Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-cxxrm Total loading time: 0.372 Render date: 2021-11-29T16:02:53.638Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

What's at Stake in the American Empire Debate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2007

DANIEL H. NEXON
Affiliation:
Georgetown University
THOMAS WRIGHT
Affiliation:
Georgetown University

Abstract

Scholars of world politics enjoy well-developed theories of the consequences of unipolarity or hegemony, but have little to say about what happens when a state's foreign relations take on imperial properties. Empires, we argue, are characterized by rule through intermediaries and the existence of distinctive contractual relations between cores and their peripheries. These features endow them with a distinctive network-structure from those associated with unipolar and hegemonic orders. The existence of imperial relations alters the dynamics of international politics: processes of divide and rule supplant the balance-of-power mechanism; the major axis of relations shift from interstate to those among imperial authorities, local intermediaries, and other peripheral actors; and preeminent powers face special problems of legitimating their bargains across heterogeneous audiences. We conclude with some observations about the American empire debate, including that the United States is, overall, less of an imperial power than it was during the Cold War.

Type
ARTICLES
Copyright
© 2007 by the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Allen Paul C. 2000. Phillip III and the Pax Hispanica. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Allsen Thomas T. 1987. Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251–1259. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Axelrod Robert, and Robert O. Keohane. 1993. Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions. Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate, ed. D. A. Baldwin. New York: Columbia University Press.
Bacevich Andrew. 2002. American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Barfield Thomas J. 1989. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC to AD 1757. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Barkawi Tarak. 2004. “On the Pedagogy of ‘Smal Wars’.” International Affairs 80, 1: 1937.Google Scholar
Barkawi Tarak, and Mark Laffey. 1999. “The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization.” European Journal of International Relations 5 (4): 40334.Google Scholar
Barkey Karen. 1994. Bandits and Bureaucrats: The Ottoman Route to State Centralization. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Barnett Michael, and Raymond Duvall. 2005. “Power in International Politics.” International Organization 59 (1): 3975.Google Scholar
Barrett Thomas M. 1995. “Lines of Uncertainty: The Frontiers of the North Caucasus.” Slavic Review 54 (3): 578601.Google Scholar
Baumgartner T., W. Buckley, et al. 1975. “Relational Control: The Human Structuring of Cooperation and Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 19 (3): 41440.Google Scholar
Bearman Peter S. 1993. North Carolina Lectures on Networks. Chapel Hill, NC.
Beissinger Mark R. 2002. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bellah Robert N. 2002. The New American Empire. Commonwealth. 129: 1214.Google Scholar
Bowen H. V. 2002. Perceptions from the Periphery: Colonial American Views of Brtain's Asiatic Empire, 1756–1783. Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820, ed. C. Daniels and M. D. Kennedy. New York: Routledge, 283300.
Brunt P. A. 1965. “Reflections on British and Roman Imperialism.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 7 (3): 26788.Google Scholar
Burt Ronald S. 1992. Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Cha Victor D. 2004. Power Play: Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia, Washington, DC: Georgetown University.
Chace James 2002. “Imperial America and the Common Interest.” World Policy Journal 19 (1): 19.Google Scholar
Cohen Eliot A. 2004. “History and the Hyperpower.” Foreign Affairs 83 (4): 4963.Google Scholar
Cooley Alexander. 2005. Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States, and Nations in Transit. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Cox Michael. 2004. “Empire, Imperialism and the Bush Doctrine.” Review of International Studies 30 (4): 585608.Google Scholar
Daniels Christine, and Michael D. Kennedy, Eds. 2002. Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820. New York: Routledge.
Diamond Larry. 2005. Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Attempt to Bring Democracy to Iraq. New York: Times Books.
Donnelly Jack. 2006. “Sovereign Inequalities and Hierarchy in Anarchy: American Power and International Security.” European Journal of International Relations 12 (2): 13970.Google Scholar
