America and Empire: Thoughts on a Debate

Cooley, Alexander A.

In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Alex Motyl posed the question, "Do past empires hold lessons for U.S. foreign policy today?" In a review of two new books (an edited volume by Craig Calhoun and a study by Charles Maier), he concluded that "efforts [to show that they do] yield little payoff." To be sure, the use of the term "empire" has become commonplace in descriptions of contemporary U.S. foreign policy. Yet, save for a small group of exceptions, American political scientists until now have mostly neglected the theoretical investigation of empires and the dynamics of imperial relations. Filling a massive gap in the literature, political scientists Dan Nexon and Thomas Wright's new article "What's at Stake in the American Empire Debate" published in the May 2007 American Political Science Review is one of the most thought-provoking and policy relevant scholarly articles to appear in recent years in the field. The article builds on much of Nexon's previous work on the network properties of early-modern empires, but applies these insights to some of the central problems confronting today's U.S. foreign policy community.


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Academic Units
Political Science (Barnard College)
Published Here
February 2, 2012