Monday, February 11, 2008

Empire Strikes Back

Empire (specifically the American blend), as we conceive of it today, is no longer the globe-spanning economic/linguistic political structure that we knew from the days when the Union Jack flew highly and proudly from many corners of the world. Nor is it as simple as America's enormous overseas military presence. No, today's Empire is far different. It's not as simple as drawing a line between hegemony and empire, or coercion and cooperation. The Empire, which has a distinctively American flavor, is a super-structure that floats above everything that we know. It encompasses, of course, linguistic, economic, and legal concerns, but at the super-systems level, the very idea seems to lose its nebulousness and fall back to earth.

In doing so, we see today's Empire as its own sort of regime, much like arms control. States are party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in many cases because the benefits and legitimacy that membership bestows far outweigh the costs associated with not being involved, or leaving.

The Empire, since I believe it deserves the definite article preceding it, is simply the world-wide regime that encourages participation, because staying out of things and not "playing by the rules" is nowadays both unfeasible and irresponsible.

So whose Empire is it? It's everyone's, really; a hyperdemocracy gone supernova. But in reality, it belongs to no one. It is simply a byproduct of our development in a globalizing era. And I, ever the optimist, also feel that it might have something to do with our development as people.

Everything is always on its way to somewhere.