any colonial or imperial control of states in the Americas by European powers—it would if necessary intervene to prevent such external manipulation of affairs in the Western Hemisphere. Over time, of course, this would evolve from a generic rejection of external powers’ influence in its region into a justification for the US’s own active intervention into and management of hemispheric affairs, for “from this defensive pronunciamento of a small colonial state in the year 1823 there subsequently emerged an international legal instrument of hegemony of this state over the Americas in their entirety.”17

The mechanism for such hegemony was precisely that of “absent presence,” given that, for instance, “neither Cuba nor Panama can take significant political steps without the express or tacit approval of the United States; [while] nevertheless, [the latter] is officially absent.”18 Reviewing the basic details of US relations with states such as Cuba, Panama, or Nicaragua indicates the way in which US policies of denying recognition to governments or to constitutional governments (ostensibly on objective grounds such as concerns over the rights of private corporations or other lack of democratic legitimacy) were used as valid bases for the imposition of military interventions, long-term occupations, and changes in government. Especially from the 1896 Spanish-American War on, the US approached a position of de facto veto power over essentially any major political developments in its hemisphere.

Legally speaking, of course, the USA did not enjoy any inherent rights or authority over its regional neighbors. Yet its decades of intervention into Cuba, including periods of direct rule, were for example justified via two simple and broadly applicable concepts: (1) the existence of close social and economic ties justifying an inherent interest in Cuban affairs; and (2) the notion that US intervention is a means of ensuring Cuban “self-determination,” rather than infringing upon it. These two principles, along with the rationale of rejecting any role for the “spatially alien powers” (raumfremde Mächte) of Europe, constituted the Monroe Doctrine in its early twentieth century concrete practice which, taken as a relational type, embodies the abstract form of regional hegemony under the conditions of modern statehood and formal sovereign equality.19

1.2 Status Hierarchy Recast as Contract

There was, indeed, a specifically legal dimension to the form of hegemony manifested in the Doctrine, and it consisted in the US ability to define malleable, ambiguous legal terms in ways that allowed them to appear neutral but which, in practice, supported American interests. This is especially evident in the deployment of “self-determination” as a justification for US “military assistance” to certain governments against their competitors, and “democratic legitimacy” as being a feature only of those administrations that the USA perceived favorably. In numerous treaties with Latin American states, the USA explicitly carved out rights for intervention or reprisal in case local governments carried out policies damaging to, e.g., its rights of natural resource exploitation or its access to local markets.20

In both respects, the USA used neutral legal formulae and relationships to encode its relationships of power with its neighbors. Its policies did not go unchallenged, of course. The first Article of the 1907 Hague Convention, on the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, grew in part out of the 1902 “Drago Doctrine” in which the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs had articulated a position rejecting the use of force to collect debts or as punishment for breaches of contract.21 Of course, alternative justifications for military intervention—or sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and other such reprisals—were still available to the USA after 1907 based on theories other than explicit “collection of debts.” These included the traditional principle of diplomatic protection of US nationals (deployed as the justification for several interventions), as well as, as we have seen, an extensive treaty practice establishing rights of intervention or reprisal in order to ensure the maintenance of US interests.

The years between 1907 and Schmitt’s writings of the 1920s and 1930s demonstrated fairly clearly, in the context of the Americas, that even a purportedly universal principle such as 1907’s prohibition on the use of military force to punish breaches of economic obligations could be easily reinterpreted to allow a regional hegemon like the USA to continue its policies; much as colonialism could be reborn under the League of Nations mandates system.22 A species of social and economic domination could be exerted that, while effectively granting the powerful state control over key aspects of the weaker party’s politics and governance, still managed to avoid explicit violations of the principles of formal equality encoded in legal instruments such as the second Hague agreement.

In key respects, Schmitt’s 1933 account of hegemony was already aptly summed up more than 50 years earlier by the 1881 statement of US Secretary of State James Blaine that “though in the hands of Spain, [Cuba is] a part of the American commercial system.” This is to say that Cuba’s economic relationship with the USA, with all of its unequal and hierarchical influence of the latter upon the former, was to be taken as a “natural” or constitutive element of Cuba’s own international legal personality. Though Cuba might later attain formal sovereignty following its independence from Spain, it could not exercise that public power of sovereignty in a free manner—for, as soon as it intruded onto certain dimensions of its “private” economic or social arrangements, it would provide the justification for an American intervention or reprisal intended to restore the “natural” state of affairs.23

Th[e American] intervention treaty with Cuba – herein lies the new, and especially in juristic terms the most interesting [aspect] – is founded in a double manner. The treaty is namely on the one hand an international legal treaty between the new, sovereign Republic of Cuba and the United States. On the other hand, however, in 1901 the United States forced the Cuban National Assembly and government to incorporate the content of the intervention treaty into the Cuban constitution, with the full force of a constitutional law, so that the content of the intervention treaty is secured both in international law and in domestic legal terms as part of the Cuban constitution.

Schmitt’s Cuban model of a “neutralized” sovereignty that is in practice subservient to invisible chains of authority is in many respects familiar from more recent critical accounts of international law. The idea that rules and policies which are favorable to certain states can be framed as neutral principles, and formally independent states coerced or convinced to incorporate them into their international and domestic obligations, is constitutive of what is often (albeit rather tendentiously) called the “liberal world order.”24 Today’s critical international legal scholarship often articulates criticisms of this order in large part based on the relationships of inequality that it comprises and fosters.25 Whether focusing on the “struggle” between hegemonic forms of knowledge/communities of experts whose apparently neutral expertise in fact masks the interests of powerful states and private actors, or on the way that non-Western states attain formal equality only against a backdrop of extreme historical inequality, such critiques facilitate understanding of fundamental power disparities.

