Does Institutionalised Violence Kill Empires?

Empires come and go and it has been said that the slow decline of empire is painful to watch but it may be more truthful to say that they don’t decline so much as plummet. The fiscal cliff is a far better description of the beginning of the end for the American Empire while I don’t think it is entirely the cause..

While most historians support the idea of a gradual decline and phased transitions this idea is being re-evaluated. Historian Niall Ferguson has forwarded the claim that the collapse of an emprie is “abrupt and disruptive, rather than gradual and cyclical, as traditionally thought.” (  Niall Ferguson, is the Laurence Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University.

Historian Alfred W. McCoy states that “The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.” ( Alfred W. McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison


Now people are going to tell me that I am fear mongering and that the all powerful America will survive but will it?


Historian Irene M Silverblatt in her work Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World  attempts to show the impact of Spain’s empire on the modern world. However to a degree it also points us to parts of the decline of both, that is if you see America as the defining world culture at the moment (they do).  From reading Silverblatt I’m not sure that the outcome of the decline of empire is barbarity as many think but rather that barbarity caused the decline of the Spanish Empire as it seems to have begun in America today.

Silverblatt believes that by institutionalising violence and torture through the Inquisition Spain thereby legitimising it and the inquistion helped “civilized peoples …  embrace barbarity”. Not to draw this point out too far and rather to come to my point. At the end of the Spanish Empire the Inquisition introduce a level of institutionalised violence and made it acceptable. During this period one of the techniques used by the Inquisition was waterboarding. Just as the US has issues about the control of institutionalise violence so did Spain for this reason Queen Isabella had to withdraw the authority granted to Christopher Columbus and conquistadors, and established direct royal control through the Royal Council of the Indies. America needs to reassess the amount of violence it tolerates as Obama is doing now by addressing Gun control. America needs to look at its foreign policy to remove its troops from nations beyond its borders and work on repairing itself. Is this happening yes to a degree but then they still have automated military drones to do there foreign policy and the president still has his picture taken skeet shooting at Camp David.

Will legitimised violence continue and the US empire totally collapse or will it survive much as the British Empire has in a powerful but much less controlling role we can’t predict but is the end in sight Unfortunately I think so.

How long will the collapse take well consider that Russia collapsed by most peoples calculations in 2 years, let’s hope McCoy’s prediction of 15 years is more the case.


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