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Which elements of tyranny are paramount wax and wane across eras, but tyranny itself remains a consistent concern. In Western political thought, defining tyranny in one or two sentences is rare, and when undertaken, it is often embedded in a specific political context. Defining tyranny may appear straightforward; nonetheless, diagnosing and remedying it, enabling recovery and inoculation, requires more than a rigid definition. All governance orders display a range of features. For instance, no two democracies are alike, and the political, economic and social realities they serve must always be considered; the same is true of tyrannies.
… all my scholarly and political opinions, tracing a history of domination in which people in power have assumed the right to define people who didn’t have power. Plus, I handily prove that Western views of the East have been used to rationalize tyranny.
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (Vintage, 1994)
Non-tyrannical states may be tyrannical when acting beyond their borders. Since antiquity, imperialism is the principal example of external tyranny. Post-war scholarship recognises the broadening scope of domination and neo-imperialism in an ever more complex global governance order. Domestic constitutionalism is no bulwark against the same state acting as tyrant abroad. Domestic orders remain – partially by design – a weak basis to restrain states from such tyrannical (international legal) tendencies. Both Aristotle and Arendt pointed to exemplifiers, and this chapter argues that the current international legal order presents many more. Tyranny needs to be added to this analysis, even as international law seeks to cloak itself in constitutionalised legitimacy. External imperial tyranny is detrimental on two fronts. Imperialism is harmful to those upon whom it falls, but also upon the tyrannical actors themselves and those that fall under their internal governance. Power, which is tyrannical in one place but constitutionalised in another, causes harm to both groups. It is impossible to hive the good order from the bad if the constituted power holders are the same. But there is a second binarity. A Janus-faced state that inwardly acts constitutionally while externally acting imperially contributes to a larger tyrannical order. Within that order, a second Janus appears, where those subject to the interventions of states or international organisations must comply with precepts of ‘good governance’ while inter-state relations and international organisations rely on rule by law.
Since classical antiquity debates about tyranny, tyrannicide and preventing tyranny's re-emergence have permeated governance discourse. Yet within the literature on the global legal order, tyranny is missing. This book creates a taxonomy of tyranny and poses the question: could the global legal order be tyrannical? This taxonomy examines the benefits attached to tyrannical governance for the tyrant, considers how illegitimacy and fear establish tyranny, asks how rule by law, silence and beneficence aid in governing a tyranny. It outlines the modalities of tyranny: scale, imperialism, gender, and bureaucracy. Where it is determined that a tyranny exists, the book examines the extent of the right and duty to effect tyrannicide. As the global legal order gathers ever more power to itself, it becomes imperative to ask whether tyranny lurks at the global scale.
This first comprehensive account of the utilitarians' historical thought intellectually resituates their conceptions of philosophy and politics, at a time when the past acquired new significances as both a means and object of study. Drawing on published and unpublished writings - and set against the intellectual backdrops of Scottish philosophical history, German and French historicism, romanticism, positivism, and the rise of social science and scientific history - Callum Barrell recovers the depth with which Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, George Grote, and John Stuart Mill thought about history as a site of philosophy and politics. He argues that the utilitarians, contrary to their reputations as ahistorical and even antihistorical thinkers, developed complex frameworks in which to learn from and negotiate the past, inviting us to rethink the foundations of their ideas, as well as their place in - and relationship to - nineteenth-century philosophy and political thought.
Hugo Grotius is considered one of the paradigmatic figures in international relations theory. His thought is often contrasted with that of Thomas Hobbes, who is portrayed as the standard bearer of political realism, and the universalist orientation of Immanuel Kant. The centre piece of the so-called Grotian tradition is the theory of international society, which accommodates the claims of independent states without granting them absolute justification. The pursuit of advantage is subject to common standards that oblige rather than merely counsel moderation and restraint. The chapter proceeds in three parts. Part one examines the legal and political narratives that account for the emergence of the Grotian tradition. Part two examines revisionist scholarship that considers Grotius’ thought in the context of relations between Europeans and non-European ‘others’. Neither the standard nor the revisionist narrative provides an adequate account of obligation, without which the theory of international society collapses in confusion. Part three responds to this problem by exploring a part of Grotius’ thought that has been excised from international relations theory: theology. This illuminates an account of obligation that rescues the Grotian tradition from the coarse world of moral scepticism and power politics.
