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TV Tropes Monday: Hegemonic Empire


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The Hegemonic Empire is one that rules indirectly, through what many call, “Soft Power“. There are three reasons why an empire might chose to rule this way:

  1. Cultural/Historical: The empire rose from rebellion from another empire or has as guiding principles the ideas of freedom and self-determination. Indirect rule circumvents cultural or ideological opposition to ruling said empire.
  2. Economic: The cost of creating and maintaining large standing forces drains the coffers of the nation and will exceed the benefits of acquiring new territories.
  3. Military: Attempts at direct rule may lead to confrontations with rival powers that can match or even exceed the capabilities of the empire. In the worst case scenario, the rival as the ability to destroy the empire utterly (even if it risks destruction in turn) does making direct expansion nigh impossible.

Of course, hegemons do have one glaring weakness, their power hinges in the establishing and supporting viable proxies. These proxies give a local “face” to the empire and allow for the fiction of alliance instead of conquest. And hegemons rarely rely on soft power to achieve their goals. Often it employs coercive methods, such as manipulation of debt, exploitation of institutional corruption, and even assassination/coup d’etats to enforce their will. When all that fails, hegemons will use direct action, even if it runs counter to their stated goals.

This trope is popular in “cold war” scenarios, where intrigue rules the narrative. Characters often navigate a complex web of relationships to achieve their goals.


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