What then does Schmitt still have to add to such conversations, aside from an interesting set of historical observations and thought-provoking parallels between America’s regional hegemonic practices and later, more broadly applicable structures of inequality? In particular, is there enough in his thought on such issues to justify its playing a role in the theorization of international legal hegemony more broadly, especially given his own material assistance to the Nazi regime? In the present international moment, it is arguably more important than ever to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Schmitt’s diagnoses, even (and especially) while rejecting his prescriptions.

2 The Order of the Großraum: a World of Hierarchical Regionalisms

2.1 Regional Hegemony as a Project

Critical scholarship on international law today often focuses on relationships of power inequality and features various discussions that, like Schmitt’s, emphasize the effects of invisible, private power, such as contractual obligations, debtor-creditor relations, or domination of the realm of apparently independent “expert” communities. Such critiques can also be read in the register of cataloguing “absent presences” of powerful states or institutions (including the USA, but also private financial institutions, or international organizations such as the World Bank). Schmitt’s account is relevant as a historical corollary and antecedent to these later critiques, but it also has important contributions to make that are not yet widely reflected in international legal scholarship. These center on his discussions of space and spatial relationships.

The topic of space is an increasingly important theme in Schmitt’s oeuvre from the late 1920s through the rest of his life. It is, as noted, the central concern of the multiple writings in the 1930s in which Schmitt envisions a “greater space” (Großraum) for the German Reich that is explicitly intended as a model for a German-led Europe to emulate the US dominance of the Americas.26 While Schmitt was unable to exert much direct influence over Nazi regime policy, his language and imagery was sufficiently appreciated that Hitler himself cited this parallel in a significant 1939 speech, calling for a “Monroe Doctrine for Europe” as a principle upon which American intervention in regional affairs should be excluded.27 Of course, the Nazi war policy soon to follow was also explicitly justified in terms of securing Germany’s place in Europe, ensuring that Soviet or Anglo-American influence was not able to dominate the continent, but also ensuring Lebensraum for the German people considered as a biological race, with all of the obvious genocidal implications for racial others that this would entail.28 Such policies radicalized, but were in dialogue with, widespread tendencies during the interwar period of “population management” that were premised on the top-down carving up of geopolitical spaces to reflect abstract divisions between ethnic groups, as reflected in the mandate system and elsewhere.29

Schmitt’s version of a spatial political order based on but extending beyond the sovereign state carried some, but not all of the overtones associated with these policies. He did not, for instance, ascribe any racial characteristic to the Großraum, nor did he suggest that it should be secured via military conquest.30 Rather, in line with the American model, he tended to describe it as an entity encompassing economic and legal relations, wherein private forms of integration and influence, arising from spatial proximity and interaction, are embedded into a clearly defined hierarchical relationship between a “center” and its radius of orbiting neighbors.31

In the transition from Weimar to the Nazi regime, Schmitt himself transitioned from using US hegemony over the Americas as a theme of criticism to one of explicit emulation. His writings suggest that recognition of a German-dominated European economic and political integration would provide the basis for a new spatial reorganization of the Earth, ending US pretenses to extend hegemonic authority from the Americas to the entire globe. His other explicit concern, and one reflected in German international policy of the 1930s, was over Soviet attempts to promote international communism, with itself at the head, as its own form of global hegemony.32

Crucially, Schmitt’s concept of the Großraum was built in part upon economic debates of the period, and indeed, the term itself was more frequently discussed by contemporary scholars in relation to German states’ longtime pursuit of a Zollverein in which closely linked neighbors would pursue a kind of regional mercantilism of free trade within the bloc combined with considerable external tariffs.33 This model (one soon to be echoed in Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” itself also sometimes explicitly described as a “Japanese Monroe Doctrine”)34 was intended as an “economic third way” between a liberal trade system that served as a de facto front for Anglo-American interests and the state-planned, redistributionist economic model championed by the Soviet Union and by some European socialists. Echoing the views of other German conservatives, Schmitt saw either of those two models as promising to establish a de facto subjugation to the “spatially alien” interests of Moscow or Washington. His prescription, the Großraum, was to see Germany unite itself as a “sound economy under a strong state,”35 in which existing social and economic ties with regional neighbors would be consolidated into a stable (hierarchical) regional order resembling that prevailing in the Americas.

As is evident, hegemony itself was no longer to be condemned. Rather, by the 1930s, Schmitt had accepted that hegemonic relationships represented a firmly entrenched part of the international system, including in respect of the ability of dominant powers to adopt the position of “Caesar dominus et supra grammaticam,” or the emperor being sovereign over grammar (i.e., being able to redefine or selectively apply facially neutral legal concepts).36 His prescription for German hegemony was itself of course by no means responsible for the Nazi war effort, rather the reality of the latter provided the opportunity and impetus for him to develop his theoretical justifications. As with other attempts by German scholars to provide a principled program for German expansionism, for example, Heinrich Triepel’s arguments about geopolitical hegemony depending upon voluntary “recognition” between leading and led states,37 Schmitt’s arguments played a role primarily as ex post normative glosses on an expansionist policy that had already become consensus among Nazi leaders. With Germany’s defeat and the end of the war, such ideas would become little more than obscure doctrines tainted with the brutality of the regime he had cynically chosen to persuade rather than condemn.

