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Among empires : American ascendancy and its predecessors /
Charles S. Maier.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2006.
description
373 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN
0674021894 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2006.
isbn
0674021894 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
5865074
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2006-02-20:
Harvard historian Maier's brilliant study of the nature of imperial power throughout history offers a glimpse not only at the character of empire but also at how the current American political regime measures up to past empires. Maier distinguishes between "being" an empire (such as Rome) and "having" an empire (such as Britain); in the latter, power is exercised from afar and colonies are treated in ways that the imperial power's own citizens wouldn't accept. All empires require military supremacy as well as a class of elite rulers who seek to control human and natural resources. Violence is a component of empires, both on the part of those who resist empire and on the part of the ruling class. Empires, according to Maier, set out to mark out their frontiers, in order to control the movement of people and to settle colonists in defined areas. Finally, every empire in history has experienced a decline and fall. Modern America contains many, but not all, of these seeds of empire, writes Maier; for instance, the U.S. dominates through consumer capitalism rather than violence. America acts much like an empire in its quest to make the world more like itself. Maier's subtle study brooks no rivals in its assessment of American empire. 4 b&w illus. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2006-10-01:
Maier (Harvard Univ.) asks whether or not the superpower US is a true empire. He looks at classical empires, including Rome, China, Spain, and Britain, among others. All empires start with a grand mission. In their successes, they acquire imperial characteristics: an elitist attitude, military prowess, territorial conquest, economic wealth, technological advantages. Ultimately, Maier concludes, "empire is a project to dominate time as well as space." However, time is the measurement of things undergoing change. Once having reached the pinnacle of success, decline inevitably awaits all empires. In this context, yet with the ambivalence of a modern democracy, the US does fit the profile of an empire, however benevolent it may see itself. Elegantly written, Maier's study compares favorably with Niall Ferguson's Colossus (CH, Nov'04, 42-1836) and Lloyd Gardner and M. B. Young's The New American Empire (2005). ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General and graduate collections. S. Prisco III Stevens Institute of Technology
Reviews
Review Quotes
Charles Maier has pulled off a remarkable feat by writing a book on empire that dwells largely on the recent history of the United States and that is explicitly and even agressively nonpartisan.
empires...Maier's subtle study brooks no rivals in its assessment of American empire. (Starred review)
Having defined empire and laid out the precedents, Maier traces the last sixty years of American action on the world stage. Readers can judge for themselves if and when the U.S. turned imperial.
Maier has a masterful historic grasp and his analysis is wide-ranging and comprehensive. However, this is by no means an introductory book, and students who wish to know more about the subject will be challenged by its discursive and reflective style. On the other hand, for those who have an understanding of the issues, Maier's virtuoso analysis and its broad historic sweep will be both informative and entertaining. The book makes a major contribution to current debates and should be widely consulted by anyone interested in contemporary international events.
Maier's brilliant study of the nature of imperial power throughout history offers a glimpse not only at the character of empire but also at how the current American political regime measures up to past empires...Maier's subtle study brooks no rivals in its assessment of American empire. (Starred review)
Charles Maier's explorations of imperial predicaments are both broad and deep. His historically rich and analytically focused approach illuminates America's ascendancy in world affairs. This elegant book is a gem of circumspect wisdom.
Many of us wonder in what ways our country is--and is not--like the empires of the past. We wonder, too, if we can profit from their triumphs or learn from their failures. In this elegantly written tour de force of fair-minded comparative history, Charles Maier provides us with the materials for answering these questions for ourselves.
Powerful in analysis, rich in learning, dazzling in historical sweep and elegant in style, Among Empires will become a modern classic, indispensable to our understanding of the powerful forces that govern our world.
This is a truly masterly essay, which brilliantly succeeds in setting the phenomenon of American ascendancy in its proper historical context--as the one of many forms of imperial organization. Much has been written of late on the subject of American empire. In its multi-faceted erudition and its scrupulous ambivalence, Among Empires is in a league of its own. I cannot praise it too highly. I envy its author's scholarship and the wonderful subtlety of his analysis.
This is a truly masterly essay, which brilliantly succeeds in setting the phenomenon of American ascendancy in its proper historical context-as the one of many forms of imperial organization. Much has been written of late on the subject of American empire. In its multi-faceted erudition and its scrupulous ambivalence, Among Empires is in a league of its own. I cannot praise it too highly. I envy its author's scholarship and the wonderful subtlety of his analysis.
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, February 2006
Choice, October 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
With learning, dispassion and clarity, this book offers comparisons and an original account of American power. It explores the exercise of US power in the 19th and 20th centuries, analysing its economic and strategic sources and the nation's relationship to predecessors and rivals.
Long Description
original account of American power. It confirms that the issue of empire must be a concern of every citizen.
Main Description
Contemporary America, with its unparalleled armaments and ambition, seems to many commentators a new empire. Others angrily reject the designation. What stakes would being an empire have for our identity at home and our role abroad? A preeminent American historian addresses these issues in light of the history of empires since antiquity. This elegantly written book examines the structure and impact of these mega-states and asks whether the United States shares their traits and behavior. Eschewing the standard focus on current U.S. foreign policy and the recent spate of pro- and anti-empire polemics, Charles S. Maier uses comparative history to test the relevance of a concept often invoked but not always understood. Marshaling a remarkable array of evidence--from Roman, Ottoman, Moghul, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and British experience--Maier outlines the essentials of empire throughout history. He then explores the exercise of U.S. power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, carefully analyzing its economic and strategic sources and the nation's relationship to predecessors and rivals. To inquire about empire is to ask what the United States has become as a result of its wealth, inventiveness, and ambitions. It is to confront lofty national aspirations with the realities of the violence that often attends imperial politics and thus to question both the costs and the opportunities of the current U.S. global ascendancy. With learning, dispassion, and clarity, Among Empires offers bold comparisons and an original account of American power. It confirms that the issue of empire must be a concern of every citizen.
Table of Contents
Questions at the Outset
Recurring Structures
Introduction: The Imperial Arena
What Is an Empire?
Frontiers
"Call It Peace"
America's Turn
Introduction: Highland Park and Hiroshima
Frontiers and Forces in the Cold War
An Empire of Production
An Empire of Consumption
Afterword: The Vase of Uruk
Tables
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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