Empires Without Imperialism: Anglo-American Decline and the Politics of Deflection

Paperback | April 24, 2014

byJeanne Morefield

not yet rated|write a review
The end of the Cold War ushered in a moment of nearly pure American dominance on the world stage, yet that era now seems ages ago. Since 9/11 many informed commentators have focused on the relative decline of American power in the global system. While some have welcomed this as a salutarydevelopment, outspoken proponents of American power - particularly neoconservatives - have lamented this turn of events. As Jeanne Morefield argues in Empires Without Imperialism, the defenders of a liberal international order steered by the US have both invoked nostalgia for a golden liberal pastand succumbed to amnesia, forgetting the decidedly illiberal trajectory of US continental and global expansion. Yet as she shows, the US is not the first liberal hegemon to experience a wave of misguided nostalgia for a bygone liberal order; England had a remarkably similar experience in the earlypart of the twentieth century. The empires of the US and the United Kingdom were different in character - the UK's was territorially based while the US relied more on pure economic power - yet both nations mouthed the rhetoric of free markets and political liberty. And elites in both paintedpictures of the past in which first England and then the US advanced the cause of economic and political liberty throughout the world.Morefield contends that at the times of their decline, elites in both nations utilized the attributes of an imagined past to essentialize the nature of the liberal state. Working from that framework, they bemoaned the possibility of liberalism's decline and suggested a return to a true liberal orderas a solution to current woes. By treating liberalism as fixed through time, however, they actively forgot their illiberal pasts as colonizers and economic imperialists. According to Morefield, these nostalgic narratives generate a cynical "politics in the passive" where the liberal state gets tohave it both ways: it is both compelled to act imperially to save the world from illiberalism and yet is never responsible for the outcome of its own illiberal actions in the world or at home. By comparing the practice and memory of liberalism in early nineteenth century England and the contemporary United States, Empires Without Imperialism addresses a major gap in the literature. While there are many examinations of current neoliberal imperialism by critical theorists as well asanalyses of liberal imperialism by scholars of the history of political thought, no one has of yet combined the two approaches. It thus provides a much fuller picture of the rhetorical strategies behind liberal imperialist uses of history. At the same time, the book challenges presentist assumptionsabout the novelty of our current political moment.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$21.21 online
$35.50 list price (save 40%)
Ships within 1-3 weeks
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

The end of the Cold War ushered in a moment of nearly pure American dominance on the world stage, yet that era now seems ages ago. Since 9/11 many informed commentators have focused on the relative decline of American power in the global system. While some have welcomed this as a salutarydevelopment, outspoken proponents of American po...

Jeanne Morefield is Associate Professor of Politics, Whitman College and author of Covenants without Swords (Princeton UP, 2005).

other books by Jeanne Morefield

Covenants without Swords: Idealist Liberalism and the Spirit of Empire
Covenants without Swords: Idealist Liberalism and the S...

Kobo ebook|Jan 10 2009

$25.29 online$32.74list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:April 24, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199387257

ISBN - 13:9780199387250

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Empires Without Imperialism: Anglo-American Decline and the Politics of Deflection

Extra Content

Table of Contents

IntroductionPart One: Strategies of Antiquity1. Alfred Zimmern's "Oxford Paradox": Displacement and Athenian Nostalgia2. Falling in Love With Athens: Donald Kagan on America and Thucydides' RevisionismPart Two: Metanarrative Strategies3. The Round Table's Story of Commonwealth4. The Empire Whisperer: Niall Ferguson's Misdirection, Disavowal and the Perilousness of Neoliberal TimePart Three: Strategies of Character5. Empire's Handyman: Jan Smuts and the Politics of International Holism6. Michael Ignatieff's Tragedy: Just As We Are, Here and NowConclusion: Conceptual Horizons and Conditions of Possibility: Is This the Swaraj That We Want?