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A hegemonic threat and the rise of a potential hegemon are related to the absolute power and leadership that can affect and manipulate those who cannot resist. The hegemonic threat can result in wars, military conflicts, terror, and aggression. Not without a reason, the causal origin of the war is the way to increase the hegemonic threat using globalization and total power of influence that provoke the political instability and economic crisis. The Great War in 1914 was not the necessity to bring any positive political and economic shifts but it was rather aimed at satisfying the geopolitical ambitions and establishing the hegemony in Europe. Consequently, a hegemonic threat and the rise of a potential hegemony destabilize the balance of power through tensions between the European countries, class struggles and national conflicts that led to World War I.
Tensions between the European Countries
Tensions between countries can be regarded as the hegemonic threat, because each party wants to demonstrate its power, leadership and the ability to influence others. For example, such states as Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Great Britain, Russia, and Italy were the Great Power of Europe, but since the nations were competitors, they could not achieve an absolute power (Lecture Notes 1). Thus, the tension between Austria-Hungary and Germany became the driving force of the World War I (Fromkin 30).
It is necessary to mention that as the indicators of the rise of hegemony and the ways of destabilization of the power balance strained relations were induced by globalization of the war, totalization, and war aims. Another factor that contributed to the hostilities between the European countries was the inequality in size and strength that resulted in instability and imbalance. Moreover, the ideological differences, as well as political and economic competition led to the tension. The strained relations between the states can also be reinforced by the lack of information necessary for the collaboration, deterrence, and signaling (Lecture Notes 2). Thus, the alliance between the Great Power of Europe was impossible because of the inequality in power, wealth, the number of colonies, strength of army, and navy domination. The signals of the rise of hegemony and deterrence between nations that resulted in World War I were crises before 1914, political moves in Germany, German alliance with France, as well as collision of France with Russia and England who were German potential rivals, and hunger of Germany for overseas territories (Fromkin 36). It is obvious that tension between the European countries increased due to the aggressive foreign policy and intervention into new lands. World War I was expected to be the war of retribution when the states struggled for hegemonic ruling and the major power in the European arena. However, it resulted in damages, destruction, and deaths. Thus, hegemony does not only destabilize the balance of power but is also based on the usage of all possible resources to fulfill the geopolitical ambitions (Lecture Notes 5).
Furthermore, Europe intended to build a better world through the Industrial Revolution and advanced science. Nevertheless, their actions had a destructive effect, as they formed unions against each other, accumulated the explosive power, and devised the ways to misbalance the power of their competitors. Therefore, World War I was the consequence of their hostility, nationalistic tendencies, and imperialistic ambitions.
Class Struggle as the Indicator of Hegemony
Class struggles present another factor that contributed to the hegemonic threat and pre-war state. For example, social and economic upheavals were popular in Europe before the war, and most of them were related to reshaping of the structure and politics (Lecture Notes 3). It means that the reduction of power concerned all the states and drove them to changes and shifts in the relationships with their neighbors. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution in England, France, and Germany showed that they wanted to grow despite the inner conflicts between the factory owners and population (Fromkin 40). Thus, it is obvious that hegemons ignore the interests of the people and do not care about their social and economic prosperity but rather want to dictate the policies of other states even if it is unacceptable for them. The class struggle was imposed by hegemonic interests and included contradictions between the crowded cities induced by the Industrial Revolution and unchanged village rhythms.
Before the war, wages and working conditions also provoked many debates and conflicts, as they reinforced the problem of inequality between classes. Furthermore, he class became the way of division of loyalty between the rich and the poor. The class conflicts varied from country to country (Lecture Notes 7). For example, in Britain, the Labor Party supported the working class. In Germany, the Social Democrats spoke for the working class. In Britain and Germany, the class struggles were peaceful due to the voting procedure, but in Italy, Spain and France, they were accompanied by terrorist attacks, strikes, and riots (Fromkin 45). Hence, inner political state of affairs also underlined the phenomena of power misbalance.
The class conflicts occurred not for the sake of the peaceful world, as manufacturing tendencies and innovations were related to the military advances and accelerating arm race. For example, before the war, Germany had the largest armaments industry in Europe. Moreover, its giant rivals were Vickers-Maxim, Schneider, Creosot, and Skoda (Fromkin 48). Furthermore, European business was the preparation to a war. Thus, working conditions were poor, wages of the population were low, and that provoked the negative spirits in the community. The European states prepared all necessary equipment and adjusted the military manpower requirements. Their main dilemma was how to make the people support their military intentions and encourage them to be on the proper side.
The national quarrels as the ways of misbalancing power and increasing hegemony were inevitable. Ireland aimed at gaining independence and autonomy as well as dissolving the alliance with Great Britain. Hence, the domestic instability along with social and political challenges encouraged the countries to make the decisions, which resulted in national quarrels (Lecture Notes 4). Another reason for the conflicts between states embraced different attitudes and treatment of socialism and nationalism. For example, Austria was the main enemy of European nationalism, but Italy and Germany supported the latter; therefore, the conflict between them was unavoidable (Fromkin 45). Moreover, the nationalists tried to unite with each other involving socialists, anarchists, and nihilists to destroy and disrupt the Austrian Empire. Thus, Czechs, Croats, and Serbs were on the side of Italy and Germany. However, all these states were interested more in the territories ruled by the Austrian Empire rather than political and social philosophy.
Nationalism was the driving force of the conflicts in Europe since it failed to be a political philosophy and became something ambivalent that expressed hatred and denied the rights of other nations. Besides, this type of nationalism helped such countries as Germany and Italy to be involved in the struggle for the new territory. Ideally, nationalism was a democratic belief that supported the right to the independence. In fact, nationalism was illiberal, because it denied the civic rights and justified killing. In addition, some nations failed to regard others as nations. Consequently, this was considered one of the reasons of the war. However, indeed, the main dilemma was to start the fight for the territories and hegemonic rise; therefore, there were several impetuses, and only one of them was nationalism.
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Furthermore, at that time, many European states were hostile to each other, and that mutual hatred could also provoke quarrels between the nations and promote the desire for holding a leading position. For instance, England had anti-French stance despite being in the alliance with France during World War I. Another example of hostilities involves Britain and Russia, which occurred as a consequence of ideological, military, political, and economic competition (Fromkin 43). Hence, Germany and Austria-Hungary became the potential adversaries. Russia and France had the ideological differences but were allies who opposed Germany. It is obvious that the nations were united by the common hatred and hostility to those who were more powerful and stronger. Great Britain wanted to remain neutral, but it regarded Germany as the threat; thus, it allied with France and Russia. However, it is apparent that alliances did not presuppose the unity and agreement because there were also internal competition and hostility. Fromkin claimed, Since the development of weapons of mass destruction, everybody would lose, we say, if war were to break out among the Great Powers (41). It means that there were no winners in that war, as it was hegemonic and geopolitical.
In conclusion, a hegemonic threat and the rise of a potential hegemony destabilize the balance of power in different ways. Firstly, the contributing factors encompass the tensions between countries that are reinforced by the absolute power, leadership position, the absence of collaboration, deterrence, geopolitical interests, hostility, nationalistic tendencies, and imperialistic ambitions. Secondly, a hegemonic threat can destabilize the balance of power through the class struggles by the hostile and rebellious spirits among the population and division of the community into the rival camps. Finally, national quarrels were favorable for the hegemons, as they also misbalanced power and violated order in the society. Consequently, the potential hegemons during World War I were Germany, Austria, France, Russia, and Great Britain. They had the leading positions and power of influence over other states.
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