As a purely descriptive matter, however, Schmitt’s Großraumdenken has fared much better. In many respects, today’s world is neither one of Westphalian sovereign state monads nor a system of effective “constitutionalist” universalism centered on the UN Charter and its institutions, but rather one in which both the state and global levels are often determined by mediating regional hegemonies. Germany itself has, of course, gone on to become not simply a successful economic power in the postwar liberal system, but also a dominant authority at the regional level capable of dictating standards and deciding key policy issues both internal to the European Union and pertinent to its external relations. In the areas of sovereign debt, monetary policy, austerity, migration, and various other issues, Germany’s sway can in some respects be said to resemble that of a regional hegemon operating within a Großraum.38 This is all the more so in that Germany makes no explicit pretensions to sovereign authority or a right to dictate policies to sister states—rather, its rules regarding loan repayments or the conditions for extensions of credit, etc., are of course presented as neutral rules operating in the context of objective, formally equal institutions (including the Euro itself viewed as an institutionalized embodiment of power relationships). Germany is an “absent presence” in every economic decision made by any European state.39

The EU, originating in an economic community centered on the concrete physical reality of coal and steel production by the labor and capital of the continent, and then evolving into a dynamic integrated politico-economic apparatus regulating policy spheres from the movement of people to financial and technology standards, commodities, professional qualifications, and dispute adjudication mechanisms, is ideally suited to analysis in terms of Schmitt’s Großraumdenken. The “concrete order” of economic relationships it embodies and translates into chains of decision-making authority clearly serves to limit the sovereignty of members, most obviously in terms of the power relations evident between creditor and debtor states. It is, arguably, a form of indirect power not unlike that which was long exercised by the USA in the Americas when the results of elections or referendums can be “modified” to accommodate regional economic concerns.40 Even if such interventions are not made, the mere threat of their possibility serves to limit the potential policy actions of purported sovereigns.

2.2 Regional Hegemony as an Emergent Feature of Global Order

Yet an accurate application of the Großraum idea to European affairs would not stop with the borders of EU membership. Equally relevant are the power relationships and legal/political interactions occurring with neighboring states lying on the peripheries of the “great space” of Europe. These range from the countries across the Mediterranean to the Eastern borderland states over which Russia seeks to maintain its own “Eurasian” sphere of influence.41 Here, again, neutral international legal procedures are given their concrete meanings and outcomes only after being mediated by the hegemonic dynamics internal to, and emanating from, Großräume.

NATO’s Libyan air campaign of 2011 depended on the ability of France and other European states, along with the USA, to interpret UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which set up a no-fly zone over Libya for the purpose of humanitarian protection, as a more general mandate for intervention and, ultimately, regime change. Subsequent handling of refugee migration from the war-ravaged state has also seen internal hegemonic dynamics at work, with decisions on migration issues, such as the suspension of Schengen free border movement, dominated by coalitions of northern powers rather than the southern and eastern states at the front lines of such immigration flows.42

Or how, for example, should the 1990s experiences of the disordered dismantling of Yugoslavia and erection of new states (particularly Kosovo) be interpreted if not as a border clash between two Großräume? Similar questions might be asked about Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and the subsequent informal Russian intervention. It is not necessary to draw moral (or even legal) equivalencies between, for example, the European-backed intervention in Kosovo and subsequent defense of its self-determination as an autonomous state and the Russian intervention into Crimea, the latter’s immediate proclamation of self-determination as an autonomous state, and subsequent vote to join with Russia. Many aspects of the situations are different, of course, including the ultimate results in which Kosovo enjoys many features of an independent sovereign state, while Crimea’s return to Russian sovereignty has little international recognition. Yet what is more important from the perspective of a critique of hegemony along the lines of Schmitt’s Großraum formulation is way in which “self-determination” was concretely deployed in each situation with specific practical effects; i.e., that alternative understandings of self-determination were discarded for those favored by a hegemon.43

The question of spatial ordering, of the inclusion of formally sovereign state in particular spatially delimited socio-economic, diplomatic, and mutually obligatory frameworks that then limit their exercise of sovereignty in favor of a hegemon, is also notably at work in the Asia-Pacific region. Among a host of scenarios that give witness to dynamics of contested hegemony in this space, the dispute between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea is a particularly revealing case in which Schmitt’s Großraum dynamics are evidently at work.

The basic dispute over the South China Sea between China and its neighbors concerns sovereignty over specific, small territories, mostly constituting submerged reefs but also including land features above water. The question as to physical occupation and economic exploitation of the sea spaces around such features led to extended, low-level disputes between China and its neighbors for decades, culminating in China’s 2010s decision to ramp up its military activities via such actions as island reclamations, the creation of military bases, etc.44 It has also excluded vessels from fellow disputants the Philippines and Vietnam from the area, with the former bringing a complaint against it under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for violations of its maritime rights.

The USA, while continually proclaiming its unwillingness to “take sides” on the question of the sovereignty of specific territories, has nonetheless given its full support to the Philippines and other states seeking to use the dispute resolution norms and procedure of UNCLOS to decide their disagreements with China on such issues as access to maritime spaces and economic development.45 At the same time, the USA itself is not a member of UNCLOS—in a manner closely parallel to the operation of indirect American influence via “absent presence” in the League of Nations that Schmitt criticized, the USA exerts extensive influence in Southeast Asian waters, maintaining a vast military presence that is dedicated to enforcing the neutral and objective norms of the “liberal international order,” without, however, binding itself as an equal member of that order’s specific legal institutions.

