In The Rule of Empires, Timothy Parsons gives a sweeping account of the evolution of empire from its origins in ancient Rome to its most recent twentieth-century embodiment. He explains what constitutes an empire and offers suggestions about what empires of the past can tell us about our own historical moment. Parsons uses imperial examples that stretch from ancient Rome, to Britain's "new" imperialism in Kenya, to the Third Reich to parse the features common to all empires, their evolutions and self-justifying myths, and the reasons for their inevitable decline.
Parsons argues that far from confirming some sort of Darwinian hierarchy of advanced and primitive societies, conquests were simply the products of a temporary advantage in military technology, wealth, and political will. Beneath the self-justifying rhetoric of benevolent paternalism and cultural superiority lay economic exploitation and the desire for power. Yet imperial ambitions still appear viable in the twenty-first century, Parsons shows, because their defenders and detractors alike employ abstract and romanticized perspectives that fail to grasp the historical reality of subjugation.
Writing from the perspective of the common subject rather than that of the imperial conquerors, Parsons offers a historically grounded cautionary tale rich with accounts of subjugated peoples throwing off the yoke of empire time and time again. In providing an accurate picture of what it is like to live as a subject, The Rule of Empires lays bare the rationalizations of imperial conquerors and their apologists and exposes the true limits of hard power.
©2010 Timothy H. Parsons (P)2014 Audible Inc.
This is a very interesting book, clearly showing the common themes that connect all empires in history. They all have the same narratives to justify the violence and exploitation. Narratives that are all essential to keep the empire going since state's military assistance is always required to pick up the tab. To put the tab on the taxpayer you need a story of 'the white man's burden' 'the greater good' 'making the world safe for democracy'. The state violence is also required because the empire is usually build on an exclusive monopoly, like the British colonization of India.
It also becomes clear that every empire needs local assistance to reap the taxes of the subjects.
What was new to me is that empires seem to be less and less sustainable, since the oppressed can have more easy access to knowledge and defense. They can also easily mobilize international resistance. The Soviet empire lasted relatively short.
The author also nailed the Iraq occupation pretty well describing how a estimation of 50 billion $ of which 20 billion $ was taken from SDH, grew to a 3 trillion $ declaration bonanza for well connected companies on the tax payer's expense. The real exploited were actually in the USA. Certainly with the latest development in Iraq it seems that even the most powerful military in the world can not keep a small band of committed insurgence.
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