Published on October 1st, 2019. All rights reserved.


Introduction – The World System and the Permanence of Empires

“A large part of mankind’s ingenuity had gone into inventing new ways of killing and torturing other human beings, and the threat of pain or death had been found to be the best, and often the only, means of ruling large numbers of people. In several parts of the world, in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in Persia, in India, in China, empires had been formed or were in the process of being formed to rule over vast areas and millions of subjects. These empires gave their people law, which is to say a measure of peace and security against the violence of other people like themselves. But they provided no security against the rulers themselves, who ruled by violence and guile, and whose will was absolute.” (Charles Van Doren, A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future, p. 3)


This publication studies international power and the global system of states and supranational bodies that govern them, and the driving narratives and actors at the forefront of globalization. It is best to remember that globalization is a deep, ongoing process that has been taking place for centuries, that we are in the midst of this process and that it may yet have many stages, forms and epochs of political and historical significance. Globalization is associated with dynamism, innovation, development, polarization and stratification, integration, interdependence and acceleration into new systems of greater modernization and prosperity – an era characterized by heightened risk and opportunity. Other aspects of globalization include competition, evolution, adaptation, irreversibility and potential zero-sum outcomes from a socio-economic standpoint.

The 21st century looks to be an era of deep international upheaval marked by concentration of wealth and power among the elites, and a downgrading equalization or economic leveling among the general populations of nation states. The global age also means global governance, with heightened tension between citizens who identify with nation-states, and a transnational ruling class without allegiance to any nation, ethnic group or civilization. Many people do not recognize, or perhaps do not wish to acknowledge the absorption of nation‑states into the supranational system that we are witnessing. Power structures and those who control or benefit from them do not invite examination or wish to be studied. The main narrative of globalization that is being advanced is ongoing change and transformation, with impending crisis and potential catastrophe, and the necessity of adhering to a specific brand of reactive philosophy that benefits the imperial interest. It should come as no surprise that the concept and reality of winner take all is welcomed by those who have gained a large degree of control over the levers of power, and are now in a position to create the largest imperial system in world history.

The inherent risk comes from conflict and economic destabilization, and centralized control from a dominating ruling class, as the historical record and the landscape of great empires demonstrate. In recent years, many writers and scholars have turned their attention to empires in our era, with Imperial Studies being offered as a major or specialty at multiple faculties of universities in Western nations. They study empires in a somewhat distant manner asserting that the 20th century was the final imperial twilight, and generally focus on past empires under the assumption that the possibility of future empires has ended, refusing to acknowledge and investigate the imperial machinery that is being erected all around them. Whether it be international relations or political science, the study of empires has received considerable attention, particularly after the second American invasion of Iraq in 2001, when much discussion involved parallels between Rome and the United States, with numerous imperial comparisons, analogies and warnings.

Many professors in various disciplines also report being swamped with too much administrative work to be able to devote sufficient time to research and the publishing of original ideas. [1] They are bound in a dual straitjacket by excessive busywork and political correctness that prevents penetrating studies, innovative thinking, and the breakdown of boundaries that is the hallmark of excellent scholarship. Many professors who do have sufficient time on their hands seem to ignore the present realities of power and empire, and refuse to acknowledge the possibility that empires exist or that new ones may emerge in the future. During an interview at Princeton University in February 2018, British scholar Anthony Hopkins, a specialist in European colonialism and global imperialism, stated that Western empires, “were the principal agents of globalization from the seventeenth century to the second half of the twentieth century.” His comment reinforces the importance of understanding the important role that empires have played in their bid for power and in shaping our societies in the modern age. Towards the end of the interview, he echoed the idea shared by many other academics when he asserted that “The age of great empires had passed.” [2] In 1996, Harvard historian and political scientist Samuel P. Huntington wrote in the preface of Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that his book

“…aspires to present a framework, a paradigm, for viewing global politics that will be meaningful to scholars and useful to policymakers… The test is whether it provides a more meaningful and useful lens through which to view international developments than any alternative paradigm. In addition, no paradigm is eternally valid.” (Empahasis added) [3]