The USA has also undertaken numerous “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOPs in US military jargon), in which it sails military vessels through specific maritime spaces in order to enforce its interpretation of freedom of navigation norms.46 US FONOP operations in South China Sea spaces demonstrate a particularly interesting example of hegemonic dynamics in international law. The norm of “freedom of navigation” reflected in the 1958 High Seas Convention Article 2, and in UNCLOS Article 87, is interpreted differently by different states. While the majority of states commenting on the subject agree with the USA that “freedom of navigation” includes the freedom of military vessels to sail through high seas waters just as commercial vessels may, other states including China disagree and seek to impose restrictions on any military vessels sailing through their 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).47 The USA would argue that there is international consensus on its interpretation of the freedom of navigation sufficient to give it binding status under customary international law. But, of course, there is no consensus on the second order question as to exactly when there is sufficient consensus to establish a customary international law norm.48

The further developments of the Philippines-China case, which was heard by a panel under the Permanent Court of Arbitration and decided in July 2016 in favor of the Philippines (with China declining to appear), demonstrate further the operation of Großraum dynamics in the region. The ultimate basis of the ruling turned not on UNCLOS Article 87 (given that the Philippines was seeking civil and commercial rather than military access to maritime spaces), but rather on UNCLOS Article 121(3), which sets the basic principles of spatial ordering upon which all other maritime rights depend. In that section, the treaty stipulates that only “islands” can generate 200 nautical mile EEZs; if a territorial feature is instead merely a “rock,” then it cannot do so (and China’s maximum expanse of territorial rights would be far more limited). “Rocks,” per Article 121(3), are those features “which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own [and] shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”49

Yet, behind this facially neutral norm lies the question: how to actually define ambiguous legal standards such as a territory’s “having no economic life of its own” or being “unable to sustain human habitation”? Whose definitions should supply the concrete content to these abstractly phrased rules? It is of course impossible to know. However, it is clear that, in the dominant narrative of the dispute in China, the PCA arbitration outcome, along with the version of the “freedom of navigation” norm physically embodied in free-roaming American aircraft carriers, is treated as the product of indirect US dominance—“absent presence”—intended to ensure the preservation of its claimed military access rights in South China Sea waterways and its Großraum over the entirety of the Pacific, extending to the shores of the Chinese mainland.50

Naturally, China’s neighbors themselves have fears that in its own political, legal, and military initiatives in the region’s waters, it too is precisely seeking to establish a Großraum of its own hegemonic influence. It too has demonstrated an “absent presence” in the determination of maritime norms by continuing to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over contested waters despite being absent from the international legal processes intended to determine the validity of such jurisdiction.

Other forms of hegemonic authority in China’s relations to its near-abroad can be seen in, for example, the operation of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which supplies primarily developing states with loans for vast infrastructure projects. China largely sets the project selection criteria, terms of repayment, and, notably, the means of adjudication for any disputes arising from its BRI investments.51 Though it is overly reductionist to describe the initiative as no more than a plan to acquire geopolitical influence through creating “debt traps” for smaller neighbors, it is clear that the practical operation of BRI involves the systematic exercise of an authority to define and apply supposedly objective norms. This also manifests in the easy conversion of debt into literal appropriations of space, as in the 99-year-lease of a Sri Lankan port in repayment for an unmanageable debt. Though some observers have drawn ironic connection of this agreement to the coercive nineteenth century dealings by means of which the UK acquired Hong Kong, a more apposite comparison would perhaps be to the American acquisition of Guantanamo Bay from Cuba.52

3 Democratizing the Power to Characterize Space and Determine Norms

3.1 Conceiving Counter-Hegemony as a Concrete Practice

In each of the situations mentioned in the previous section as examples of regionally hegemonic states or organizations being able to determine the outcomes of ostensibly neutral legal processes, the processes in question were functions of international agreements intended to develop global, universal legal standards. Agreements such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the ICCPR and ICESCR, and indeed the UN Charter itself, all were the outcome of projects of “global governance” and premised upon an assumed spatial homogeneity. Norms articulated in such instruments are intended to be applied in a uniform manner regardless of the relative power and influence of states. Like domestic legislation, they create abstract and categorical rules that are inevitably subject to varying interpretations. In determining their enforcement, then, the “reality of norms” that emerges in their application to particular cases is shaped by what Schmitt identified as the jurisprudential ur-question: quis judicabit (who will judge [the application of norms to this specific case])?53

The concrete effects of legal norms emerge through enforceable decisions made by an effective interpreter of those norms.54 In situations where that legally empowered interpreter is constituted either by, or via the mediation of, a regionally dominant state, the legal processes so established will be (“deliberately” or not) instruments of hegemonic maintenance. This is most obvious in cases where, for example, a state simply declares its freedom to act as the supreme interpreter of a norm. The Chinese position in the 2016 Philippines v. China PCA arbitration, or the US position with respect to the 1986 Nicaragua v. United States ICJ case, are clear statements to this effect. Both decisions, ironically, have been treated by some international law scholars and practitioners as signs of the autonomy of their respective institutions. In reality, they also stand for the principle that regionally dominant states can preserve the de facto authority to determine the application of international standards in their near-abroad zones even in the face of hostile rulings from authoritative centralized legal institutions.

