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UFPPC (www.ufppc.

org) Digging Deeper Xl @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA) January


14, 2008, 7:00 p.m.

Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors


(Cambridge, MA, & London: Harvard University Press, 2007 [revised];
hardcover, 2006).

Prologue: Questions at the Outset. Book Imperialism (48-59). Genealogy of the


is an “extended essay” that aims “to theory (49-50). Historians’ desire to deny
examine what empires are and what they do “that markets might have a connection with
and whether the United States has come to empire”; Richard Koebner’s 1964 volume,
share the traints and behaviors that marked Imperialism: The Story and Significance of a
the others. . . . At the end I have decided to Political Word (55 & n. 49). Maier revives the
avoid claiming that the United States is or is economic theory of empire, with an
not an empire [hence Maier’s use of the emphasis on the signficance of power (55-
neutral term ‘ascendancy’]. I have found 59). Hegemon or Empire? (59-70). “In the
such assertions so polarizing that readers modern era, colonial empires perished
never get past the definition. Instead, I because the force needed to preserve them
argue that the United States reveals many, seemed unacceptable to a paralyzing
but not all―at least not yet―of the traits fraction of domestic opinion” (61). The
that have distinguished empires” (3). Some argument that the U.S. is a hegemon, not an
states are empires; others have them (5-7). empire (62-70). “Perhaps it is best to
“Empire is a form of political organization in consider the United States as having
which the social elements that rule in the established multiple zones of control in its
dominant states―the ‘mother country’ or the career as a great power” (66-67). At home,
‘metropole’―create a network of allied elites the U.S. is not an empire: “Not yet, at least”
in regions abroad who accept subordination (69). The significance of elections (69-70).
in international affairs in return for the Military Resources (70-75). “Ultimately
security of their position in their own empire requires military supremacy” (70).
administrative unit (the ‘colony’ or, in spatial Franz Schurmann, The Logic of World Power
terms, the ‘periphery’)” (7; cf. 31). (1974): “Nuclear policy was the weapon with
Widespread popularity of the concept in the which America built its empire” (71).
U.S. today (7-12). How much longer can it Foundations of Roman & American power
last? (12-14). A personal note: better the (71-75). Decline and Fall (75-77). “Empires
U.S. than some other nation, but fears “it are epics of entropy” (76). “The dirty little
debases democratic institutions” (15). secret of empire is that for all the rhetoric of
‘burden,’ it is often psychologically fulfilling
PART ONE: Recurring Structures.
for those who run it and provides a good
Introduction: The Imperial Arena. living for those who justify it” (77).
Empires (19-21). “[T]he domestic victim of
Ch. 2: Frontiers. Functions of the Frontier
empire is not necessarily democracy but the
(80-87). “Proconsuls at the frontier
control of war and peace by traditional
frequently enter a symbiotic relationship with
legislatures” (21). “The empire is a field of
those whom we style the Right at home”
dreams and an arena for combat” (23).
(79). Politics at the Border, Politics at the
Ch. 1: What Is an Empire? Defining Center (87-92). Toward a Typology of
Empire: Process and Structures (24-45). Frontiers (93-101). Anti-adversarial borders
Debate over definition (24-26). Conquest of distinguished from anti-incursive borders
North America and nation-building (26-30). (93). Inside the Frontier (101-06). Walls in
Note on language (30-31). Land empires vs. the Head? Walls on the Ground? (106-11).
maritime empires (32). Insitutions of empire “Like deterrents in warfare, frontiers evoke a
(“webs of co-opted sociability” [33]), many of world in which force might ultimately have to
which the U.S. has (32-36). “Emperor” (36- resolve disputes” (110).
39). “Empire” (39-45). Explaining Empire
Ch. 3: “Call It Peace.” Lessons from
(45-48). Revisiting the Economic Theory of
Tacitus: Roman atrocities (112-15).
Repertories of Violence (116-18; 127-29). willing to trade wealth for preponderance.
Suppression of the native race (118-20). . . . Free trade was the pendant of monetary
Impose the habits of peace (120-21). Noises hegemony” (225). The Imperial Vocation in
Off (121-23). How not to die (123-26). Doubt: in the 1970s, a new basis of
Ancient hatreds (126-27). Resistance, hegemony emerged based not only on dollar
Rebellion, and Repression (129-36). “[T]he hegemony but also on “agricultural products,
reciprocal terror and atrocities of rebels and computer technology, financial services, a
rulers” (131); “history’s ‘tragic’ demands” prestigious higher education system, an
(136). Aftermaths (136-40). Refusal to infectious popular culture . . . and the
generalize (139-40). willingness to voraciously consume world
products so long as their manufacturers
PART TWO: America’s Turn.
subsidized their purchase” (233; 228-37).