This essay considers modernist internationalism and formal mutation in light of the globalized media ecology brought about by imperialism’s capitalist monopoly of the world-system. Since imperialism and colonialism constituted the first ever properly global system of control and circulation, modernism’s global imaginary and technical innovations cannot be understood outside of a world economic and technological frame. Building on scholarly narratives of modernism’s global vision and its metropolitan incorporation of the colonial periphery/“other,” this article shows how new media technology allowed for the rounding of the world and the advent of new literary forms such as the montage. Media discussed include cinema, photography, magazines, and the phonograph, while poets considered include but are not limited to Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Blaise Cendrars.
At the intersection of imperial rule and private power, Shanghai rose to international prominence in the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. It did so by taking advantage of the extraterritorial status and the dynamic, cosmopolitan population of the International Settlement. In evaluating the fate of the Shanghai Municipal Council, we seek to ascertain how private authority could have been constituted on a transnational basis within the framework of a treaty port. The rise of Shanghai was linked to some of the ambiguities of overlapping imperial rule and the possibilities it created for legal and governance experimentation. This is particularly clear in realms most associated with sovereign power, namely the International Settlement’s attempts to claim some taxation power and maintain law and order. That power, however, was interstitial at best and the product of fragile balances, as shown by the Council’s ultimate failure to secure a full international legal status for Shanghai. Nonetheless, the rise and fall of the International Settlement at Shanghai are worth reflecting upon, not only in relation to the history of China, imperialism and international law, but also as a way of thinking how the authority of large metropolitan centres might be constituted.
The highland Wari (AD 600–1000) were an influential and expansive Andean civilisation, yet the nature and organisation of Wari power is debated. For example, it is suggested that coastal Nasca was governed by Wari, but doubts remain about its role in the region. Recent excavations at Huaca del Loro in Nasca have uncovered rectilinear compounds, a D-shaped temple, a large cemetery and a domestic area. The authors suggest that this evidence reflects Wari colonisation, undertaken during a period of primary expansion, on a site with long-established ties between Wari and Nasca. The use of multiple colonising strategies and local responses may reflect imperial situations in other world civilisations.
Romantic music has often been seen as an exploration of ideal, disembodied realms of spirit and feeling. It has also been presented as a consolation against the violent changes, profound uncertainties, and fierce social tensions of industrial modernity. Yet technical inventions and adaptions, such as new and improved instruments and new lighting and staging techniques, were at the heart of many of the defining characteristics of Romantic music: these included the sense of wild, dangerous, creative energies in both nature and human arts, the exploration of the most exalted and sombre of human emotions and states, restless formal invention, and appeals to both the intimacy of the individual soul and to vast audiences. Romantic music was bound up with industrialisation, urbanisation, and imperial expansion. Through its dependence on technology, and its ability to reflect upon technology’s consequences, Romantic music was an exemplary manifestation of its age.
When the Bush administration launched the War on Terror after the attacks of 9/11, Gothic responded through complex critiques of the discourses and the violence this entailed, but also by unapologetically energising the endeavour to maintain US global hegemony. Noting a number of geopolitical, economical and cultural similarities between late nineteenth-century Britain and the US at the turn of the millennium, this chapter observes that a dominant strand of American Gothic in the early twenty-first century is in fact effectively imperial. The chapter then discusses the interplay between what can thus be termed an ‘American Imperial Gothic’ and the post-9/11 period, paying particular attention to the ideological and affective work that Gothic performs. Located at the intersection between postcolonial and decolonial studies, and international relations and security studies, the chapter furthermore explores how a union of various entertainment corporations and government institutions is involved in the production and dissemination of often deeply reactionary Gothic texts. These rehearse racists and sexist tropes central to the neocolonial project, but also reveal how the anxieties always tied to vast imperial and capitalist projects rise to the surface during moments of sudden upheaval and transformation.