Such cases are the exceptional situations that display in extremis the characteristics of everyday regional hegemony that more often finds ways to work within, rather than to ignore or oppose, universalized international norms. It is more effective, for example, to determine the outcomes of neutral legal processes by ensuring that the judges and experts whose fields of specialized knowledge characterize such practices share the views of the hegemon. Schmitt alludes to this feature of the League of Nations’ development of its plans for German repayment of war debts on “fair” terms as determined by Anglo-American interests, but it is an equally valid description of the operation of modern refugee law, for example, as a function of UN and European institutions whose objective expertise is rooted (primarily) in the subjective Euro-American lifeworlds of the actual experts that comprise them. Judgments as to what constitutes “persecution” as required under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees will inevitably have a subjective component, and so in such matters, too, the question quis judicabit is of fundamental importance in terms of the law’s concrete outcomes.55

Discussions of the phenomenon of hegemony in international law and institutions, and of the possibility of counter-hegemonic developments in the same, should proceed from similarly concrete starting points. The interstate dynamics described by Schmitt and Triepel, who were of course interested in emulating, rather than dismantling the hegemonic dynamics they saw at work in the world order of their era, can in this vein be supplemented by the thought of Antonio Gramsci. The latter remains one of the most often cited critical analysts of the idea of hegemony as a structuring factor in modern politics. He wrote, however, primarily in reference to the domestic politics internal to the state, rather than the international sphere.56

It is in a sense incorrect to discuss Gramsci’s thought in terms of “counter-hegemony,” because his diagnosis of political conflict was centered on the idea that there is always a dominant force exerting hegemony over the culture of a given society; in his prescriptions for the European proletariat of his era, he thus advocated that the left capture, rather than repudiate, this hegemonic role in the societies of the continent.57 This was a point of view informed by his own experience of the failure of socialist movements in social settings where “civil society” and mainstream bourgeois opinion were highly resistant to those movements’ revolutionary aims. If Gramsci’s fellow travelers had taken on the appearance of agents of anarchy in the minds of the general populace, the agents of fascist reaction could take on the mantle of forces of order.

Applied to the international context, this would suggest that the “proletarian” states and peoples, those occupying subservient or exploited roles in regional hierarchies, would be best served by attempting to wrest some of the instruments of formal and informal control of global governance from dominant states. Various means of accomplishing this goal have already been advanced by scholars of international politics and (albeit to a lesser extent) of international law. Those writing in the vein of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) have, for instance, often focused on valorizing the principles of developing-world cooperation that animated the 1955 Bandung Conference, the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, and the 1970s proposals for a New International Economic Order to replace or revise the West-dominated institutions and practices of the Bretton Woods system.58

These and related efforts have often promoted laudable egalitarian goals. At times, they have also exerted genuine pressure against the exclusivity of dominance by developed states. Yet since their introduction into the world system in the 1960s and 1970s, they have clearly taken on the form of insurgency or critique, rather than establishing new forums or decision-making processes that can viably replace the existing channels of authority and expertise. While arguing for the insufficiency of the form of “universalism” that is developed and promulgated by Western international institutions, these initiatives have done less to counter the practical operation of the particularism that characterizes the outcomes actually produced by those institutions: a particularism that, as discussed above, is often a product less of an abstract set of “Western” or “developed” interests than of the specific impact of a regionally embedded hegemonic authority. How can historically excluded and marginalized states move from symbolic initiatives to genuine agency?

3.2 Räumliche Wars of Position

Two Gramscian insights suggest steps forward for the democratization of international decision-making processes. The first, as suggested in the previous section, is that marginalized groups should clearly identify the pragmatics of their own marginalization as a function of spatially bound, not just amorphous and global, structures of dominance. The power to translate norms from the international level to that of the region is as significant as the power to set those norms in the first instance. By misidentifying the locus of hegemony—e.g., seeing it as solely a function of a state’s legal structure rather than its mainstream ideological consensus, or of the official leadership of global institutions rather than of the ability to determine the practical effects of those institutions in particular spaces—any counter-hegemonic project limits its own relevance.59

Secondly, efforts to reform existing processes and to transition them into more egalitarian alternatives are unlikely to succeed without background shifts in the sensus communis of the social collectivity in which hegemony is being challenged. Solidarity among the excluded themselves is necessary, but not sufficient to effect paradigmatic change. It is also necessary that those who are relatively comfortably included in the existing system should be able to accept, and indeed see as preferable, a disruption of established hierarchies.60 Before there could be waged any “war of movement,” as Gramsci described outright attempts at revolution, there first had to be waged a protracted “war of position” in which the background ideological conditions of the society are forged into a new alignment receptive to paradigmatic change.

As Triepel and Schmitt respectively noted, hegemonic relationships (if stable) are necessarily characterized by some form of voluntary recognition by “led” subjects,61 and may be premised on a variation of the relationship protego ergo obligo (I protect, thus I impose obligations).62 The USA, for instance, has long characterized its global military supremacy in general (and its regional dominance of the Americas in particular) as the defense of an existing order against forces seeking to subvert that order. German officials tend to describe their custody of European economic policy in terms of a guardianship over fiscal and even existential security. Chinese and Russian attempts to develop Monroe-esque Großräume in their near-abroad regions are, similarly, based on arguments about protecting a community of like-minded subjects from the culturally and spatially alien (raumfremde) interventions of a US-led neoliberal expansionism.63 Hegemonic systems, whether international arrangements such as the Peloponnesian League, Holy Alliance, Warsaw Pact, or Nato, or domestic alignments of classes and groups, are cemented by shared presumptions regarding their utility in defending against a notionally inassimilable external threat.