Our thesis is a direct rebuttal of both statements. Empire and the pursuit of power have not passed, and are permanent paradigms as old as recorded history, and which are only intensifying. Empires transcend all cultures, civilizations, geographic and ideological boundaries, and are the best starting point for understanding and analyzing the world system and the myriad historical patterns, processes and developments we are witnessing. Empires are the final stage or manifestation of organized human government. Their origin is the drive to obtain power without limit or restraint, both in terms of influence and space. The logical conclusion of human history is the emergence of a dominant global empire that surpasses all milestones set by previous great empires, as the possibility of consolidating absolute centralized power is now a reality. Traditional empire is marked by vast size or scope and the ability to tax large populations and marshal significant military power and project it at will. It is the largest political unit limited only by planetary dimensions.

During a White House ceremony on November 11, 2002, President George W. Bush, in reference to the conflict in Iraq and in laying out his doctrine of nation-building, declared that “We have no territorial ambitions, we don’t seek an empire. Our nation is committed to freedom for ourselves and others.” [4] In 2004, journalist Ron Suskind reported a conversation with a White House aide widely believed to be Karl Rove, where he posed a question regarding the existence of a “reality‑based community”. Rove responded: “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors.” [5]

In spite of comments such as these, Western professors and their university counterparts generally do not take a hard look at the global behemoth that is forming above us, the expansion of authority of various international bodies and organizations under American or European leadership, and for the most part only chip away at ‘history’s actors’, and the imperial power-structure that is quietly gaining massive stature. It could mean professional suicide to venture too high or too deep into this subject. While much has been written about American empire and imperial methods that the US has employed in recent years, this study will focus on the evolution of American power within the larger narrative of UN imperialism. The United Nations has been described by political scholars as “the centerpiece of global governance since its inception, despite its many weaknesses.” [6] It is also an invention of Euro-American elites, which will be explored in greater detail in following chapters. The UN is a governing body that is bolstered by other organizations to carry out its mission, to ensure and enforce peace and order, releasing a steady stream of edicts and decrees on an unprecedented scale, bolstered by conferences and meetings where governments and officials meet to promote their views, enhance their careers, and seek solutions to global challenges in the realm of policy, security and development. A noticeable transfer of power from nation-states to multilateral organizations is a major development that has taken center stage.  Over 1,500 international bodies fall under the UN umbrella.

When we examine the current imperial landscape as of this writing, there are 3 existent empires – the USA, the EU and China. They control and govern their respective global areas as the 3 main geostrategic regions of power, though the EU is more bureaucratic than the United States and China, who more closely fit the classic model of empires and are the two current heavyweights that are given close attention. All three are nuclear powers, and both the EU and the USA have been referred to as “empires by invitation”. There is however, a fourth emerging empire taking shape that is closely aligned with the EU, moderately aligned with the USA as its headquarters are in New York (despite the tensions with the American populace that have existed over the last several decades), and in a lower state of alignment with China, though there is a gradual transition as China is being given more responsibility over UN-related organs and becoming more aligned with the international system, and they have had a permanent seat on the UN Security Council since the beginning. Russia is still a great power due to its military might and strategic importance, caught in a careful balancing act with China, and encroaching upon Europe as far as the US will permit.

What should be emphasized is the growing ideological campaign of the UN, and the creation of a core narrative has been carefully crafted and nurtured for close to a century that is heavily promoted by other media and state institutions, for the purpose of directing the aspirations and destiny of humanity. One of the many ways in which this is done is through financial support and career advancement of those who adhere to and are the most zealous acolytes of the new brand of imperial ideology. Anyone who points out this agenda is mocked and discredited, even though multiple forms of Western empire already exist, one of which has already become and one which springs from it and has the potential to become the most powerful in human history. Evidence for these claims will also be provided in the following chapters of Rise of Global Empire and supporting articles in this publication. To proceed, we will compare early and modern history to see the roots of empire in order to understand how this grand mechanism of power has evolved over the millennia.

