[lit-ideas] Empires, Liberal Democracies, and Core States

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 May 2014 13:22:12 -0700

Various “assertions” have been made alleging that the U.S. is an empire, but 
I’ve seen no “arguments” in the sense that you produce evidence and then draw a 
conclusion from the evidence that comprises the end point of an argument; ergo 
the U.S. is an empire.   I think of Niall Ferguson asserting that the U.S. is 
an empire, just not a very good one since it doesn't do any of the things that 
earlier empires did allows him to get away with a very soft definition, 
something along the lines of “the U.S. is the most powerful nation in the world 
therefore it is an empire.”  To assert as some do that “empires operate 
differently nowadays” is an assertion in search of an argument.  


To put it another way, if Rome, Britain, Spain, France and the Netherlands were 
at one time empires but the U.S. is “a different sort of empire,” then where do 
we find in this a definition of what an empire is?  And if you reply that the 
new definition is merely whatever the U.S. happens to be, then how is that a 
definition of “empire”?  


For the above reasons and many others, those who think about the modern era in 
mega-terms, especially Fukuyama and Huntington do not apply the term “empire” 
to the U.S.  Fukuyama doesn’t see the U.S. as being unique, merely the best 
example of a Liberal Democracy.  He sees all nations becoming Liberal 
Democracies in the future.  A state needs to become on if it is to succeed 
economically.  In fact, the most successful nations already are, either wholly 
or partly.  Think of the nations which aren’t successful today and the common 
explanation for why they are not is that they are not Liberal Democracies and 
do not have modern economies that participate in the “world economy.”   


Huntington, without addressing economies, as I recall, argued that wars will 
continue between Civilizations (using the common definition of “civilization” 
which he references in Clash of Civilizations) occurring along “fault lines,” 
those being the borders where a nation of one civilization is up against that 
of another, as in the case of Pakistan and India for example.  He also uses the 
term “core state.”  Within most civilizations there is a “core state.”  The 
U.S. is the “core state” in the “West” civilization.  Russia is the “core 
state” within the Eastern Orthodox civilization.  In Huntington’s terms, the 
U.S. is the most powerful nation in “the West.”   Things have indeed changed, 
and there are no more empires in the sense that Britain, Spain, France and the 
Netherlands were empires up until WWII the end of WWII.  Now you have “core 
states” and spheres of influence.  The problem with the Middle East isn’t that 
their states aren’t in the world economy as Liberal Democracies; it is that 
they don’t have a “core state.”  





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