The limited success to date of egalitarian reform to international legal structures is perhaps best exemplified in the modern development of the norm of “self-determination.” By the early 20th century, a general norm of self-determination had been agreed on by actors across a wide political spectrum. Yet in international practice it was legally encoded primarily to serve as a justification for the interwar policies of population transfer, minority protection treaties, and the League of Nations mandate system, the Wilsonian version of this norm supported, rather than challenged, what the liberal scholar of international law Quincy Wright described as a “tropical luxuriance of political and legal organization, competence, and status.”64 Leading Western powers maintained colonies, such as India and the Philippines, while gaining mandate territories from the former Ottoman Empire, and establishing in the defeated Central Powers new forms of hierarchical international governance to administrate debt, military and economic policy, and population management. This global managerialism by Western powers was of course a contributing factor to the Großraum-oriented reaction of the Axis states seeking their own hegemonic spheres.

During the Second World War, the concept was later endorsed in the Atlantic Charter and was then included in Chapter 1, Article 1 of the UN Charter. Yet the UN system as a whole, built around the edifice of the UN Security Council, did not include any institutional commitment to decolonization. The 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights essentially ignored self-determination, except in the form of a proviso that suggested the legal irrelevance of national demarcations in language ironically reminiscent of the spirit of Wright’s “tropical luxuriance.”65 However, the decolonization movements of various colonized peoples, including via armed resistance movements as well as peaceful forms of diplomatic and political advocacy, succeeded in changing global consensus around the issue of colonial dependence. The Bandung Conference of 1955 marked a major turning point in demonstrating to both rival Cold War superpowers the inevitability of a role in global governance for Third World states. In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly adopted General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV), the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,” and established the Special Committee on Decolonization to reflect the new decolonial notion of self-determination.66 By 1966, when the USA and Soviet Union each proposed its own international Covenant on “human rights” as a rhetorical justification for its political system and geopolitical order, both of these instruments, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, shared a common Article 1 beginning with a commitment to the right of self-determination. A principle originally developed in order to justify universalized global administration by a coalition of developed states and the dismantling of regional power centers was thus translated, over the course of decades of local struggles, into which formerly colonized peoples asserted as a basic premise of either of the two competing visions of global legal order a commitment to the dismantling of colonial hierarchies.

Despite this progress in recognizing a formal legal equality of marginalized, formerly colonized peoples, the underlying hegemonic relations of center and periphery have in various respects been maintained.67 This early “war of position” had significant successes, but an actual war of movement entailing the radical democratization of global governance has not followed. The proliferation of former colonies into sovereign states and members of the UN General Assembly (and mostly of the Group of 77 as well) has generally not led to new institutionalized powers or a displacement of the West-centered hierarchy of UN administration. Today’s alternative visions from Russia and China are, as mentioned, generally quite clearly premised on the maintenance of their own local hegemonic influence. What prospects, then, are there for a substantiation of the legal right of “self-determination” with a meaningful capability of self-determination for the world’s still-marginalized states and peoples?

3.3 Great Spaces in the Constitutionalization of International Law

A potentially valuable resource for future prescriptions in this vein is found by putting the above reflections based on the thought of Schmitt, Triepel, and Gramsci in conversation with the late theory of Jürgen Habermas. Although Habermas has been accused of downplaying the historical impact of colonialism and the systematic marginalization of non-Western peoples and perspectives as constitutive features of the modern international system, his variant of cosmopolitanism, especially in its more recent elaborations, has indeed turned in recent years to questions of spatial order. In 2007, he argued for example for the necessity to complement the levels of individual citizens and of the global polity that are generally emphasized in cosmopolitan political thought with “regional or continental regimes equipped with a sufficiently representative mandate to negotiate for whole continents and to wield the necessary powers of implementation for large territories.”68

In this and related discussions of the regional element in international order, Habermas suggests that, in the space between struggles for self-determination of individual peoples and the principles of order characterizing global institutions such as the UN Charter bodies, the mediation of regional political and legal orders makes possible a situation wherein “even the most powerful global players would be denied recourse to war as a legitimate means of resolving conflicts.”69 This sentiment, originally articulated in response to the Iraq War and the ineffectual opposition to it by both continental European and non-Western states, interestingly calls back to the Schmittian vision of regional Großräume as forms of organization capable of excluding raumfremde interventions.

The need to reconceive regional architectures of power is underscored by the way in which major international institutions of neoliberal governance, such as the IMF, WTO, or World Bank, make possible the universal imposition of norms presumed legitimate without making possible any reasonable prospect for the legislation of new norms on a democratic basis. It is only if there is an underlying consensus (e.g., the “Washington Consensus”) as to the ideal form of global order that these institutions manage to take on the appearance of neutral administrative and adjudicative mechanisms. While individual states can exercise hegemony by influencing the functioning of these ostensibly neutral processes in their own favor, even the most powerful, such as the USA, is likely incapable of single-handedly replacing the existing international infrastructure with a different normative vision (as the Trump administration’s limited progress in revolutionizing trade relationships seems to be demonstrating).

