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Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States

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Herfried Munkler is a walking one-man think tank. Die Zeit Until recently, it was thought by many that empires were relics of the past. But suddenly, in the wake of 9/11, the global war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, the question of imperial power has returned to the centre of debate: we now seem to be faced with a new American empire that many people regard as threat Herfried Munkler is a walking one-man think tank. Die Zeit Until recently, it was thought by many that empires were relics of the past. But suddenly, in the wake of 9/11, the global war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, the question of imperial power has returned to the centre of debate: we now seem to be faced with a new American empire that many people regard as threatening. Do the politicians in Washington dictate the rules that the rest of the world must follow? Or do empires have a logic of their own to which even the most powerful rulers must succumb? In this major new book, Herfried Munkler analyses the characteristics of empires and traces the rise and fall of imperial powers from Ancient Rome to the present day. What is an empire? What risks does an imperial order face and what opportunities are offered? Munkler shows how empires provide stability and examines the dangers they face when their powers are overstretched. He argues that, while earlier empires from Ancient China and Ancient Rome to the Spanish, Portuguese and British empires had their own historical conditions, certain basic principles concerning the development and preservation of power can be discerned in all empires and are still relevant today. This book is a commanding walk through the history of empires and at the same time a brilliant analysis of the most modern of topics. It will appeal to students and scholars of international politics and history as well as general readers interested in political history and contemporary world politics.


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Herfried Munkler is a walking one-man think tank. Die Zeit Until recently, it was thought by many that empires were relics of the past. But suddenly, in the wake of 9/11, the global war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, the question of imperial power has returned to the centre of debate: we now seem to be faced with a new American empire that many people regard as threat Herfried Munkler is a walking one-man think tank. Die Zeit Until recently, it was thought by many that empires were relics of the past. But suddenly, in the wake of 9/11, the global war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, the question of imperial power has returned to the centre of debate: we now seem to be faced with a new American empire that many people regard as threatening. Do the politicians in Washington dictate the rules that the rest of the world must follow? Or do empires have a logic of their own to which even the most powerful rulers must succumb? In this major new book, Herfried Munkler analyses the characteristics of empires and traces the rise and fall of imperial powers from Ancient Rome to the present day. What is an empire? What risks does an imperial order face and what opportunities are offered? Munkler shows how empires provide stability and examines the dangers they face when their powers are overstretched. He argues that, while earlier empires from Ancient China and Ancient Rome to the Spanish, Portuguese and British empires had their own historical conditions, certain basic principles concerning the development and preservation of power can be discerned in all empires and are still relevant today. This book is a commanding walk through the history of empires and at the same time a brilliant analysis of the most modern of topics. It will appeal to students and scholars of international politics and history as well as general readers interested in political history and contemporary world politics.

30 review for Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leopold Benedict

    This is an example of German academic style that I dislike: dull, pretentious and lacking substance. There were interesting bits and pieces here and there, but Münkler claims that this is a systematic, scientific analysis. Where is the method? He basically jumps from place to place and time to time and rambles about his own thoughts about the subject at hand, and calls that scientific method. I would be more sympathetic with this book, if it was not sold as science. Another problem that I have a This is an example of German academic style that I dislike: dull, pretentious and lacking substance. There were interesting bits and pieces here and there, but Münkler claims that this is a systematic, scientific analysis. Where is the method? He basically jumps from place to place and time to time and rambles about his own thoughts about the subject at hand, and calls that scientific method. I would be more sympathetic with this book, if it was not sold as science. Another problem that I have after reading this, is that it is still not clear what Münkler's argument is. The definition of empire remains vague, as does the application of the concept to the contemporary United States. In the end, I do believe that the subject is fascinating and worthy to be written about, but Münkler does not add much to the debate.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Samir Salifou

