The notion of empire has in recent years taken on a renewed importance in world politics. US foreign policy has in particular been associated with this concept by both critics and supporters of American global power. But what exactly is an empire? What distinguishes different forms of empire? Is this category still useful in a post-colonial world?
These and other related questions are addressed in this historically informed conceptual introduction to the idea of empire. Alejandro Colás draws on interdisciplinary debates surrounding this disputed notion and offers a survey of different imperial experiences across time and place. Successive chapters consider the imperial organization of political space, the role of markets in sustaining imperial rule and the contradictory expressions of imperial culture. Colás argues that in each of these arenas we can establish differences among empires but also contrast imperial polities to other forms of political rule. In addition he suggests that the experiences and legacies of empire are key to an understanding of the world today, including forms of global governance and experiments in nation-building.
Using wide-ranging examples, the book discusses some of the major theories of empire and imperialism in an accessible and engaging way. Above all, the text aims to bring the concept of empire alive to those concerned with contemporary world politics and society. It will be of great interest to those studying and teaching world history, international relations, comparative politics or global sociology.
Table of Contents
Chapter I: Empires in History
The Meanings of Empire
The Distinctiveness of Empire
Chapter II: Empire as Space
The Spatial Imagination of Empire:
Cosmology, Cartography and Government
The Spatial Organisation of Empire:
Frontier, Conquest and Administration
The Ottoman Empire
Spain’s American Empire
Imperial Legacies: Nation and Citizenship
in a Post-Colonial World
Chapter III: Empire as Market
Trade and Empire
Towards A World Market
Imperial Transformations at the Centre and Periphery
The Consequences of Capitalist Imperialism
Explaining Capitalist Imperialism
Chapter IV: Empire as Culture
Culture and Imperial Domination
Imperial Culture and the End
of the State of Nature in Spanish America
Colonial Racism and the Perils
Nativism and the Invention of Tradition in Africa Culture and the Subversion of Empire
Cultural Imperialism or Global Culture?
Chapter V: After Empire
The End of Empire?
“In this excellent book, Alejandro Colás draws together a wide range of theoretical perspectives and combines them with rich historical detail to illustrate his argument. That he does so in a concise, readable and yet rigorous way is something to be applauded. In short, Empire is a highly impressive achievement.”
—Ray Kiely, SOAS, University of London
“This is an impressive and erudite contribution to the international relations literature on empire. Its distinctive approach, which focuses upon the spatial, economic, and cultural attributes of empire, works very effectively. Moreover it offers a sophisticated critique of the idea of empire as a conceptual framework for thinking about the current global condition.”
—Anthony McGrew, University of Southampton