"Empire" as a conceptual model of global governance

The analysis of classical and modern empires. The theoretical and methodological approaches to the category of "global governance" and their limitations. The existence of a new type of empire "postempire" - as a key player of our global governance.

Рубрика Международные отношения и мировая экономика
Вид статья
Язык английский
Дата добавления 05.04.2018
Размер файла 16,8 K

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R.O. Zaporozhchenko


The article is devoted to the analysis of classical and modern empires. The review of theoretical and methodological approaches to the category of «global governance» and their practical and functional limitations are given. The existence of a new type of empire «post- empire» is determined with post-empire described as a key player of our global governance. The concept of «global empire» is interpreted.

Keywords: global governance, empire, globalization, bifurcation point, transnational elite.


Статтю присвячено аналізу класичної та сучасної імперій. Представлено огляд теоретико-методологічних підходів до категорії «глобальне управління» та їхні практично-функціональні обмеження. Визначено існування нового типу імперії «postempire» - як ключового гравця глобального управління сучасності. Розробляється концепт «глобальної імперії».

Ключові слова: глобальне управління, імперія, глобалізація, точки біфуркації, транснаціональна еліта.


Статья посвящена анализу классической и современной империй. Представлен обзор теоретико-методологических подходов к категории «глобальное управление» и их практически-функциональные ограничения. Определены существование нового типа империи «postempire» - как ключевого игрока глобального управления современности. Разрабатывается концепт «глобальной империи».

Ключевые слова: глобальное управление, империя, глобализация, точки бифуркации, транснациональная элита.

empire global governance

Problem formulation. In the modern global world, there is an urgent necessity to change the existing management concepts and to create a modern system of global governance. The main aims of this phenomenon are to erase the boundaries of state sovereignty, to interconnect economic and political elites, to increase the importance and influence of transnational corporations (TNCs), to form information society, to delegate authority from national and state level to international institutions, concentrating a large share of capital in the hands of a small number of people.

Analysis of topical research. Methodological foundation, which was formed during the last thirty years, is of applied character and is used by modern managers to create a system of global governance. However, the existence of different approaches to global governance, including institutional (R. Keohane [9], E. Haas [6], A. Young [15]), realistic (R. Gilpin [5], R. Aron [2] K. Ikenberi [8]), neomarksical (I. Wallerstein [14] A. Toffler [13] S. Amin [1], John. Arrighi [3]), network (A. Negri, M. Hardt [7]), and their narrow focus that exists in the context of mono-vectorness, and therefore cannot always be used to explain the situation of contemporary global governance leads to the search of new concepts and approaches, more efficient and practical to use. Therefore, existing approaches to global governance require modification and modernization, with new tools, including chaos theory and nonlinear systems, bifurcation and extrapolation.

The aim of the article is to suggest a new approach to global governance based on practical application.

Presenting factual material. Theoretical understanding of the trajectory of global governance. So, the representatives of realistic approach - R. Aron [2], R. Gilpin [5], K. Ikenberi [8], G. Morgentau [12], and others - interpret global governance as «arena» for the use of physical force through the expansion of national interests and leaving the state as a political organization, beyond statutory limits. They stress the anarchic nature of global governance as a tool of international relations, respectively, the power struggle («world domination») for the states is an important factor in the continuation of their own existence. This is promoted by the absence of supranational regulatory principles of the rule that are not attached to the supranational level and are not mandatory for all subjects of international relations, and hence the existence of such forms of global governance is purely subjective and limited to the borders of the state. It is also important that the current process of globalization has divided the world into regions of informal groups that create new typology of sympathy for this or that economically and politically powerful/influential state, and therefore, as noted by Aron such «state belonging to one type will manifest the same concept of policy» [2, p. 114].

Representatives of the world-system approach (I. Wallerstein [14], A. Toffler [13], S. Amin [1], John. Arrighi [3], F. Cardoso [4]) describe global control with a conceptual model of world-system that combines a plurality of states, economies, cultures, ideologies, nations, societies and includes three components: the center («core»), semi-peripheral and peripherals [14, p. 11-22]. The criterion for the division of the career structure is the degree of their economic and technological development.

Supporters of the world-system approach point to the existence of differences in the structure of global governance such as diversification of national economies, transfer of political power to transnational elite, finding new ways of development which bypass globalization and approximation of the economic area. However, the world-system approach to the analysis of global governance lacks dynamics parameters of international relations. Trying abovementioned extrapolation models on the course of world political and economic processes reveals the problem of categorizing countries for the structural characteristics of the world system. In particular, the question arises with the classification of «core», which by definition means members of the world-system analysis which are centers of economic and technological prosperity. However, we note that the presence of highly technological economy does not provide power advantages of a particular country for entry into «core» and the opportunity to influence the course of world processes. Examples of highly affluent economies are Singapore and South Korea. However, their positions in international organizations in terms of ability to influence global political processes are limited. Meanwhile Russia, yielding economic and technological development of the considerable number of countries, is an actor that can change the balance of power in the international arena. Due to the aforementioned, it appears appropriate to appeal to global governance concepts formed on the basis of the concept of international regimes (Krasner [11]).