In the introduction of The Rise of the West, an early account of global history (praised today by many contemporary historians for its balanced perspective), University of Chicago historian William MacNeill describes the interaction of urban civilizations in the ancient Near East where a single civilization begins to emerge, originating in ancient Mesopotamia. As separate civilizations mingled with one another in that region, a dominant civilization continues, ushering in “a new cosmopolitan entity”, one which “takes over as the key factor in further historical development.” He continues to describe this entity as “an emerging world system, connecting greater and greater number of persons across civilized boundaries”. As this world entity developed and encroached upon cultural autonomy and allowed elites to exert greater control over human energy and civilization (as a result of rent and tax collection), it “expanded its reach”, which was “part of a larger phenomenon – the expansion and intensification of an emergent world system.” (Emphasis added).

The expansion and intensification of an emergent world system – a multistage process that sums up globalization and which has been taking place for millennia. Globalization is the natural, final stage in the expansion of this world system. After outlining and describing the emergence and development of this system, MacNeill concludes that “This looks like one of the clearest patterns in world history.” As he notes the ongoing interplay of cultural pluralism and exchange across civilizations and empires as a dominant feature of history, he reemphasizes that “yet beneath and behind that pluralism there is also an important commonality. That commonality found expression in the rise of a world system that transcended political and cultural boundaries because human beings desired to have the results of the operation of that system… a world system of economic complementarity and cultural symbiosis.” [7]

Globalization rests upon cultural foundations of conquest and exchange that go far back to these ancient civilizations. We are witnessing an age where all societies and cultures are being merged under one civilizational paradigm. Historically speaking, the development of sophisticated civilizations is tightly interwoven with the emergence of great empires. With empires, their expansive nature leaves little space for neutral ground, though there is often a brief pause or preparation for expansion during periods of relative peace. Otherwise there is growth in one direction, or decay in the other. The onset of crisis can bring decline, or the renewal of expansion, sometimes more dynamic and enduring than the previous stage. [8] Throughout the endeavor of empire-building, individuals and key proponents have shown tenacity and perseverance in the face of opposition or failure, and a willingness to stretch resources and take risks in the pursuit of power and imperial goals. Indeed, one can think of empire as the ultimate game of power and enterprise, an entrepreneurial project on a grand scale.

In recent years, we have entered a stage where the flow of people, capital, knowledge and technology is more fluid and widespread. Major migrations and movement of populations fleeing poverty, war and devastation has a major transformational effect upon host nations, particularly in the West, which is the target destination of people from all over the world. The inherent promise of globalization is the economic prosperity that an open, globalized economy can bring to nation states and societies. It carries with it the seeds of both concentration and diffusion of power. As the world has become more connected and interdependent, the call for global solutions have become more acute. One such proponent is Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the Davos forums (held annually in Switzerland, and one of the premier gatherings of elites and powerful figures from across the world), who described his outlook on global governance, an organized effort by elites to shape and control this system:

“What we have today is a… revolution in which we are moving from a national dimension to a global dimension… old power structures don’t work anymore… I think we have to have a global trusteeship and within this there needs to be more room for variations in terms of interpretations of universal values.” (Emphasis added) [9]

This universal claim of authority is classic imperial lingo. Integration is a natural outcome of human societies, and empires emerge over and over when mass power is accumulated in the hands of a select group who take it upon themselves to rule and expand their power, and to obtain or exercise formal authority over other groups or peoples, for the purpose of enhancing their wealth, prestige and influence. Empires begin in the mind, and not in the environment as some writers have suggested, though favorable conditions such as agricultural, social and geographic factors were necessary for civilizations to develop in order for empires to emerge in the past. Once momentum of power is obtained, the language, social instruments and mental models follow.


In the Beginning: Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt

The first empires originated in the large river valleys of Africa and Asia. Egypt was most likely the first major empire, closely followed by Mesopotamia, “the land between the rivers”. Egyptians were heavily dependent on the Nile River, and the kingdom of Egypt was unified and organized sometime between 3,100 and 2,900 B.C. Their society was remarkably resistant to change, and their maintenance of inward social order and lack of innovation meant a gradual loss of power and imperial status. Egypt would suffer major defeats from other Near Eastern empires and be relegated to a second-class power, such as at the battle of Kadesh in 1,275 B.C., where they would have to compromise with the Hittite empire. Both parties agreed to make peace in 1,258 B.C., recorded on a clay tablet, a copy of which resides at the United Nations as the earliest surviving peace agreement. [10] Egypt would eventually be absorbed into the Ptolemaic dynasty and ruled by Greek foreigners, and then become the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered Egypt in 30 B.C., ending her semi-independent status, and absorbing her as the jewel of Rome’s foreign territories that supplied grain to her urban inhabitants.

Ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer) was a settlement of city states along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that was able to grow into a thriving civilization due to the excess food surplus that the river system provided through irrigation and agricultural innovation. Storehouses and increased social organization led to urbanization (a network of small city-states), and the ability to employ specialized labor for specific tasks, such as building canals, turning the soil, and eventually building massive city walls. One scholar of social power notes that the walls had a dual purpose to them – protection and confinement:

“The city walls symbolized and actualized the cage of authoritative power… The gigantic protection racket of political history began.”  [11]

Historians estimate that the Sumerian civilization blossomed between 3,500 – 3,000 B.C., much of which would eventually be conquered by Sargon of Akkad in approx. 2,310 B.C., the first extensive empire in history. Around the same time, Egypt, another power farther west would benefit from its proximity to the Nile river system, due not only to its irrigation abilities but also its relative isolation from other kingdoms or imperial powers. The crucial term Macat, denoting all the qualities of effective government, was “the closest the Egyptian came to a general conception of the good”. Thus Egypt’s world view and lens through which it evaluated virtue and order was closely bound with the imperial state and the house of Pharaoh. Pharaoh means ‘great house’, highly indicative of a redistributive state. [12]

The development of civilization meant that the energy directed towards the struggle for subsistence would now be transferred to laboring for imperial elites, as the massive pyramids still attest to this day. The Great Pyramids were constructed between 2,700 to 2,300 B.C., and were completed without metal tools available to work the stone. Workers, who appear to have labored willingly, used knives and chisels made of obsidian, a black volcanic glass. The impetus behind their labor was the concept of Ma’at, or “social order”, also personified as a goddess. According to this principle, no one should be idle, and so this interpretation was used to justify immense construction projects for the house of Pharaoh, who was more than human given his role in the cosmic hierarchy, standing as the ordained representative between humanity and the dead above him, with the gods above the dead. [13]

As soon as population density combines with material prosperity, social stratification and imperial arrangements emerge. The production and acquisition of surplus wealth meant that these two regions would be the cradle of empires in the ancient world, and that power would move across the globe over several thousand years on a gradual westward course. Much of human heritage and history is bound up in empires, as they were often a key source of transmission and transition of power from one historical era to the next. It was not simply imperial actors or great figures of history – empires are the tectonic plates upon which civilizations and populations move and progress into new stages of development.


One is struck… by the sheer durability of empires as political formations, compared to the relatively short time span in which the nation state was the modal form of politics… The empire form has not only been around for a long time, but proved adaptable to the development of capitalism and communism as well, to changing technologies of warfare and new concepts of authority, as well as to reconfigurations of the relationship of land and sea, of contiguous territory and long-distance communications.

(C. Calhoun et al, Lessons of Empire: Imperial Histories and American Power, pp. 8, 13)

…a propensity in human communities has been the accumulation of power on an extensive scale: the building of empires. Indeed, the difficulty of forming autonomous states on an ethnic basis, against the gravitational pull of cultural and economic attraction… has been so great that empire… has been the default mode of political organization throughout most of history.

(John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405. p. 23)

For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical mode of government. Empires have no interest in operating within an international system; they aspire to be the international system. Empires have no need for a balance of power.

(Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy. p. 21)

…imperial power and politics… remain very much a part of the contemporary landscape… world history is imperial history.

(Halperin and Palan, Legacies of Empire. p. 2)

By guaranteeing peace and order to the dutifully submissive, and by giving a masterly demonstration of how best to divide and rule, a succession of Persian kings had won for themselves and their people the largest empire ever seen. Indeed, it was their epochal achievement to demonstrate to future ages the very possibility of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, world-spanning state.

