The unipolar illusion revisited - The coming end of the United States' unipolar moment Academic Article uri icon


  • The conventional wisdom among U.S. grand strategists is that U.S. hegemony is exceptionalthat the United States need not worry about other states engaging in counterhegemonic balancing against it. The case for U.S. hegemonic exceptionalism, however, is weak. Contrary to the predictions of Waltzian balance of power theorists, no new great powers have emerged since the end of the Cold War to restore equilibrium to the balance of power by engaging in hard balancing against the United Statesthat is, at least, not yet. This has led primacists to conclude that there has been no balancing against the United States. Here, however, they conflate the absence of a new distribution of power in the international political system with the absence of balancing behavior by the major second-tier powers. Moreover, the primacists' focus on the failure of new great powers to emerge, and the absence of traditional hard (i.e., military) counterbalancing, distracts attention from other forms of counterbalancingnotably leash-slippingby major second-tier states that ultimately could lead to the same result: the end of unipolarity. Because unipolarity is the foundation of U.S. hegemony, if it ends, so too will U.S. primacy.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 9

author list (cited authors)

  • Layne, C.

citation count

  • 143

complete list of authors

  • Layne, Christopher

publication date

  • January 2006