INQUIRY: Wishes for empire -- prompted by doubts of democracy?

Magnus Fiskesjö's picture

I have a short question for fellow H-Empire subscribers.

Do you know any recent readings that address the current-day nostalgia
or curiosity for empire, which seems to be growing, especially because
of today's widespread disappointments/doubts about democracy?

(I am thinking about how in the EU there is a lot of discussion about a
disconnect between voters and apparatchiks; in the US, an ever more
money-ridden politics corresponds to ever lower voting numbers. --In my
own field of Chinese/Asian studies there is a different kind of
discourse, sometimes repeated by Westerners, that Western democracy is
useless and inefficient in comparison with Chinese authoritarianism;
this kind of argument is often couple with the increasing admiration
for, and glorification of, past Chinese empires, -- something that also,
of course, has to do with how nationalism serves as a substitute for the
defunct Communist ideology).

(And, I sense that the globally rising nostalgia for empire often tries
to argue that, supposedly, empires have been able to "handle"
multiethnic populations in better ways than fractured nationstates
because these are founded on the notion of homogeneity; -- this of
course sidesteps the oppression of minorities/nations that empires have
typically engaged in, as well).

Any suggestions for readings/discussions regarding current-day
nostalgia/curiosity for empire?
I cannot find many.

Magnus Fiskesjö
Cornell U.

Categories: Query

You may wish to look at David Armitage in Theories of Empire (if you not have done so yet).  There are good passages about how the Roman Empire (Ancient World) was a contemporary justification for Empire (18th but mainly 19th century) but also a threat e.g. British freedom could be incompatible with Empire as the Roman lost its Republican state for imperial rule...this could be a start?



Alexandre Michaud

LLB, MSc, PhD candidate on 1763 Royal Proclamation and Aboriginal Rights in Canada.

Thank you to Alexandre Michaud, and to the several others who replied to me off-line, for interesting and valuable suggestions.

(ps. I probably was wrong to use the word "nostalgia" as several responders thought I was talking about former imperialists' nostalgia for their own past empires. But I was not thinking about former imperialists or of history, but mainly of the currently widespread disappointments/doubts about democracy which seems, today, to lead many towards admiring and embracing authoritarianism and empire. Russia and China are scary contemporary examples of this, of course, but I sense the same trends in the "West," as democratic institutions there are eaten by money, by moneycrats, and other antidemocratic forces. )