Institutionalists - R. Keohane [9], E. Haas [6], A. Young [15] - feel the need to explain the economic/political/military cooperation of states in the international regimes prism as «rules of power and authority, rights and obligations, and behavioral obligations» [5, p. 3]. Global governance presents institutionalized means of influencing the behavior of subjects who have created profiles and are dependent on other modes. The latter include international trade, countering terrorism, non-proliferation, non-use of nuclear weapons and so on. The existence of international regimes gives the state the means of opposing globalization, promoting legitimacy of its policies in the global system, improving image in the eyes of the international community, a wide range of information on members of the regime.

The «alternative» conceptual approach to global governance was suggested by American researchers A. Negri and M. Hardt [7] who noted that globalization and informatization transferred power to a new level of existence, denationalization of its sovereignty, decentralization of management system and legitimatization of transnational elite. This process may create a new type of rule - Empire. «Empire is the political subject, an effective regulator of global exchanges, the sovereign power that rules the world» [7, p. 10]. The national state is gradually becoming a subject of international relations instrument of transnational elite (which may be called the cooperation of the same managers) to achieve their goals in the prism of global governance.

It is important that the Empire does not mean imperialism. It is a stable form of existence of the state in the modern world where transnational elite creates a new procedure for both economic and political issues, and the most important place is given to the economy, increased competition, privatization and denationalization of state property, active development of international economic relations, the creation of elite economic zones between influential and strong players in global governance, economic sovereignty fusion of the overall system that is guided by the only rules and laws which are binding on all parties.

However, the above approaches have their weaknesses, so that it cannot be argued as for their practical applicability and implementation on the category of «global governance».

Representatives of realistic approach, pointing to physical violence as the basis of existence of the state, argue their positions need to protect the public interest from foreign intervention. However, the current global governance presented supranational interests, due to the emergence of a new type of elite - «transnational management». Accordingly, the creation of new international organizations, coalitions, unions, where the state delegate power to the authorities and undertake to be abided by these rules and regulations at the legislative level, minimizes the use of physical force, transforming it in negotiations. The use of force occurs when national interests are in danger from outside, not when there is expansion of these interests, backed by physical violence.

Representatives of the world-system approach emphasize the impossibility of building a new center and the periphery without seeing a global vertical management system of international relations. As noted by I. Wallerstein «... no single political system means the vertical rather than horizontal concentration of economic roles throughout the system» [14, p. 43]. Indeed, the resources are unevenly divided between all countries, different geographical conditions of existence and economic development. However, it happened that national economies have become tools of modern globalization, where the centers are building economic/political vectors of imposing their periphery. Also there exist hierarchical vertical management model, in which the most advanced states set trends in development and which are compulsory to be followed.

Institutional approach is worth paying special attention, as it considers global governance through the prism of the theory of regimes. As noted by Robert Keohane «...local organizations and even states are developing in the context of more encompassing institutions. The institutions do not simply reflect the advantages and powers of units of which they are composed, institutions themselves form these benefits and this power» [10, p. 382]. So, states create international associations for many issues and compliance in the global system of balance, both political and economic. These aims such as counter-terrorism, struggle against poverty, international trade, from the very beginning possess paradoxical points of irrationality. For example, states are fighting against terrorism, while secretly selling weapons to terrorist organizations and earn money on it; are trying to escape poverty, but allow the capital to concentrate in the hands of a small group of people - representatives of the transnational elite, which equals budgets of most underdeveloped countries; are uniting in the organization to improve trade, however monopolize a large share of retail space in the world and do not allow other economically weaker players to enter their markets.

An alternative approach, described in the «Empire» [7], is nothing but philosophical thoughts and ideas that do not provide answers to the questions as these thoughts are just historical and descriptive. The main idea of the work is certain «plurality» which is characteristic to modern international relations. Such «pluralities» are constantly moving, present a dynamic diffusion and ultimately create a new order in which the important factor is the presence of multinational corporations. However, if the world is globalized and ultimately the market will be unified, the presence of such corporations will be deactualized because basis of their existence - a dynamic, constantly magnifying competition will disappear. So this idea is apriori not viable.

Each approach has its advantages in the application guidelines concerning changes in the system of international relations, but there are drawbacks in the fact that certain models are utopian presenting controversial application validity and ambiguity in predicting future events.