(Tom Holland, Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, (preface) p. 8)

Big is back. It is inter-imperial relations – not international or inter-civilizational – that shape the world. Empires – not civilizations – give geography its meaning. Indeed, empires span across civilizations; as they spread their norms and customs, they can change who people are – irrespective of their civilization.

(Parag Khanna, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, Introduction, p. xiv)

Empire comes in many forms, not just in the annexation of territory, the Roman practice, or the creation of colonies, the operating mode of Spain, Portugal, Britain, and other European powers. At its heart, empire involves asserting influence and control over places, people, resources, and trade outside the original boundaries of a national entity. While empires almost always involve at least some use of military force, or threat of its use, power can be exerted in many ways. Political, economic, cultural, and ideological influence can be as important to empire as ships, planes, and guns.

(Joshua B. Freeman, American Empire, Introduction. p. x)

Thus it can be seen that through the study of empires, officials, and imperial organization, the processes integral to cultural interaction and exchange can be revealed… how empires and societies do not exist in isolation… Cultural interaction and exchange within empires, moreover, is key to understanding the complexities of all world societies and the human experience from time immemorial.

(F. Kasinec and M. Polushin, Expanding Empires, Cultural Interaction and Exchange in World Societies from Ancient to Modern Times, Introduction, p. xxi)

…historical trajectories are more complicated than a movement toward a nation-state. Empires – self-consciously maintaining the diversity of people they conquered and incorporated – have played a long and critical part in human history… Despite efforts in words and wars to put national unity at the center of political imagination, imperial politics, imperial practices, and imperial cultures have shaped the world we live in… Empire was a remarkably durable form of state… By comparison, the nation-state appears as a blip on the historical horizon, a state form that emerged recently from under imperial skies and whose hold on the world’s political imagination may well prove partial or transitory.

(J. Burbank and F. Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference pp. 2-3)

The world community is always determined by the current field of vision and the horizon of civilizations, and therefore more by cultural and technological factors than by geographic factors… The claim of empires to world domination has thus acquired an ever wider reach from antiquity to the present, so that there is now indeed room on the globe for only one empire – in accordance with the feature of uniqueness and distinctiveness on which empires must always insist.

(Herfried Munkler. Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States. pp. 11-12)

An empire… is not just a “superstate” or a large component of the state system. It is a system of rule that transforms society… The cultural capital developed by empire – its styles, arts and architecture, language – can radiate influence throughout successive centuries… Empires rule by virtue of the prestige they radiate as well by their military might… Empires have justified their supra-ethnic domination by invoking allegedly universal values or cultural supremacy, and have diffused these public goods by cultural diplomacy and exchanges.

(Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and its Predecessors, pp. 20, 65)

It is not that history repeats itself. Precisely the opposite: World history develops. Through historical comparison we can see that the most significant problems of our own time are novel.

(M. Mann, Sources of Social Power, Vol. 1, Chapter 1, Societies as organized power networks, p. 32)


The word empire originates in ancient Rome from the Latin – imperium – military command with power over life or death, the coercive authority or formalized state of rule, and was often imposed in the name of protecting the Republic, or taking charge of a situation or crisis from which the common people required relief or assistance. Empire means an authoritative network over others and has developed the vernacular meaning in modern times of any enterprise on a massive scale or which dominates a particular industry. As the Roman Empire expanded, imperium also came to mean the area in which authority was exercised, or newly conquered realms which were under Roman control. When he presided over cultural or religious celebrations, Augustus Caesar adopted the term Pontifex Maximus – a term that divests divine authority – which popes would later claim under various forms of the Holy Roman Empire. The historical record demonstrates that empires lay claim to their own brand of divine mandate or rightful inheritance as they accrue greater power and influence over societies, and take it upon themselves to direct the minds of their subjects.