Introduction: Highland Park and [N.B. This benign account, which implicitly
Hiroshima. Argues that “imperial systems invites the reader to sympathize with the
are scalar, like fractals or, more precisely, élite’s good intentions, constrasts sharply
Mandelbrot patterns,” if they last for a with Naomi Klein’s account in The Shock
generation or more (146). Doctrine.]
Ch. 4: Frontiers and Forces in the Cold Ch. 6: An Empire of Consumption.
War. Non-Ultimate Weapons: The Second Wind: Reorganizing American Power
Requisites of Ascendancy (152-54). “To a (239-46). Global Transitions: “a series of
degree far greater than the so-called Pax stunning political, economic, and even
Britannica, United States ascendancy has cultural reversals that no sober observer
combined strategic assets with economic would have predicted twenty years earlier:
and ideological elements” (151). The first, a partial abandonment of the Keynesian
complexity of “security in the twentieth welfare state that had emerged in different
century” (153). Partitioning the Postwar forms throughout Western Europe after the
World (154-70). :American efforts . . . went Second World War; second, the collapse of
into establishing the frontiers” (155). Rejects communism as a rival system; and third, the
view that the Cold War was due to grand revival of religious commitments throughout
designs on either side. Coordinating Western the globe” (250; 246-54). The British
Defense; argues for the primacy of financial Empire: The New American Vocation (255-
considerations; “the United States gradually 77). Technology’s Utopias: Digital
made the transition from serving as an Democracy and Post-Territorial Empire (277-
industrial exporter controlling technological 84).
advantages, to financier providing
Afterword: The Vase of Uruk.
international capital, to rentier” (178; 170-
81). The Problematic Soviet Frontier (181- Tables. Table 1: Current account and federal
90). budget balances, 1960-2004; Table 2: Foreign
capital inflows to the United States, 1960-2004;
Ch. 5: An Empire of Production. The Table 3: Net international investment position
Politics of Productivity and the Battle for (NIIP) and British NIIP (1865-1913) as % of GDP.
Labor: the sources of American prosperity,
emphasizing “Fordism” and its “mass Notes. 46 pp. Bibliography on U.S. as empire
production and standardized labor (301-02).
contracts”; “internal division” in the working
Acknowledgments. Benefactors, colleagues,
class was a key to the 20th century (198; 192-
students (Daniel Sargent, research assistant),
206). An Elusive Hegemony: the U.S.’s family. (“Students of empire still belong happily
“commitment to sustaining a transnational to the republic of letters” [347-48].)
economy” and provision of financial benefits
was key to establishing American hegemony; Index. 23 pp.
for European countries, acceptance of
monetary convertiblity in the late 1940s was [About the Author. Charles S. Maier teaches is
the price of this (214; 206-28). “Ultimately a Leverett Saltonstall professor of European and
society’s welfare derives from the lending as international history at Harvard University, where
much from the repayment” (223). “At least he has taught since 1981. He previously taught
at Duke and the Universitat Bielefeld in Germany.
until the mid-1960s . . . Americans were
His A.B. (summa cum laude) in history is from The Politics of Inflation and Economic Stagnation
Harvard (1960); he studied at Oxford University (1985). Maier is a member of the American
from 1960-61 and received his Ph.D. in history Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on
from Harvard (1967). Maier is the Director of the Foreign Relations. He has held a Guggenheim
Center for European Studies and the Krupp Fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Research
Foundation Professor of European Studies, and Prize, an appointment as a Distinguished Senior
has recently completed service as Chair of the Visitor to the American Academy in Berlin, and
Committee on Degrees in Social Studies. He was awarded the Commander's Cross of the
teaches “core” courses on the two world wars, German Federal Republic. Maier has not
post-war Europe, and international relations, as cultivated the status of pundit and is not widely
well as History Department offerings on known, but he opposed the Iraq war and was
twentieth-century topics on modern Italy. He is intellectual circles a prominent critic of Francis
the author of Dissolution: The Crisis of Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis. His wife,
Communism and the End of East Germany Pauline Maier, 70, a former student of Bernard
(1997); The Unmasterable Past: History, Bailyn, is the daughter of a firefighter and William
Holocaust, and German National Identity (1988); R. Kenan Jr. professor of American history at
In Search of Stability: Explorations in Historical M.I.T., specializing in the American Revolution.
Political Economy (1987); Recasting Bourgeois The Maiers have five children.]
Europe (1975, 1988). He has edited collections
entitled The Marshall Plan and Germany (1991),
Changing Boundaries of the Political (1987), and