American Sociological Association

Power, Hegemony, and World Society Theory: A Critical Evaluation

World society theory has been one of the better published theoretical paradigms of the past 30 to 40 years. But despite its publishing successes, world society theory and research are beset by a number of theoretical and empirical problems that call into question the theory’s ability to accurately describe and explain the global diffusion of government practices, policies, and structures. The authors summarize world society theory’s key claims, demonstrate that the theory has trouble explaining a set of diffusion outcomes that it needs to be able to explain, and show that a key reason for this is that the actors highlighted by the theory are embedded in hierarchical and power-laden organizations, networks, and fields that strongly limit the kinds of actions these actors can take and the kinds of cultural scripts they can follow.

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Liam Downey, Elizabeth Lawrence, Micah Pyles, and Derek Lee



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