Over the centuries, various empires and their rulers have given themselves lofty titles and designations to indicate their divine right to rule, a conscious vocation of divine supremacy. The Persian emperor was Shah-an-shah, king of kings. The rulers of China, or the Middle Kingdom, were under the Mandate of Heaven. Caesar, which came to be used as the Latin term for emperor, had its roots in Julius Caesar’s dictatorship, and the transition of the Roman Republic into an imperial state. During the imperial period Roman emperors would accrue various royal and republican titles such as Princeps Civitas, first among equals, Imperator, an honorific military meaning ‘one who commands’, Augustus, meaning majestic or venerable, and the aforementioned Pontifex Maximus. Genghis Khan was the Great Khan or ‘universal ruler’ who claimed that he had visionary dreams in which he was destined to rule the Mongols and extend his military campaigns across the face of the earth. German, Austrian and Russian rulers styled themselves as Kaiser and Czar, and over the centuries strong men from Charlemagne to Napoleon would claim the title of emperor of Europe. After the Arab conquests of the 7th century, the people under the yoke of Islam would be governed by a caliph who combined religious and political authority. The Ottoman rulers used the title of sultan, and all of the various designations throughout the centuries have been used to convey the highest and broadest earthly authority, a channel that is ordained of heaven. As Harvard historian Charles Maier describes it:

“The emperor claims a special sort of authority. Its essentials were the personification of rule, an intimate relation with military resources, and some sort of moral grandeur that even kingship (which supposedly had religious legitimacy as well) could not bestow.” [14]

Empires, particularly the great empires, or those that ruled for longer periods over large populations and territories, tend to employ and develop a spiritual or mythic ideological foundation to rationalize and justify the imperial drive for power in the minds of the beneficiaries. A simplified, dressed up version for the masses is also created to pacify them and to give the impression that they are also beneficiaries who are better off not to resist and just go along with the program – that they should be thankful to the elite nobility for establishing order. Invoking imperial language and issuing edicts that are universal or that represent the whole of humanity backed by the threat of force is the essence of empire. The boldest and most assertive commands are directives which often attempt to represent God, all of humanity, or both.

Modern empires rest upon a moral ideological narrative or framework to justify conquest, and the British were a prime example. Churchill spoke glowingly of Britain’s imperial dominion, and a frequent theme throughout his speeches and writings was how the empire embodied the enlightenment of Western civilization, and a dynamic force which brought progress, stability and order to the rest of the world. He was also a pragmatist, who felt perfectly at ease melding British and American power when it was convenient or suited British national interests. British historian Lawrence James stated that “His imperial vision was at the heart of his political philosophy.” [15] This idea of a civilizing mission gave assurance to the British in their drive for profit to conquer foreign territory as the last of the great European maritime empires.

An instructive case study comes during the 19th century when British officials began to assert themselves against imperial China, frustrated and puzzled that the Chinese did not grasp the industrial and technological superiority of the British Empire. They were not merely engaged in negotiations or matters of commerce, though on the surface this was their tactical approach. They would eventually size up their rival civilization militarily, confident that their skills in arms could be put to use in their attempts to open the Chinese market to British merchants and products. Although the Chinese sought to contain the British, or keep them at bay as foreigners on their own terms, this was to no avail.

“All of China’s diplomatic maneuvers and abrupt rejections only delayed an inevitable reckoning with the modern international system, designed as it was along European and American lines.” [16]

In 1834, British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sent another mission to reach a final resolution with imperial China after several previous failed attempts. Britain cut off key supply routes through military force, blockading ports and cutting the flow of traffic along the Grand Canal and lower Yangtze River. Palmerston gave his new envoy a mandate with clear instructions.

“Her Majesty’s Government cannot allow that, in a transaction between Great Britain and China, the unreasonable practice of the Chinese should supersede the reasonable practice of all the rest of mankind.” (Emphasis added) [17]

This was an assertion of more than military or commercial superiority. This was a statement of elitist ideological and cultural supremacy – the claim to an inherent, natural right to rule, one which superseded Chinese sovereignty, and a hallmark of great empires. It seems rather strange to some that many societies, especially from the West, who valued freedom for themselves (or at least for their elites) would not have the slightest hesitation of depriving others of this same fundamental right. This was no longer a mere dispute or disagreement over trade. The British perceived Chinese resistance as an insult from a lesser civilization who had failed to recognize the strength and superiority of the British Empire. This affair was now seen within the calculations and greater narrative of power – this was the moment when the feigned goodwill and noble words of dignified letters and ceremonies transitioned to hostility and the use of force.