Integrated regions, however, may be able to develop alternative normative systems that can both exercise hegemonic influence over the operation of global institutions, as powerful states currently do, while going further to create viable alternative political and economic orders. The EU is currently not a challenger to the international financial regulation of the World Bank, WTO, and IMF. Yet an EU internally democratized with a greater role for currently marginalized voices, including the majority populations of debtor states and the economic underclasses of creditor states, would potentially be able to project a very different economic vision from that which it currently enforces. In many regions, such an internal democratization faces significant obstacles. As Habermas notes, such organizations as “APEC, ASEAN, NAFTA, AU, ECOWAS” and other such “regional alliances or at any rate forms of closer cooperation ... are ... weak beginnings.”70

This is certainly true. Indeed Habermas’s own discussions give little reason to believe that such weak beginnings will be sufficient for reforms to the international system of the kind that he calls for. Though he has subsequently sought to develop a set of specific strategic recommendations for the internal democratization of European governance, there remain as yet only limited signs that political events are evolving to match this normative vision. To the contrary, recent movement has been in the opposite direction, with the UK’s Brexit decision, and other setbacks, having inflicted serious doubts on near-term prospects for further integration. Still less does there appear to be any near prospect for other, less integrated regions to develop democratically robust forms of transnational governance. The Americas and Africa have developed increasingly important juridical regimes for human rights, but little integrated policy-setting and still less regional democracy. ASEAN, meanwhile, remains almost exclusively a forum for economic cooperation oriented towards free trade-based development strategies. These collective organizations of states have much further to go if they are to constitute alternatives to the informal power hierarchies of regional hegemons.71

On the other hand, based on the arguments advanced above that regional orders are an inevitable mediating level for the translation of international cosmopolitan norms to the national or local levels, it seems likely that only deliberately and consciously instituted projects of regional self-determination are capable of effectively challenging today’s informal hegemonic structures.72 A Western Hemisphere in which the USA was, like its neighbors, pressured into abiding by the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights would, of course, mark a significant turn away from its traditional Monroe Doctrine-based position of “absent presence” and de facto dominance of regional affairs. Moreover, the commitment to such shared systems of norms and legal institutions on the regional level can be the basis for developing regional forms of shared identity, and solidarity, that can “embed” shared visions of progress at the national level as well.73

The development of regional legal institutions need not be viewed simply as an anodyne reaffirmation of cosmopolitan norms, however. Such orders might be most meaningfully counter-hegemonic precisely when they assert the power to exclude, or overrule, raumfremde legal processes in favor of regional alternatives. The ECJ’s decision in the Kadi case,74 notably, relied on just such a privileging of the hegemony of region-based institutions over those later promulgated at the global level under the auspices of the UN Charter. For such “agonistic” confrontations between regional and global legal authority to become more common, and for regional institutions to more frequently and clearly assert their ability to “decide on the exceptions” to international norms, might serve to build a more robust form of regional solidarity.

To firmly establish that regional system however, it would have to be democratized. Regional norms, whether relating to monetary policy, debt repayment, the death penalty, or the management of personal data, can become the basis for a sensus communis, but not if these developments are viewed as fruits of an elite process administered by an anonymous expert meritocracy. Germany’s ability to set the terms of fiscal policy for southern EU members, for example, does little to promote regional consolidation. On the other hand, a regional democratic movement by citizens across affected countries challenging northern austerity policies, and legislating debt relief or welfarist redistribution at the regional level (both from North to South and from wealthy urban centers to struggling exurbs and rural communities), would do much to consolidate a uniquely democratic and egalitarian normative ethos for regional spaces.75

Such democratic movements, built across borders but clearly rooted in regional issues and institutions, might be the best path forward for a politics that transcends the binary of reactionary nationalism or globalized neoliberal technocracy. Referenda politics, ironically given their recent “failures,” may be one of the best forums for such developments.76 Creating regional institutions and norms that can be endorsed in referenda, precisely by those who feel excluded and marginalized by current policies, is likely a prerequisite for any “great space” to be established that can counteract the visible and invisible forms of dominance exercised by today’s hegemons. Political parties and movements that envision a world of cooperation, integration, and greater equality should thus prioritize neither chauvinism nor despatialized global humanitarianism, but a “war of position” using democratic regional politics to build durable multilateral institutions capable of challenging regional giants in their enjoyment of hegemonic license.

4 Conclusion

The vision of a world constituted by cooperative internationalism, where cosmopolitan norms are developed and applied on an equal basis by states great and small, in some respects seems more distant than ever. The domestic politics of leading developed states have thrown key aspects of global governance into doubt, and the increasing self-assertion of Russia and China as norm-setters in their own spheres of influence is taking shape as a still more far-reaching challenge. So too is the rise of populist nationalism in numerous states worldwide. Yet in many respects, these and other “setbacks” to the modern project of international integration affect only the forms—despatialized, technocratic, undemocratic, blind to distributive inequality, alienated from concrete political struggles—it has generally taken to date.

Loud assertions to the contrary, there is nothing new, no productive innovation, in the recent turn to sovereigntism. On the contrary, an old idea has been used (cynically) to rally opposition to more recent ones. Efforts by states to “retake sovereignty” from alleged encroachments by international institutions represent a genuine popular dissatisfaction with the functioning to date of those institutions, but also one that has yet to find a clearly formulated alternative vision. This lacuna is most obviously visible in reference to the regional dimension of global order. The USA, UK, Russia, and China all seek to avoid having the norms of their regional spaces determined by outside powers, and yet their claims to defend their own sovereignty are inevitably also attempts to consolidate hegemony within their respective regions. The ideal of the Großraum is implicit in the emergent features of today’s world order just as it was in that of the 1930s, yet also like then, there can be no stable formation in which a single state maintains an imperial domination over its neighbors (nor any stable world of hermetically sealed state monads untouched by their spatial environs). Schmitt was right in diagnosing regional order as a key site of future developments, but he did not take into account the possibility for such spaces to be sites of a democratic struggle for hegemony in which the “led” actors might actually manage to institutionally displace their heretofore “leaders.”

