Search - List of Books by Alexander J. Motyl
Alexander J. Motyl is an American historian. In 2001 his book on imperialism posited a theoretical framework for examining the structure of empires as a political structure. He makes use of the standard model that geographic and political areas are constituted by a core and a periphery. The empire's structure relates the core elite to the peripheral elite in a mutually beneficial fashion that can be established through any number of means: aggressive, coercive, or consensual. And while there is a vertical relationship between the core and periphery, there is a lack of substantive relations between periphery and periphery.
Total Books: 14
This relationship he describes as an incomplete wheel: there are hubs and spokes, but no rim. Empires, in this theoretical concept, depend on this relative absence of relationships in the periphery, the core's power partly dependent on its role as a neuralgic center.
Motyl describes three types of imperial structures: continuous, discontinuous, and hybrid. In a continuous empire, all the territories are adjacent to one another on land. The Mongol Empire, Russian Empire, Aztec Empire, and Akkadian Empire are examples of such continuous empires. A discontinuous empire is one in which the ruled territories are overseas or are exclaves far from the imperial core. Maritime empires, such as the European colonial empires, are examples of discontinuous empire. A hybrid empire had both adjacent ruled territories and far-flung ruled territories. An example might be the German Reich, which had imperial possessions in Europe as well as overseas in Africa. He discussed the Russian example also in his earlier book
Motyl also posits varying degrees of empire: formal, informal, and hegemonic. In a formal imperial relationship, the core can appoint and dismiss peripheral elites, obviate any external agenda or policies, and directly control the internal agenda and policies. In an informal imperial relationship, the core has influence but not control over appointing and dismissing peripheral elites, direct control over the external agenda and policies, and influence over the internal agenda and policies. Finally, in a hegemonic relationship, the core has no control over appointing or dismissing peripheral elites, control over the external agenda, influence over external policies, and no control over the internal agenda or policies.
Empire ends when significant peripheral interaction begins, not necessarily when the core ceases its domination of the peripheries. The core-periphery relationship can be as strong or weak as possible and remain an empire as long as there is only insignificant interaction between periphery and periphery. Many empire observers make the distinction that most of them end through some policies or strategies based on arrogance or national hubris, accounting for a popular opinion that empires implode on themselves as opposed to suffering defeat from an outside enemy.
Finally, Motyl warns that no theory of empire explains both rise and fall equally. Even if the rise and fall mirror each other, it does not follow that the introduction of elements that lead to the rise also lead to the fall upon their removal.