Doyle Michael. 1986. Empires. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Elliott J. H. 1984. Richelieu and Olivares. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fearon James D. 1998. “Bargaining, Enforcement, and International Cooperation.” International Organization 52 (2): 269305.Google Scholar
Fearon James D., and David D. Laitin. 2004. “Neotrusteeship and the Problem of Weak States.” International Security 28 (4): 543.Google Scholar
Ferguson Niall. 2003. “Hegemony or Empire?Foreign Affairs 82, 5.Google Scholar
Freeman Linton C. 1977. “A Set of Measures of Centrality Based on Betweeness.” Sociometry 40 (1): 3541.Google Scholar
Galtung Johan. 1971. “A Structural Theory of Imperialism.” Journal of Peace Research 8 (2): 81117.Google Scholar
Gilpin Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Goddard Stacie E. 2006. “Uncommon Ground: Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimation.” International Organization 60, (1): 3568.Google Scholar
Gould Roger V. 1993. “Collective Action and Network Structure.” American Sociological Review 58 (2): 18296.Google Scholar
Gould Roger V., and Roberto M. Fernandez. 1989. “Structures of Mediation: A Formal Approach to Brokerage in Transaction Networks.” Sociological Methodology 19: 89126.Google Scholar
Hager Robert P. Jr., and David A. Lake. 2000. “Balancing Empires: Competitive Decolonization in International Politics.” Security Studies 9 (3): 10848.Google Scholar
Halperin Charles J. 1983. “Russia and the Mongol Empire in Comparative Perspective.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 43 (1): 23961.Google Scholar
Hemmer Christopher J., and Peter J. Katzenstein. 2002. “Why is There No NATO in Asia? Collective Identity, Regionalism, and the Origins of Multilateralism.” International Organization 56 (3): 575607.Google Scholar
Hobson John M., and J. C. Sharman. 2005. “The Enduring Place of Hierarchy in World Politics: Tracing the Social Logics of Hierarchy and Political Change.” European Journal of International Relations 11 (1): 6398.Google Scholar
Howe Stephen. 2002. Empire, A Very Short Introduction: Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hui Victoria Tin-bor. 2005. War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hulsman John C., and Alexis Y. Debat. 2006. “In Praise of Warlords.” The National Interest (84): 5158.Google Scholar
Hurrell Andrew. 2005. “Pax Americana or the Empire of Insecurity?International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 5 (2): 15376.Google Scholar
Ikenberry G. John. 2001. After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Ikenberry G. John. 2002. Introduction. America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power, ed. G. J. Ikenberry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 126.
Isaac Benjamin. 1992. The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Israel Jonathan. 1995. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477–1806. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jackson Patrick T., and Daniel Nexon. 2001. “Whence Causal Mechanisms? A Comment on Legro.” Dialogue-IO 1 (1): 121. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/display/Fulltext?type=1&fid=149074&jid=&volumeId=&issueId&aid=14907.Google Scholar
James Harold, 2006. The Roman Predicament. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Johnson Chalmers A. 2000. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Kagan Kimberly. 2002. Hegemony, Not Empire: How the Pax Americana Differs From the Pax Romana. The Weekly Standard. 7: 1617.Google Scholar
Kagan Robert. 1998. “The Benevolent Empire.” Foreign Policy (111): 2435.Google Scholar
Karsh Efraim, and Inari Karsh. 1999. Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789–1923. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Katzenstein Peter J., and Robert O. Keohane. 2006. “Varieties of Anti-Americanism: A Framework for Analysis.” Anti-americanisms in World Politics, ed. P. J. Katzenstein and R. I. Keohane. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 938.
Keenan Edward. 1986. “Muscovite Political Folkways.” Russian Review 45 (2): 11581.Google Scholar
Kennedy Paul. 1987. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York: Random House.
Keohane Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye Jr., 1989. Power and Interdependence. New York: HarperCollins.
King Charles. 2003. “Crisis in the Caucasus: A New Look at Russia's Chechen Impasse.” Foreign Affairs 82 (2): 13439.Google Scholar
Koenigsberger H. G. 1955. “The Organization of Revolutionary Parties in France and the Netherlands During the Sixteenth Century.” Journal of Modern History 27 (4): 33351.Google Scholar
