Hegemonic Leadership in Hard Times: The United States vs. Germany

Hegemonic Leadership in Hard Times: The United States vs. Germany

Project Expert

Matthias Matthijs
Matthias Matthijs

Senior Fellow for Europe

About the Project

In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, the United States acted as the hegemon for the world economy, showing “benign” leadership by serving as a consumer, investor, and lender of last resort. During the euro crisis two years later, Germany played a rather different role, practicing a more “coercive” form of rules-based leadership within Europe’s regional context. In this project, I examine how ideas and crisis narratives shaped the leading states’ behavior. I try to explain how U.S. elites followed a hard-headed path of Keynesian ideas resulting in global public goods provision, while their counterparts in Germany opted for a more principled road of rule enforcing ordo-liberal ideas–consisting of strict fiscal austerity and structural reforms–and avoided public goods provision. The crucial role of ideas, in addition to structural and institutional factors, in defining the national interest during periods of crisis helps us better understand “why hegemonic leadership is what states make of it.” This work will result in a peer-reviewed article in a top international relations journal and a few shorter opinion pieces asking whether lessons can be applied to the current global COVID-19 pandemic.