The Reassertion of United Hegemony: Evidence from the United Nations General Assembly

By Gareau, Frederick H. | International Journal of Comparative Sociology, January-April 1994 | Go to article overview

The Reassertion of United Hegemony: Evidence from the United Nations General Assembly


Gareau, Frederick H., International Journal of Comparative Sociology


THE FOCUS OF the present paper is the American led victories in the cold war and in the North/South struggle, and the consequent reassertion of American hegemony. These are seen here as two conceptually distinguishable struggles, victories, and defeats. But the two--no matter from what angle they are viewed--are intertwined and mutually interacting. This is a logical hypothesis, one that will be tested in this study. The evidence used here to indicate the American led victories is ultimately traceable to roll calls of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The roll calls are the raw material used since 1984 by the United States mission to the United Nations to generate annual indices of concordance with the United States position for each member and also aggregated composite indices for key groups. Two indices have been generated for each member and for key groups. One type index features all roll calls for a session; the other type only the restricted number of roll calls for the session deemed important by the U.S. mission and on which the mission and even the U.S. embassies around the world lobbied. The publication of these two types of indices allows the researcher the rare opportunity to resolve a classical enigma in roll call analysis: how to distinguish between the reaction of the voter to the substance and content of a bill or a draft resolution versus the reaction of the voter to the impact of factions, parties, and other outside pressures impinging on the voter. The literature indicates that the voting on all roll calls should be used to indicate reaction to content and substance, that on roll calls deemed important and lobbied by the U.S. mission, the example in our case, should be used to measure the impact of U.S. pressure and therefore the presence of U.S. hegemony. In the case of the third world in this study, this pressure is visualized as being pitted against the opposing pressure associated with loyalty to the other members of the group. Each type index will be applied to both of the major struggles presented in the paper, and the findings will be duly recorded and interpreted.

The U.S. Mission has published annually both types of indices, beginning in 1984, with the last one published in 1992 and applying to 1991. They thus span the cold war and post cold war period. This provides a unique opportunity to test what Tomlin calls the convergent validity of roll calls, the ability of these instruments to reflect "reality", i.e. the situation as it exists outside the halls of the world institution. In this case we know what happened to communism in 1989 and 1990 in the real world, and we shall examine the two types of indices which precede and which follow the death of communism. The fact that the changes for the former Soviet bloc were dramatic is significant for our purposes, since the paper is built upon the assumption of convergent validity. The paper provides other persuasive empirical evidence to support this type of validity before the mission's indices are examined. Both indices for the former Soviet bloc and those for the third world witness dramatic change in the post cold war period, but there is a significant difference in the changes. This will enable us to draw a distinction between the defeat of communism and the defeat of the South: the North/South struggle continues on as a substantive policy, but attenuated by increasing pressure from the United States. The impact which the defeat of communism had upon the third world will also be assessed.

The defeat of the Southern states in "the real world" has been less obvious than that of communism, and their defeat will be discussed in the section which follows this introduction. The defeat of communism in the real world will be assumed, this struggle being too broad to fit within the parameters of the paper. The Southern defeat took place in the arena of political economy, and it will be discussed in the context of the oil shocks and the economic policies of the Reagan administration. …

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