Empires fall slowly…

A friend pointed out the other day: people sometimes compare the U.S. empire to Rome’s decline—but forget that it took 800 years to fall.

15 Comments on “Empires fall slowly…

  1. oh,shit,so that’s what I got look forward for the next 800,fuck it, it’s back to sniffin’ glue

  2. This might not be so bad as it sounds. If by 800 years you mean from 400 BCE to 400 CE, you’re counting the rise as well as the fall. So in that case, the American Empire is over 200 years old, since we were a Russia-style land empire from the very beginning. (We became an overseas empire when we ran out of land.)

    And then, since everything that constitutes a political entity moves 1000s of times faster now, you only need to posit a marginally faster rate of rise and decay — say 4x — and presto: we’re almost toast! :-)

  3. Surely the British Empire fell faster though? I’d argue technological development accelerates international crisis.

  4. For more in-depth and interesting comments on the subject of empires collapsing I suggest the writings of John Michael Greer, specifically his book “The Long Descent” (New Society Publishers, September 2008). I specifically enjoy his metaphor of a “stepping down” process in which each period of crisis is followed by a period of leveling or growth, then followed by another step down.

    I think John Michael Greer would be great for a Behind the News interview. Dimitry Orlov as well. Kunstler represented some of the same ideas well but in my opinion he has too much anger to be as effective as JMG and Dimitry Orlov.


  5. It took less than 50 years for the British empire to fall. The Spanish empire fell pretty rapidly as well. The thing about the Roman empire was that it didn’t have any serious competitors.

  6. It seems to me that maybe the English empire didn’t exactly “fall” in the same sense the Roman or Mayan empires fell, especially when you consider that many of the English empire’s structures were transfered to or expanded upon by the new gang in North America. One easy example of this is the transfer of Naval knowledge, training and technology from the UK and US during the World Wars TM.

    It is my opinion that we’ve already passed the United States’ “uni-polar” moment and are now entering a period of relatively unknown territory. The one thing that is known is that the Chinese are steadily buying everything and building up their power.

    “The PRC? Will they act any better?”

    To hardindr I suggest visiting or researching China and seeing how they treat themselves. I visited in 2007 and saw some common 21st century themes: massive conspicuous consumption, exploited peasants, marginalized ethnic minorities, extreme environmental degradation, luxury apartments luxury gated communities luxury shopping malls luxury cars luxury clothing and luxury diamonds surrounded by foul air, a loss of traditional heritage and family values, a me-first attitude among the youth, politicians screaming at each-other but unable to deliver for the people, political corruption and coal-fired power plants.

    Yeah, I’m cynical but you know what? More than anything I saw in China, I also saw people doing their best to get by and take care of each-other and their families, living seemingly happy lives in conditions the average westerner can scarcely imagine. Count your blessings, even under the PRC!

  7. perhaps the US Empire will collapse in Internet Time (faster than a New York minute? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_time )

    if so, then its probably already over…..

    another possibility, is that the Empire has not formally started, and we have been living through the collapse of the formal Republic and the rise of the informal Empire… the institutions of Empire are becoming rigid and articulate out of the decaying mess of the Republic.. the Empire will rise like a zombie from the graveyard of democracy

    Gore Vidal has written long and elegantly on the death of the Republic and the rise of the Empire

    he would make a great interview.. that voice… his impressions and wit…

    get Vidal and Chomsky on for a Empire special ? a fund raiser ?

  8. yeah, but Doug, things happen so much faster these days, what with the internet and all…

  9. As someone else stated, this era is more comparable to the fall of the Republic – when the elite basically got too damn greedy. But, it’s doubtful things will play out the same, because history doesn’t work that way.

  10. The techno/energy/scale was not the same. Neither was the population situation. That just seems inapt. we don’t have 80 years left to save the planet, let alone 800.

  11. It’s almost like we decided to mimic Rome’s mistakes. Persia and then the Arabs were major rivals for Romans and Byzantines – we’ve got those enemies alright. Latin America might play the role of the Germans, neighboring people who kept getting screwed with. We’re better able now to antagonize East Asia than the Romans were, so we can add those guys to the list.

  12. I’m with Negri and Hardt – Empires unify opposition just a well as they unify capital. They are, in a sense, a good thing in the same way that the rise of capitalism is better than feudalism. The end of Empire really might lead to a collapse in living standards and technological retardation.

    Then again, wasn’t the end of the British empire actually a good thing for the actual human residents of the UK? Certainly Britain – and Europe in general – are more egalitarian societies now than they were in the 1880s?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: