World Politics

Research Article

System Maker and Privilege Taker

U.S. Power and the International Political Economy

Michael Mastandunoa1*

a1 Dartmouth College, Email:

There is striking consistency in the international economic behavior of the United States across the bipolar and unipolar eras. The United States has been simultaneously a system maker and privilege taker, and its ability to play that dual role has required the willing collaboration of foreign partners. U.S. influence over those partners, however, has changed in important ways. During the cold war the United States dominated international economic adjustment struggles. Its ability to prevail in those struggles after the cold war has been significantly compromised. The United States, notwithstanding its preponderant power, no longer enjoys the same type of security leverage it once possessed, and the very success of the U.S.-centered world economy has opened a greater range of international and domestic economic options for America's supporters. In the unipolar era the United States may continue to act its own way, but it can no longer count on getting its own way.

Michael Mastanduno is a professor of government and associate dean for social sciences at Dartmouth College. He is the coeditor of the recent publications, U.S. Hegemony and International Organizations (2003) and International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific (2003). His current research interests include U.S.-China relations and the role of the United States in the global economy.


* The author wishes to thank the other contributors to this special issue, Kathleen McNamara, and Jonathan Kirshner for comments on earlier versions.