Koenigsberger H. G., and George L. Mosse. 1968. Europe in the Sixteenth Century. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
Kristol William 2006. “It's Our War.” The Weekly Standard 11 (42).Google Scholar
Kupchan Charles. 1996. The Vulnerability of Empire. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Lake David A. 1996. “Anarchy, Hierarchy and the Variety of International Relations.” International Organization 50 (1): 133.Google Scholar
Lake David A. 2003. “The New Sovereignty in International Relations.” International Studies Review 5 (3): 30324.Google Scholar
Lal Deepak. 2004. In Praise of Empires: Globalization and Order. New York: Palgrave.
Lange Matthew. 2003. “Structural Holes and Structural Synergies: A Comparative-Historical Analysis of State-Society Relations and Development in Colonial Sierra Leone and Mauritius.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 44 (4): 372407.Google Scholar
Lapid Joseph, and Friedrich Kratochwil. 1996. “Revisiting the ‘National’: Towards an Identity Agenda in Neorealism?The Return of Culture and Identity in IR Theory, ed. J. Lapid and F. Kratochwil. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner; 10528.
Layne Christopher. 1997. “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America's Future Grand Strategy.” International Security 22 (1): 86124.Google Scholar
Lefever Ernest W. 1999. America's Imperial Burden: Is the Past Prologue? Boulder, CO: Westview.
Lemke Douglas. 2002. Regions of War and Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lendon J. E. 1997. Empire of Honour: The Art of Government in the Roman World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lenman Bruce. 2001. Britain's Colonial Wars 1688–1783. London: Longman.
Lieven Anatol. 2002. “The Pressures on Pakistan.” Foreign Affairs 81 (1): 10610.Google Scholar
Lieven Dominic. 2000. Empire: The Russian Empire and its Rivals. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Louis William Roger. 1978. Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire 1941–1945. New York: Oxford University Press.
Luttwak Edward N. 1976. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lynch John. 1991. Spain 1516–1598: From Nation-State to World Empire. Oxford: Blackwell.
MacDonald Paul K. 2004. Peripheral Pulls: Great Power Expansion and Lessons for the “American Empire.” Presented at the Conference of the International Studies Association, Montreal.
Machiavelli Niccòlo. 1994. Selected Political Writings. Cambridge, Hackett.
Mamdani Mahmood. 1996. Citizen and Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mastanduno Michael. 2005. “Hegemonic Order, September 11, and the Consequences of the Bush Revolution.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 5 (2): 17796.Google Scholar
McFaul Michael. 2002. “Reconstructing Afghanistan.” Journal of Democracy 13 (1): 17175.Google Scholar
Mercer John. 1995. “Anarchy and Identity.” International Organization 49 (2): 299352.Google Scholar
Montgomery Alexander H. 2005. “Proliferation Determinism or Pragmatism? How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network.” International Security 30 (2).Google Scholar
Motyl Alexander J. 1999. Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities. New York: Columbia University Press.
Motyl Alexander J. 2001. Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires. New York: Columbia University Press.
Motyl Alexander J. 2006. “Is Everything Empire? Is Empire Everything?Comparative Politics 38 (2): 22949.Google Scholar
Nation R. Craig. 1992. Black Earth, Red Star: A History of Soviet Security Policy, 1917–1991. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Newbury Colin. 2003. Patrons, Clients, and Empire: Chieftancy and Over-rule in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nexon Daniel. 2006. Religion, European identity, and political contention in historical perspective. Religion in an Expanding Europe, ed. T. A. Byrnes and P. J. Katzenstein. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 25682.
Nye Joseph S. Jr., 2003. “U.S. Power and Strategy After Iraq.” Foreign Affairs 82 (4): 6073.Google Scholar
Ostrogorski George. 1969. History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Padgett John F., and Christopher K. Ansell. 1993. “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434.” American Journal of Sociology 98 (6): 12591319.Google Scholar
Pagden Anthony. 2001. Peoples and Empires: a Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present. New York, Modern Library.
Paul T. V. 2005. “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy.” International Security 30 (1): 4671.Google Scholar
Peattie Mark R. 1984a. Introduction. The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945, ed. R. H. Myers and M. R. Peattie. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 360.