Parameters of classical and contemporary empire. Empire is a unified structure of monopoly direction, characterized by accurate and vertical hierarchy of power, assimilation of political, economic, cultural and social life, as well as permanent and available military apparatus that is needed to maintain order, removing tension and maintaining border security, both internal and external. This is an etatic, assimilated, unified political entity with centralized authority that is based on large territory and shares socio-economic and cultural factors. The classical empire (which is Roman, Byzantine, Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian) presents itself with a structured, centralized, hierarchical system of interaction of three main components: the subject which is an active factor of the empire, as a social and political entity, which may be presented either as individual or a group of people who form the political elite; object which is a set of people over whom power and the use of violence are applied; resources which is real and existing capacity, used for strengthening the system (economic, administrative power, social, demographic, etc.). For classical empires metropolis is typical - a subject colony which is the object of administrative power resources that make up the structure of imperial power and give us an understanding of the system, both inside and outside. Accordingly, one can distinguish expansionary policies in a classical empire, which was the basis of the existence of violent seizure of territory and extend its influence. Sphere of influence in terms in terms of that historic period was understood as a structural and functional unit of global governance, so the more areas, the wider range of domination and power of the state there were. This empire exists in the regional dimension, surrounding itself with colonies and creating a centralized political system. Finally formed, it does not go beyond its own territory, so it is impossible to extrapolate this empire beyond its own limits, because after the final formation it becomes economically and politically closed system where there dominate autarchic tendencies with counting only on its inner resources. Any calls from outside the system are perceived in a hostile way, so diplomacy is not a primary instrument for conflict resolution and rigid methods (war, expansion) dominate.

The characteristic feature of a classic empire is the fact that it is vulnerable to collapse because of inability to outline the points of bifurcation - critical system states in which there are two scenarios: a differentiated and chaotic. The first option assumes that the system goes to the next level of development (economic, political, cultural), remaining centralized, disciplined and linear, it does not harm the system, but rather transforms it. The second option is unstable and unpredictable, so the system is in a state of uncertainty and begins the process of fracture, resulting in the destruction of the empire from within. Also an important issue lies in the availability of administrative enforcement bodies that guarantee the legitimacy of the existing order and quick response to the emergence of system failures that pose a threat to the empire. Arguably, the Empire is decaying from within and depends on the presence of bifurcation points and level of centralization.

It is interesting to pay attention to the reflexive behavior not only of an individual but of the entire system. In classical empire transition from the individual to the mass, common usually takes place. The person must be on the same vector, which is demanded by Empire and not go against the existing system. There is widespread etatization where the state represents the empire, and it at the same time represents the monarch. Not an individual, as a single component system interprets their behavior and their actions, but the mass as a general product of empire in which the individual is dissolved.

The above features of a classic empire enable us to extrapolate them to the modern empire, what are the powerful players of international relations and global governance.

Modern empire is also characterized by structure, consisting of three components: the subject which is presented by transnational elite that legitimizes itself as a defender of full national interests and takes on the function of the political elite; the object which is presented by domains (domaine - fr. - area, region, ownership) - network sphere of influence used not as a colony, which extrapolate political and economic model of the metropolis, but as points of reference spreading sphere of influence; economic, administrative and demographic resources used to build the micro-global system, the essence of which is the ability of the empire at the expense of spheres of influence - domains. The inclusion of such domains in their own space and their set is used for economic interests, especially by the transnational elite of the empire. Having been legitimized by the citizens, transnational corporations are beginning to regulate the conditions of existence of the state, pointing vectors of development and placing priorities.

Modern Empire does not exist in the regional dimension but on the global level, trying to get in all regions and create a common, unified system of economic relations and political influence. Within the framework of global governance it can be seen as a tool for achieving dominance and worldwide impact on the political and legal decisions and spheres of power. This is achieved by searching the forced compromises that contribute to further economic expansion, increase capacity, mastering new spheres of influence. War as an instrument of domination, is used as a last resort and has differentiated character that is used within the domain, however direct collision of empires may take place.

It is important for modern empires that they have inclusive trans-nationality, promote globalization and openness for each other. This is different from the classical empires which are inherently closed system, beware of foreign influence and fully open at the national and state levels to confront the challenges from outside. The penetration of one empire's culture into another serves as a stimulus for further globalization, finds common points and sets the algorithm of interaction between systems. It makes the empire depend not on nationality or territory but space and trans-nationality and enable it to respond quickly to challenges from outside, propose methods of interaction between actors, comprehensively combining national interests with economic priorities.

Another important feature is the ability to oppose collapse. Modern empires are built on the principle of network and form a single system, any fault of the system, beginning in domains serves as a prerequisite for the destruction of the entire structure. So, a modern empire collapses not from within but from outside when bifurcation domain leads to the collapse of the network. This is delegitimizing imperial power, which makes the decentralization of management, domain differentiation on the basis of priority, conflict of interest and transnational political elites, inefficient extrapolation of political structure of the empire domains, the occurrence of bifurcation points and the impossibility of deduction / forecasting.

Modern empire is characterized by the reflexive behavior of an individual, not the system. It is personalization which serves as a factor of legitimizing power. If classical empire's priority lies in the creation of mass which is structural, unified, systematic imperial power unit, the post-empire differentiation is reflexive: a person as an independent entity, assessing and analyzing the possible consequences of the advantages/disadvantages, they set the vectors of their existence, that is individual choice.

Thus, investigating content characteristics of classical and modern empires allows us to determine key parameters of the analytical category of «empire» and implement them in studying the areas of global governance.

Table 1. Comparison of methodological features of classical and modern form of empire organization


Classical empire

Modern empire


Structureof empire power

Subject - metropolis

Object - colony

Resources-military, administrative

Subject - transnational elite

Object - domaine (network sphere of influence)

Resources - economic, demographic



Geopilitical domination

Inclusion into the sphere of influence because of economic resources


Territorial coverage

Regional. Each empire existed in the borders of the region of invasion

Global. Empires try to enter all regions and to create the general and unified system of economic relations and political influence.


Instrumental aspectsof expansion

Power model of building an empire, the main instrument of expansion is invasion

Search for forced compromises for further economic expansion, war is the least implemented measure


Structural characteristics

Classic alempiresare economically and politically enclosed systems which do not tolerate inner influence and count on their own forces

Inclusivetrans-nationalityis characteristic, are vulnerable to globalization and act as its stimulators



Inability to outline the points of bifurcation and as a result being vulnerable to collapse; ruining begins from inside of the empire

Struggle against collapse and attempts to avoid it; bifurcation is not a danger for an empire but on the opposite is its stimulus; collapse takes place because of delegitimization of empire power


Empire formation

Building empire on the basis of hierarchy with stable traditions and administrative and law enforcement agencies

Building empire on the principle of network; penetration of political and economic elites



Reflexive behavior of the whole system is an important factor of empire functioning

Reflexive behavior of an individual, individualization of empires

Conclusions and perspectives of further research. Comparing classical and modern empires we can come to a conclusion that classical empire according to its nature is an enclosed system and its tasks are expansion and building the hierarchical centralized order. Modern empire as a form of global governance is to meet the trends of world development: networking, inclusiveness and ability to respond outer challenges.

In the conclusion we should emphasize that the studied theoretical and methodological approaches (realistic, institutional, world-system and «alternative») have certain restrictions among which are the utopian character of models, the controversial character of applied validity, the doubtful forecasting of future events. As a result, we have to look for the new conception which could explain the modern world events.

The development of the concept «global empire» allows us to analyze the factors which influence the redistribution of geopolitical spheres, concentration of resources, building the new system of global governance. Such approach ensures the forecasting of events and changes in the system and also enables to determine the points of bifurcation and crises in the world politics.

empire global governance


1. Amin S. L'imperialisme et le developpement inegal / S. Amin. -- Monthly Review Press, 1976. -- 267 p.

2. Aron R. Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations / R. Aron. -- Transaction Publishers, 2003. -- 820 p.

3. Arrighi J. Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System / J. Arrighi, B.J. Silver. -- Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. -- 336 p.

4. Cardoso F.H. Charting a New Course: The Politics of Globalization and Social Transformation / F.H. Cardoso. -- Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001. -- 352p.

5. Gilpin R. Global Political Economy -- Understanding the International Economic Order / R Gilpin. -- Princeton University Press, 2001. -- 440 p.

6. Haas P. M. Institutions for the earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection / P. Haas, R.O. Keohane, M.L. Levy. -- The MIT Press, 1993. -- 460 p.

7. Hardt M. Empire / M. Hardt, A. Negri. -- Harvard University Press, 2001. -- 478 p.

8. Ikenberry J. Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: Essays on American Power and International Order / J. Ikenberry. -- Polity; 1 edition, 2006. -- 312 p.

9. Keohane R. O. International Institutions and State Power / R.O. Keohane. -- Westview Press, 1989. -- 270 p.

10. Keohane R. International Institutions: Two Approaches / Robert O. Keohane // International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32/4. -- Blackwell Publishing. -- 1988. -- P. 379-- 396.

11. Krasner S.D. International Regimes / S.D. Krasner. -- Cornell University Press, 1983. -- 384 p.

12. Morgenthau H.J. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace / H.J. Morgenthau. -- Alfred A. Knopf, 1965. -- 630 p.

13. Toffler E. Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century / E. Toffler. -- Bantam Books, 1991. -- 640 p.

14. Wallerstein I. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction / I. Wallerstein. -- Duke University Press, 2004. -- 128 p.

15. Young O. Political Leadership and Regime Formation: On the Development of Institutions in International Society / O. Young // International Organization. -- 1991. -- Vol. 45. -- № 3. --P. 282.

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