Political Science

Jan Stockbruegger

Postdoctoral Fellow, Copenhagen University
Subfield International Relations
Dissertation Too Weak to Dominate: Why Hegemons Build Rules-Based Orders at Sea
Committee Jeff Colgan, Mark Blyth, Jordan Branch


Job Market Title

The Logic of Restraint Why Hegemons Build Rules-Based Orders at Sea 


Do hegemons build rules-based orders to constrain their power? I argue that rules-based orders are not a liberal fantasy. Yet hegemons do not construct such orders because they are strong, but because they aren’t strong enough to dominate other actors completely. Weak hegemons have incentives to constrain their power and to build institutions that regulate international behavior. This logic explains order at sea. I argue that ‘free’ maritime orders do not emerge when a hegemon protects freedom of navigation, but when it builds institutions – such as laws of naval warfare regimes - that restrict its ability to dominate the oceans. I provide quantitative evidence for my theory from a new dataset of maritime orders that includes all maritime orders over the last 500 years. I also shed light on the causal logic of my theory through an investigation of the maritime order-building strategies of Habsburg Spain,Britain in the 19th century, and the U.S. during the Cold War. My paper shows that military-economic structures force hegemons to exercise restraint and to build cooperative international environments. Rules-based orders are rare and short-lived, but they contribute to peace and security at sea.