This chapter explores the political, social, and economic conditions that have shaped the turn to history since the 1990s. Those conditions include the break-up of the Soviet Union and the ‘end of history’ narrative that accompanied a decade of ambitious liberal expansionism, the crisis of liberal internationalism triggered by the war on terror and the financial, energy, food, asylum, and climate crises of the early twenty-first century, and the shift in geopolitics caused by the rise of the BRICS and particularly of China as an economic power. International lawyers in practice and the academy have drawn on past events, practices, records, and cases as argumentative resources in adjudicatory settings and in broader debates over how to understand, justify, or resist the transformation of international law. The turn to history eventually began to be understood as a project that should be distanced from the argumentative practice of international law and measured against the empiricist protocols of academic historians. This chapter returns it to the context of international legal argumentation from which it arose, in order to gain a better understanding of the turn to history as an intervention in present struggles over the meaning of international law.
International lawyers are very familiar with the claim that international law has taken a turn to history since the tumultuous decade of the 1990s. As debates over the interpretation of past texts, events, and practices have intensified in the context of a rapidly changing field of international law, history has been presented as offering a silver bullet. While international lawyers are criticised for instrumentalising or mythologising the past in ways that are biased, partisan, and political, professional historical methods are presented as offering an objective, impartial, and evidence-based alternative. This chapter outlines the cross-disciplinary hermeneutic of suspicion that has structured the resulting debates over how the history of international law is understood. It sets out the assumptions underpinning that debate and explores its consequences for the way lawyers and historians represent the nature, functions, potential, role, and limits of international law.
During Wallace Stevens’s lifetime, imperialism was already a global institution, but parsing Stevens’s relationship to imperialism was never an entirely transparent procedure. Siraganian’s chapter explores imperialism and colonialism through brief readings of some key poems, revealing how Stevens’s poetry investigates its relation to the competing imperial and colonial projects of his age. Throughout his poetic career, he closely followed geopolitical events, including Mussolini’s colonial invasion of Ethiopia, the invention of modern warfare, and the rise of totalitarian regimes. Various poems reflect this awareness. While Stevens’s views on the imperialist fantasies of his age were at times sympathetic, poems like “Anecdote of the Jar,” “Owl’s Clover,” “Life on a Battleship,” and “A Weak Mind in the Mountains” also provide alternative, more complicated accounts that question and sometimes oppose colonizing modes of cultural domination. Above all, imperialism, especially in its cultural variety, intrigued and worried Stevens as a particular variation on the question of knowledge that continually fascinated him. Contextualization of his poetry enables us to sort out Stevens’s competing allegiances at a chaotic historical moment: to anti-imperialism, to an embattled Western culture and ideology, to a unifying world of art and poetry.
“Democracy and its Limits” examines the problems of government and governance in Nigeria, one of the most populous yet least popular conglomerates of democracy (with additional reference to other parts of Africa). Nigeria returned to civilian democracy in 1999, but it was an elite exercise, and the governance has been disappointing. There has been much violence, religious and ethnic conflict, rising poverty, and blatant looting of public funds by the same people entrusted with the funds meant for the development of the nation. This discourse studies how the change in the state has a hidden context, while the critique of governance is regarded as like that of democracy. Despite the propaganda about its advantages and the near-global consensus about its values, democracy is riddled with a lot of contradictions that limit its functional value to a majority of the citizenry. It is expected that political modernity would cause an evolution of political culture and lead to the appearance of viable, resilient institutions that would produce stable politics. However, this study posits that democratic mechanisms can only be effective when the citizenry gives more attention to institutional development and nation building that can endure and function, and not to the politicians, elites, or the military.
