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From Old Empire to New pg 63-79

From Old Empire to New pg 63-79 - 62 PART 1 EXPLORING...

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62 PART 1. EXPLORING IMPERIAL TRANSITIONS This contradiction between the expectations raised at the dawn of the mod- ern era by the culture of political equality of foundational liberalism and the reality of social and legal constructions is one of the essential legacies of the nineteenth century. In the metropolitan spaces this contradiction was resolved slowly and with difficulty by the spread of the rights rhetorically espoused, as suffrage limitations and other exclusions by sex or age would continue to show until the twentieth century. In the colonial world, which was not a world all that distant, after all, from that metropolitan political culture, it was resolved that the struggle for the dissolution of formulas of social exclusion within the frame- work of political exceptionality was the norm. All the empires played at this, and all became exhausted, sooner or later, in their struggle against the unstoppable leveling tide. From Old Empire to New The. Changing Dynamics and Tactics of American Empire THOMAS MCCORMICK EVERY NATION FANCIES ITSELF EXCEPTIONAL unique and superior to others. Each nation creates its own traditions and narratives, infused with more than a dollop of fiction, to lend the weight of history to its sense of exceptionalism. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the United States, a New World, where the sins of moribund, decadent Europe, the Old World, were said to be absent. And among those sins—allegedly missing in the country's unfolding— was Europe's half millennium of imperialism and its accompanying wars. That popular myth begins with an apparent self-evident truth—that the American Republic was itself the product of an anticolonial, revolutionary war against empire and thus anti-imperialism was an inherent part of its national DNA from its very birthing. True to its origins, the subsequent expansion of America westward and southward across the North American continent was a natural, organic, inevitable process—simply a case of the flag following demog- raphy as American pioneers poured into lands either unoccupied or sparsely peopled by indigenes making nonproductive use of the land. It was an Empire for Liberty, if an empire at all, carrying with it democracy and the commercial revolution in agriculture. To be sure, the end of that continental expansion—the end of that life-giving frontier in the 189os—spawned a copycat overseas expansionism that seemed to ape the New Imperialism that had gripped Europe in the late nineteenth cen- tury. Even that expansionism, however, was not the result of systemic impera- tives or conscious choice but rather the almost accidental consequence of a "splendid little war"—an anticolonial one at that—which freed Cuba from the yoke of Spanish empire. The resulting American empire in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Wake Island, and Guam was miniscule compared to the European empires in Africa and Southeast Asia. Indeed, no sooner had it been acquired 63
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From Old Empire to New pg 63-79 - 62 PART 1 EXPLORING...

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