The idea for this book dates from a conference that I organized at the University of Washington on June 3 and 4, 2005, on Alien Rule and Its Discontents, supported by the Earl and Edna Stice Endowment. Alien rule occurs whenever the members of a given collectivity, such as a state or a less-encompassing organization, are ruled by nonmembers of that collectivity. As such, the concept applies to a broad range of situations taking place at different levels of social organization, including multinational societies, colonial societies, occupation regimes, research universities, corporations, and even stepfamilies.
Although many distinguished scholars participated in the conference, most of their papers touched only glancingly on the general phenomenon. As the conference proceeded, it dawned on me that despite the evident importance and relevance of the subject – if nothing else, the United States had recently instigated a military occupation in Iraq – very little research explicitly focusing on the general phenomenon of alien rule was currently being done, as opposed to detailed case studies of colonialism or military occupation. As someone with a penchant for studying relatively uncharted territory it seemed worthwhile to begin thinking about exploring this one, if only because alien rule is likely to have greater relevance in an increasingly interdependent world. After all, a host of problems that have arisen on a global scale – from climate change, to epidemic disease, failed states, human rights violations, terrorism, and piracy – can only be addressed by international authorities who, by definition, will be alien to the inhabitants of any state. Alien Rule is the result. The reader should regard it as a preliminary foray rather than anything like a definitive statement.