Europe, like America
I have participated, for the first time, in the annual convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), in
* ‘empire’ as a polity,
* and ‘imperialism’ as a policy.
‘Empire’ is indeed a form of political community, which can be characterized by encompassing a vast territory, having mobile frontiers, a variety of local formulas and a diversity of links with the center, which has existed for most of human history. In contrast to empire, ‘state’ is another form of polity implying fixed borders, homogeneity and a unique center of ‘sovereignty’, which has successfully existed only on a minority of the world territory for only about three hundred years.
‘Imperialism’ is a different thing: an expansive, proactive form of foreign policy which may be developed by both states and empires. But there are non-imperialist empires as they are imperialist states, and viceversa.
Some confusion between ‘empire’ and ‘authoritarian command’ (close to the original meaning of ‘imperium’ in Latin) derives from the fact that many empires existed in the past when no formulas had been invented to make a vast territory and varied population compatible with democratic rule –as was noted by Jan Zielonka (Oxford U.). Only since the United States of America were created in the late eighteenth century, there can be and there are democratic ‘empires’, typically evolving into more stable federations. Among them we have nowadays–as was widely discussed in the ISA convention—the ongoing European Union.
It can even be hold that in modern times, ‘imperialist’ policies are more characteristic of states than of empires. The colonial empires were indeed built by the most powerful nation-states in Europe, especially
On building the American and the European ‘empires’
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