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Theorizing the American Empire: Life with a Bengal Tiger

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Theorizing the American Empire: Life with a Bengal Tiger

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  1. Theorizing the American Empire: Life with a Bengal Tiger Hans N. Weiler Stanford University Third Byblos Autumn School, September 2005

  2. Prelude Jefferson and the historic mission of the American empire: “May (this decision) be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to some parts later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.” (1826) Byblos, September 2005

  3. The legacy of “American exceptionalism” • The New England settlers as “the chosen people” • America as “the new Zion”, “the shining city on the hill”, the “Novus Ordo Seclorum” • Jedidiah Morse (1792), Albert Beveridge (ca. 1900) • Wehler: “a hinge joining Calvinist predestination with secular Messianism” Byblos, September 2005

  4. Debating the notion of American empire • Staunchly advocating the notion of American empire: Neo-cons and their intellectual brethren • The moderate critics: Theories of ambivalence about empire • Constructing alternative theories: Institutionalism and multi-polarity • The Skeptics: Rejecting the notion of American empire Byblos, September 2005

  5. Staunchly advocating the notion of American empire • Robert Kagan • Michael Mandelbaum • Et al.: Max Boot, Niall Ferguson, Richard Perle Byblos, September 2005

  6. The moderate critics: Theories of ambivalence about empire • Michael Ignatieff: Empire Lite • Ulrich Wehler: The informal empire • Josef Joffe: The empire in need of help Byblos, September 2005

  7. Constructing alternative theories: Institutionalism, multi-polarity, sovereignty, democracy • Joseph Nye: Hard and soft power • Robert Keohane: After Hegemony • Charles Kupchan: Multipolar worlds • Stephen Krasner: Crises of sovereignty • Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Empire and the multitude • Jennifer Pitts and Sankar Muthu: Liberalism’s ambiguous dance with empire Byblos, September 2005

  8. The Skeptics: Rejecting the notion of American empire • Andrew Bacevich: Perverted American militarism • David Rieff: Fantasies about empire • Emmanuel Todd: Too weak for empire • Harald Müller: Confrontative hegemony • Rashid Khalidi: Limitations of raw power Byblos, September 2005

  9. Back to the lifeboat Byblos, September 2005

  10. Questions for discussion (1) • 1. How helpful is Nye’s distinction between “hard” and “soft” power in understanding the role of the United States in world politics? • 2. A number of authors emphasize the role of developments in information and communi-cation technology in shaping the future of inter-national relations. Do you find this view per-suasive, and what is in your opinion the role of information technology in the future of international relations? Byblos, September 2005

  11. Questions for discussion (2) • 3. What is the empirical evidence for the emergence of a multi-polar world system, and how compelling and solid is it? • 4. How critical is military strength in sustaining U.S. influence in world politics, as compared to economic strength, moral integrity, or diplomatic skill? Byblos, September 2005

  12. Questions for discussion (3) • 5. How valid is the argument that a functioning U.S. hegemony is needed in order to effectively deal with humanitarian crises (à la Liberia, Kosovo, Zimbabwe)? If the argument is not valid, how do you propose that humanitarian crises should be effectively handled? Byblos, September 2005

  13. Questions for discussion (4) • 6. A hegemon, by definition, needs no democratic legitimation beyond the means (military, economic) to sustain his hegemony. How would a non-hegemonic world system – managed by, for example, international organizations – establish and sustain its legitimacy? Does Hardt’s and Negri’s notion of “multitude” (2004) solve that problem? Byblos, September 2005

  14. Questions for discussion (5) • 7. There are widely contrasting statements in the literature on the role of the United States in the world. E. Todd considers the U.S. “a superpower that has become economically dependent and politically redundant” (2004, 31). Michael Ignatieff argues, with a view to the U.S. and problems of “failed states”: “nobody likes empires, but there are some problems for which there are only imperial solutions” (2003, 11). Who is (more) right? Byblos, September 2005

  15. Questions for discussion (6) • 8. Charles Kupchan sees a connection between “the end of American primacy” in the world and “the end of a particular historical epoch – that of industrial capitalism, liberal democracy, and the nation state” (2002, 35). Do you agree? • 9. Is “transnational interdependence” (Nye) a viable alternative to hegemony, American or otherwise? Byblos, September 2005

  16. Email: weiler@stanford.eduwww.stanford.edu/people/weiler Byblos, September 2005