This was not commerce or capitalism. In essence the British were telling the Chinese to ‘open their markets and join the world system, or else’. All this was done with the use of heavy cannon along the Chinese coast to send a message and infiltrate the Chinese market, with the Chinese population later exploited as consumers of heroin against the will of their own national government.

“England faced with an unwilling China, decided to try force instead of persuasion. Using their commercial fleet, the industrious British began trading with Chinese black market merchants. Unimaginable amounts of opium – 2,500 tons per season at the peak of the trade – produced in India made their way to China, and soon the Chinese people were practically anesthetized. The drug displaced the state and damaged the country’s economy. Drug addicts could be seen everywhere in China’s cities. Experts estimate that close to a quarter of the Chinese people were addicted to opium at the time. The British had marched in without even setting foot in the country.” [18]

At the heart of empire are the intent and actions of specific actors in positions of leadership, with imperial occupation and subjugation masquerading behind a façade of contrived ideology. The ace in the deck of an empire, however, is always military force. It is the threat and use of force which gave the British the self-confidence to claim to China that they represented “all the rest of mankind”. This was and is the true face of empire. Empires do not just aim to increase profit, they tend to seek profit above life as in the example of the Chinese opium trade. The concept of universal legitimacy has evolved into a phrase used in our day known as “the international community”, and is often applied to appeal to this imperial mode of higher moral authority.

Regardless of the form they assume or the arrangement they apply, empires are the state actors that allowed great figures of history to rise to commanding heights over entire civilizations and regions of the globe. In order to have a systematic approach to study empires up until the global era, we require a method of analyzing and measuring the degree of influence and control that an imperial regime had or has over its subjects in several key areas. The next section will examine the most useful concepts and ideas for this purpose.




[2] For the full interview on the Princeton University Press blog, see transcript here:

Hopkins’ seminal work is American Empire, also published in 2018.

[3] Huntington, S.P. (1996). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. pp. 13-14. Simon and Schuster, New York.

[4] White House press release, President Bush Salutes Veterans at White House Ceremony, November 11, 2002. See also Parsons, T.H. (2010). The Rule of Empires, p. 424, Oxford University Press.

[5] Grandin. C. (2015). Kissinger’s Shadow, p. 15, Metropolitan Books, New York.

See also Maier, C.S., (2006). Among Empires, p. 11, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[6] Karns et al. (2015). International Organizations (3rd edition), Chapter 3: Challenges of Global Governance, p. 87. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado.

[7] MacNeill, W.H. (1993). Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community, 2nd Edition, from Introduction, The Rise of the West After 25 Years, pp. xxi-xxvii. University of Chicago Press.

[8] Quigley, C. (1966). Tragedy and Hope. pp. 3-15, Chapter 1: Cultural Evolution in Civilizations. MacMillan, New York. See full online text here:

[9] Rothkopf, D. (2008). Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making, p. 272.  Regular Davos updates can be found here:

[10] J. France (2011). Perilous Glory: The Rise of Western Military Power, p. 17.

[11] Mann, M. (1986). Sources of Social Power, Vol. 1, p. 100. Cambridge University Press.

[12] Mann, M. (1986). Sources of Social Power, Vol. 1, p. 110-111. Cambridge University Press.

[13] Van Doren, C. (1991). A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future, p. 5. Ballantine Publishing, New York.

For further discussion of Ma’at or social order, see:

[14] Maier, C.S., (2006). Among Empires, p. 39. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[15] James, L. (2014). Churchill and Empire, p. 1. Pegasus Books, New York.

[16] Kissinger, H. (2011) On China, p. 45. Penguin Press, New York.

[17] Spence, J. (1999). The Search for Modern China, p. 158. W.W. Norton. New York.

[18] Steingart, G. (2008) The War for Wealth: The True Story of Globalization, or Why the Flat World is Broken. p. 39. McGraw Hill, New York.