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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 8, 2017

America first! Donald Trump, the demise of the U.S. hegemony and chaos in the capitalist world-system

Christof Parnreiter


This paper discusses Donald Trump’s presidency and his motto “America First!” against the backdrop of the notion of a declining U.S. hegemony. For that purpose, conceptualizations of hegemony by word-system scholars, namely Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi, are being contrasted with John Agnew’s account in political geography. The main difference refers to the geographies of hegemony: For Agnew, a stateless hegemony is conceivable, while for Wallerstein and Arrighi hegemony in the capitalist world-system requires a state to exercise it. The paper than goes on to argue that in order to operate successfully capitalism needs the cooperation of political and economic power and hence the bringing together of the spaces of places of the former and the spaces of flows of the latter. Against this backdrop I contend that Trump’s nationalist rhetoric and (so far conceivable) politics embody and communicate the loss of U.S. hegemony both inwards and outwards. While Trump’s geographical imaginations of power are downscaled to the national, U.S. big business is ever more moving in and using global commodity chains. The fusion of the political spaces of territory and the economic spaces of flows are drifting apart. Moreover, hegemony in the capitalist world-system is global by definition. In the paper’s conclusion, the notion of a stateless hegemony is questioned.


I am grateful to Christin Bernhold and an anonymous referee for their detailed comments which forced me to sharpen my line of reasoning.


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Received: 2017-7-4
Accepted: 2017-11-9
Published Online: 2017-12-8
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

© 2017 by De Gruyter