    In Empires Herfried Münkler writes a comparative analysis about empires and their role in world politics. His analysis looks at the difference between modern empires and empires as far back as Rome and Mongolia. The author attempts to delineate between an empire and a hegemonic state. His analysis hints at the notion that the United States may fit the definition of a modern Empire but never explicitly comes to such a conclusion. Though his definition of “empire” was somewhat vague, I recognize In Empires Herfried Münkler writes a comparative analysis about empires and their role in world politics. His analysis looks at the difference between modern empires and empires as far back as Rome and Mongolia. The author attempts to delineate between an empire and a hegemonic state. His analysis hints at the notion that the United States may fit the definition of a modern Empire but never explicitly comes to such a conclusion. Though his definition of “empire” was somewhat vague, I recognize the importance of the scholarship in this book. Herfried Münkler conducts a qualitative analysis by taking a historical perspective on empires and their role in international relations. He starts by differentiating an empire from a hegemon, saying the latter is typically a state that has won supremacy over other states in an ongoing competition among equals, whereas empires are no longer competing, but are settled in their role of world dominance. This is an important distinction in his analysis, which leads him to ostensibly frame the United States as an empire.The author essentially lays out the question as to whether the United States’ position as the sole global superpower in a post Cold War world has caused it to be an empire with dominion over world affairs, or if it is still just a hegemon competing for global supremacy. Ultimately it may be too soon to tell whether a post Cold War United States is an empire. Before this question is answered, the United States must first define how it wants to project its power across the globe. If the example of the 2003 Iraq War era of preemptive warfare is going to be the model then empire may well be the goal of American foreign policy. Yet if the post Obama doctrine of engaged collective action (such as in Libya, Iran, or Ukraine) sets a new precedence, than America will define itself as a hegemon among equals. President Obama said during a speech at West Point, “We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else … that’s why we form alliances – not only with governments, but with ordinary people.” If this doctrine prevails, then the claims of an American empire would fall short of Münkler’s definition.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    An academic book that looks at the Imperial model and how it structures historic and future political and social behaviors. Its thesis is that historically most humans were organized within the structure of empire and that, whilst in the last decades this subject has been seen as negatively connotated and as not as relevant with the fall of 19th century empires and the end of the cold war, it will be making its comeback in future discourse. Personally this book really effected my worldview and a An academic book that looks at the Imperial model and how it structures historic and future political and social behaviors. Its thesis is that historically most humans were organized within the structure of empire and that, whilst in the last decades this subject has been seen as negatively connotated and as not as relevant with the fall of 19th century empires and the end of the cold war, it will be making its comeback in future discourse. Personally this book really effected my worldview and allowed me to explain and interpret differently many political trends and behaviors that have been happening currently. We live in very chaotic times and overview can be far-sought. Munkler provided me with many insights and ideas that pointed out my own ignorance on current political processes and I am very happy it did. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who want gain some insight into the goings on of international behaviors. It reads away decently so i'd say its fit for use outside academia

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zare

    I came across this book by accident. I was looking into a book about history of Hapsburg monarchy and I saw this book with pretty interesting title so I decided to buy them both. First and foremost this is not an easy read - and I think it was not meant to be a popular read for everybody. It is densely written with a lot of foot-notes and references. It is a serious read and it may take you some time to go through it - but trust me when I tell you it is worth it. I just read one of the comments on I came across this book by accident. I was looking into a book about history of Hapsburg monarchy and I saw this book with pretty interesting title so I decided to buy them both. First and foremost this is not an easy read - and I think it was not meant to be a popular read for everybody. It is densely written with a lot of foot-notes and references. It is a serious read and it may take you some time to go through it - but trust me when I tell you it is worth it. I just read one of the comments on the book saying that author is off-target when it comes to United States. I think that (with all due respect) reader is completely off-target because this is not a book that is written to portray this or that state of modern times as an empire (last chapter shows as much) - author tries to explain that from beginning of time countries have tried to exert their power and might over the other countries - thus they became first hegemon's or what you might call primus-inter-pares in state alliances. But very rarely do they stay at that position of power. Why? Simple, because of two things - (a) when someone is enjoying privilege and higher status (how ever it is achieved - through valor and hard work or through not so noble ways) that breeds resentment in others especially if there is no common enemy or cause (this is something that is true for any sphere of human activity) and (b) that same privilege and higher status is something that nobody is willing to give up no matter the cost. This breeds hostility and this culminates in conflict. Faced with possibility that others may unite against them hegemons feel need to grow and expand to avoid being completely dissolved. Their fighting and gaining more and more ground sets them on the path to the empire. Some succeed, some fail, some last for millennia but the point is that states will fight to expand their zone of influence until there is no longer point to grow - when borders of known world are conquered. When that point is reached empire needs to find the way to manage itself internally (don't you find it very easy to complaint on others and feel rather silly when there is no-one to complain about than you - same is with states, small or great - internal issues are always greater cause of concern than external issues). This step is what author calls "The Augustan threshold". It marks the period of decline but if it is properly managed this decline can last very long and may not be decline at all but controlled fall that may provide other alleys and venues for the empire to prosper and survive. But very rare are those that manage this. So to wrap up my review - this book is not about naming names but about showing patterns in behavior of great states and how they embark on the path to empire not solely because they want but because natural order of things forces them to do that in order to survive. And if someone recognizes behavior of some countries while reading this book that just proves the authors point. Nature knows of no vacuum and there is no vacuum in the world of politics. Only thing required to have peace is to have balance and (near) equality present (full equality is rarely achievable and even then it is situation more akin to rivalry than camaraderie) - otherwise things may turn sour for everybody. Recommended for anyone interested in politics and/or history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    A Eurocentric take on the old idea that America is an Empire, in both good and bad ways. Not many new ideas, not very interesting. Nice maps though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Milen Ivanov

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hiroyuki Shibata

  8. 5 out of 5

    Goth Buddha

  9. 5 out of 5

    Philippe Mckay

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan Puetz

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Asens de Ramon

  12. 4 out of 5

    Habib Radhi

  13. 5 out of 5

    Antonio

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sven

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aex

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  17. 4 out of 5

    blacksheep01

  18. 5 out of 5

    Milen Ivanov

  19. 4 out of 5

    Strange Traveler

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anton

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marc

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Jungblut

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tokalon86

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emiel Janssen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Caner Çelebioğlu

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nightocelot

  27. 4 out of 5

    Arda

  28. 5 out of 5

    Corvin Ninua

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bosko Vukovic

  30. 5 out of 5

    Saras Alfiasari

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