The literary career of Richard Eun-kook Kim may best be viewed as a set of narrative responses to his biography and the broader political dilemma of modern Korea, one beset by differential and competing historical colonialisms and ideologies on the peninsula. Key figures in the USA were marshalled to serve Cold War interests by making literature a central instrument in winning transnational hearts and minds; Kim would benefit from this by becoming the first Asian to enroll in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, from which he would draft his first novel, The Martyred, whose popularity signaled that readers viewed Kim and his work as an expression of US liberal value from an Asian beneficiary of the Cold War project. But Kim’s form of realism actually serves as a form of narrative autonomy from such expected discursive capture. This, and in his later forays into speculative fiction and elegiac life writing – the novel The Innocent (1968) and collection Lost Names: Scenes of a Korean Boyhood (1970), respectively – Kim narrates a Korean temporality that seeks to minimize, even as it acknowledges, the influence of imperial powers.
This chapter approaches Carlos Bulosan’s oeuvre, and specifically America Is in the Heart, through the framework of postcolonial ecocriticism. It provides an overview of Bulosan’s life, works, and critical reception. Additionally, the chapter presents the history of US empire as a crucial context shaping Bulosan’s writing. It argues that Bulosan’s environmental imaginary is central to his political critique and identifies the postcolonial pastoral, described by Rob Nixon as a form of “environmental double-consciousness,” as central to Bulosan’s depiction of the Philippines in America Is in the Heart. This environmental double-consciousness emerges in America Is in the Heart not only in depictions of the ongoing consequences of dispossession and colonialism in the Philippines, but also in representations of US landscapes as themselves haunted by the USA’s colonial investment in the Philippines.
Widely regarded as one of the earliest examples of Asian American literature, Younghill Kang’s 1937 novel East Goes West wields many of the signifiers of the immigrant novel, including an incisive critique of American racism and capitalism. However, East Goes West is only a part of his body of work, the majority of which goes ignored by Asian American scholarship. It is an understandable neglect, for Kang’s biography and writing resists conforming to the neat contours of existing paradigms. In one period, he traveled among New York’s literati as a writer, genial native informant, and advocate for Korean liberation from Japanese colonialism, and in another period toiled in obscurity as a journeyman intellectual. Yet even as he did so, glimpses of his ambivalence – veiled criticism of the US literary scene, open admiration of Japanese poetry, and increasing alarm regarding the US empire – complicate the narrative. This chapter frames the entirety of Kang’s work and life through a transpacific lens to fully comprehend his multivalent writerly projects.
This chapter examines Edith Maude Eaton’s (Sui Sin Far’s) two Caribbean tales, “Away Down in Jamaica” (1898) and “The Sugar Cane Baby” (1910), particularly the ways that the tropes of marriage and family illuminate the author’s evolving racial consciousness. By reading the stories in relation to the transnational history of Euro-American imperial and capitalist dominance, this chapter analyzes how these two stories bring to the fore the problems of colonial intrusion and imposition, both violent and benevolent, economic and moral. In this way, they call for “undoing whiteness” and “complicating Chineseness” through critical reframing of the conditions of slavery, forced migrations, and (neo)colonialisms that link the racialization of the Chinese in North America and Africans in the Caribbean that undergird imperial narratives of marriage and family. As such, Eaton’s use of these tropes in these two Caribbean tales enables her to extend her sympathy to both white imperialists and Afro-Creoles and also to carve out space for critiquing Euro-American colonial and imperial violence even as she negotiates her conflicting affinities to and distance from both the white elites and racialized peoples.
In Culture and Imperialism (1993) Edward W. Said argues that “the most prominent characteristics of modernist culture, which we have tended to derive from purely internal dynamics in Western society, include a response to external pressures on culture from the imperium.” This chapter explores ways in which modernism is a literary historical development of significance for Asian American literature, and vice versa. As Said notes, it may have once seemed a coincidence that the onset of Western modernism was roughly in parallel with the delegitimation of its colonialism, but the case for connections may be hard to dismiss. Asian American literature, then, can be a crucial site for grasping how modernism and decolonization converged and were correlated. And a key way that that correlated convergence becomes evident is through acts of historical recovery, both of texts and within texts.