Today, attempts to explain the post-Cold War shift away from interest-based to value-based policy-making are increasingly caught in a cleft stick between Post-Realist (e.g. neo-Gramscian and post-structuralist) revelations of hegemonic power relations and Post-Liberal (essentially Constructivist) assertions of the transformative power of ideas, communicative networks and emerging international norms. This paper suggests that neither Post-Realist nor Post-Liberal approaches are able to tell us much about the interrelationship between interests and ideas in the current historical conjuncture. This is because neither framework can easily countenance a disjunction between material `interests' and the discursive forms in which power is projected internationally. Using the ontological focus and epistemological framework adopted in Karl Marx's study of the crisis of political subjectivity, and the consequential retreat into idealism, of the German Ideology, this paper argues that a materialist grounding of ethical declarations of value-based policy does not necessarily lead back to the direct, or even indirect, interests of hegemonic powers. Rather, it indicates an era of `hollow hegemony' marked by the lack of instrumental policy-making and the inability to construct a clear political project cohering values, frameworks and strategic interests. Copyright 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.\u
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