Genuinely new possibilities come into focus when modern cosmopolitan theory is read in a realist register that takes hegemony, and agonistic politics, as objective phenomena for dispassionate analysis. Putting Habermas’s call for a “constitution of Europe”77 in dialogue with Schmitt’s Großraum suggests that political projects focused on either “world” or “nation” are equally abstract reifications as compared with the concrete reality of political and economic relationships (both cooperative and exploitative) often embodied at the regional level. The more ambitious vision of a global “constitution for a world society” can (or even must) continue to function as a Kantian regulative idea, but the emergence of an actual pouvoirconstituant capable of enacting any such constitution will itself likely depend upon the reimagining of institutions and legal processes in contested continental spaces.


  1. 1.

    Schmitt 1955 at 354–355.

  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    Triepel 1938 at 298–301.

  5. 5.

    Schmitt 1955, 2006.

  6. 6.

    Schmitt 1933.

  7. 7.

    Schmitt 1963 at 8.

  8. 8.

    Benoist 2013; Kahn 2011; Auer 2015; Liu 2001; Jiang 2018.

  9. 9.

    Schmitt 2006.

  10. 10.

    See, e.g., Dyzenhaus 2003.

  11. 11.

    Müller 2003.

  12. 12.

    Schmitt 1922.

  13. 13.

    Schmitt 1933.

  14. 14.


  15. 15.

    Schmitt 1939.

  16. 16.


  17. 17.

    Schmitt 1933.

  18. 18.


  19. 19.


  20. 20.

    Cf. Anghie 2016; Rajagopal 2005.

  21. 21.

    Drago and Nettles 1928.

  22. 22.

    Anghie 2001.

  23. 23.

    Schmitt 1933.

  24. 24.

    Ikenberry 2018; Wertheim 2018.

  25. 25.

    Cf. Kennedy 2018; Anghie 2007; Moyn 2012.

  26. 26.

    Schmitt 1933, 1939.

  27. 27.

    Bendersky 1983.

  28. 28.


  29. 29.

    Mazower 2009.

  30. 30.

    On the other hand, of course, Schmitt was obviously aware of the role racist and militarist ideas played in his society and in the Nazi Party specifically, and any reasonable ethical appraisal of his actions during the period must acknowledge the complicity resulting from his choice to engage with the regime.

  31. 31.

    Schmitt 1939.

  32. 32.

    Schmitt 1933, 1939.

  33. 33.

    Krüger 1932; Grävell 1933; Massakas 1933; Hoffmann 1932 (noting as well that “such Großraum-autarky must at the same time be an enticing foreign policy goal.”).

  34. 34.

    Takahashi 1975; Kamikawa 1975.

  35. 35.

    Schmitt 1932.

  36. 36.

    Schmitt 1933.

  37. 37.

    Triepel 1938.

  38. 38.

    Bulmer 2014. Of course, where Schmitt and Triepel advocated a more openly imperial version of hegemony than that exercised by the USA in the Western Hemisphere, today’s Germany instead exercises a form of hegemony that is considerably less imperial than America’s in its region (where, of course, unilateral military interventions remain an openly discussed policy option), and much more collaborative at least in form.

  39. 39.


  40. 40.

    Reho 2014.

  41. 41.

    Laruelle 2008.

  42. 42.

    Comte 2017; Ette 2017.

  43. 43.

    Schmitt 1933.

  44. 44.

    Cf. “Senators Seek US Strategy to Stop China’s Maritime Reclamations,” Voice of America (Mar. 19, 2015).

  45. 45.

    Mirski 2015.

  46. 46.


  47. 47.

    Koh 2011; Roberts 2017.

  48. 48.

    Kammerhofer 2010.

  49. 49.

    UNCLOS Art. 121(3).

  50. 50.

    Jiang 2018.

  51. 51.

    Siddiqui 2018.

  52. 52.

    Kaplan 2005.

  53. 53.

    Schmitt 1970.

  54. 54.

    Schmitt 1922.

  55. 55.

    Kennedy 2018.

  56. 56.

    Cox 1983.

  57. 57.

    Gramsci 1971.

  58. 58.

    Iida 1988.

  59. 59.

    Gramsci 1971.

  60. 60.

    Gramsci 1971.

  61. 61.

    Triepel 1938.

  62. 62.

    Schmitt 2008.

  63. 63.

    Jiang 2018.

  64. 64.

    Wright 1930.

  65. 65.

    UDHR Article 2 (“Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”)

  66. 66.

    Kay 1967; Turner 2013.

  67. 67.


  68. 68.

    Habermas 2007.

  69. 69.


  70. 70.


  71. 71.

    Habermas 2008.

  72. 72.


  73. 73.

    Benhabib 2016.

  74. 74.

    Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v Council and Commission (2008) C-402/05.

  75. 75.

    Kumm 2011.

  76. 76.

    Varoufakis and Brown 2016.

  77. 77.

    Habermas 2004.



The author would like to thank Claudio Corradetti, Mattias Kumm, and all of the conveners and participants of the workshop on Hegemony in the International Order co-sponsored by the University of Rome, Tor Vergata, and held at the Luigi Sturzo Institute in Rome, 11–12 June 2018, for which this paper was originally developed and presented. He would also like to thank Seyla Benhabib and Paul Kahn for conversations contributing to the development of this paper’s argument.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong SARChina

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