Notebooks

Empires and Imperialism

22 Jun 2016 14:35

Benefits to the conquerors, if any. Benefits to the conquered, if any. How sound is Arendt's distinction between simple empires and imperialism, ``expansion-for-expansion's-sake''?

How have the techniques of imperial rule changed over the last three or four thousand years? For instance, some empires have just expanded by reducing other polities to tribute-payers, but left the government intact; or installed a viceroy or satrap at the top, but left the old power-structure in place; while others have imposed a full administrative apparatus of their own. The Chinese were the supreme example of the last in pre-modern times, but the Romans weren't slouches in this department, either. What determines the difference? And, while we're on the subject, how did the Romans and the Chinese get so good at constructing empires? What distinguished the Romans from any other pissant Italian tribe gaping at the Etruscans?

How did Europe --- of all places --- come to conquer the rest of the world? Could, e.g., Islam or China have done likewise?

It's sometimes said that institutions like the World Bank are part of a de facto ``Empire of the West''. How strong is this case? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Would it be a bad thing if the empire took seriously its responsibility for preventing bloodbaths in the satrapies? Does the first world still exploit the third world today --- and if so, is that exploitation any worse than the first world's exploitation of itself? (My family has been militantly anti-imperialist for generations; I feel quite uncomfortable asking these questions. But.)


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