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The International Political Sociology of Empire

Alejandro Colás


Comment on this article   An empire is a large, expansive polity that rules over, and economically exploits, a culturally diverse and territorially dispersed population from and for a metropolitan center. Until the twentieth century, and for the better part of human civilization before then, the bulk of the world's populations were governed by one or another empire. The first reason why empires matter to our understanding of International Relations (IR) is quite simply that this form of political organization has over the past century been replaced by juridically equal sovereign territorial states. There are today no more formal empires, and only one head of state retains the title of Emperor (Japan's Akihito). Conventionally, the origins and development of the modern international system of states are associated with the decline and disappearance of empires. This is why IR theorists speak of a shift from hierarchy to anarchy as the organizing principle of modern international politics. A second reason why the study of empire is central to IR is that much of this conventional distinction between hierarchy and anarchy has been subject to significant criticisms from various methodological and political perspectives. International Political Sociology (IPS) has in particular offered a framework for critical analyses of phenomena such as systemic transformation, international unevenness, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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