Peattie Mark R. 1984b. “The Nan'yo: Japan in the South Pacific, 1885–1945.” The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945, ed. R. H. Myers and M. R. Peattie. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 172212.
Pérez Joseph. 1970. La revolution des Comunidades de Castille, 1520–1521. Bordeaux, Bibliothèque de l'École des Hautes Études Hispaniques.
Philpott Daniel. 2001. Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Pollis Admantia. 1973. “Intergroup Conflict and British Colonial Policy: The Case of Cyprus.” Comparative Politics 39 (3): 28995.Google Scholar
Reus-Smit Christian. 1997. “Constructing Anarchy: The Constitutional Structure of International Society and the Nature of Fundamental Institutions.” International Organization 51 (4): 55589.Google Scholar
Ringer Fritz. 1997. Max Weber's Methodology: The Unification of the Cultural and Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rosen Stephen Peter. 2003. “An Empire, If You Can Keep It.” The National Interest (71): 5162.Google Scholar
Schmitt Eric, and Mark Landler. 2004. Cheney Calls for More Unity in Fight Against Terrorism. New York Times. September 25: 10.Google Scholar
Schweller Randall L. 2001. “The Problem of International Order Revisited: A Review Essay.” International Security 26 (1): 16186.Google Scholar
Simes Dimitri. 2003. “America's Imperial Dilemma.” Foreign Affairs 82 (6): 91100.Google Scholar
Simmel Georg. 1971. On Individuality and Social Forms. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Snyder Jack. 1991. Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Snyder Jack. 2003. “Imperial Temptation.” The National Interest (71): 2940.Google Scholar
Spruyt Hendrik. 1994. The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Spruyt Hendrik. 2005. Ending Empire: Contested Sovereignty and Territorial Partition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Stevenson William B., and Danna Greenberg. 2000. “Agency and Social Networks: Strategies of Action in a Social Structure of Position, Opposition, and Opportunity.” Administrative Science Quarterly 45 (4): 65178.Google Scholar
te Brake Wayne. 1998. Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics, 1500–1700. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Tilly Charles. 1978. Mobilization to Revolution. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Tilly Charles. 1997. How Empires End. After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building, ed. K. Barkey and M. von Hagen. Boulder, CO: Westview, 111.
Tilly Charles. 2002. Stories, Identities, and Political Change. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Tilly Charles. 2003. The Politics of Collective Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Waltz Kenneth. 1979. Theory of International Politics. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Waltz Kenneth. 2000. Structural Realism After the Cold War. International Security. 25: 541.Google Scholar
Ward-Perkins Bryan. 2005. The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Watson Adam. 1992. The Evolution of International Society. New York: Routledge.
Weber Katja. 1997. “Hierarchy amidst Anarchy: A Transaction Costs Approach to International Security Cooperation.” International Studies Quarterly 41 (2): 32140.Google Scholar
Wellman Barry. 1983. “Network Analysis: Some Basic Principles.” Sociological Theory 1: 155200.Google Scholar
Wellman Barry, and Stephen Berkowitz, eds. 1998. Social Structures: A Network Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wendt Alexander. 1994. “Collective Identity Formation and the International State.” American Political Science Review 88 (2): 38497.Google Scholar
Wendt Alexander, and Daniel Friedheim. 1995. “Hierarchy under Anarchy: Informal Empire and the East German State.” International Organization 49 (4): 689721.Google Scholar
White Harrison C. 1972. Do Networks Matter? Notes for Camden. Cambridge, MA: 26.
White Harrison C., Scott A. Boorman, et al. 1976. “Social Structure from Multiple Networks. I. Blockmodels of Roles and Positions.” American Journal of Sociology 81 (4): 73080.Google Scholar
Wohlforth William C. 1999. “The Stability of a Unipolar World.” International Security 24 (1): 541.Google Scholar
Zagorin Perez. 1982. Rulers and Rebels, 1500–1600. Volume II: Provincial Rebellion, Revolutionary Civil Wars, 1560–1660. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
119
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

What's at Stake in the American Empire Debate
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

What's at Stake in the American Empire Debate
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

What's at Stake in the American Empire Debate
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *