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Re: [WSDG] Napoleonic Right and World-Empire?
by francesco ranci
09 April 2003 13:54 UTC
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I would like to say that, from a methodological point
of view, comparisons are "right" or "wrong" only
according to the criteria of comparison that are being
used. For example, I can compare "water" with "fire"
as sources of mechanical "energy" (and find them more
or less valuable in relationship to their costs, their
effects on the environment, and other implications).
But I can't compare them as direct sources of "food",
since we need water to drink but we don't need to put
fire in our bodies.
In order to foresee social events, we need a theory to
guide our comparisons (selecting what counts and what
does not count, what is likely to cause what, etc.).
Our theories' limits can also limit our ability to
foresee the future (besides other people's free
choices or the next meteorit).

What worries me about the situation is the
contradiction implied in all "Napoleonic" efforts;
i.e., to wage wars against other people's government
in order to "free" the population, in the assumption
that any kind of people really wants "democracy". 
I like to assume that too, but I do not think that to
wage wars help - considering that fighting a war
implies strong limits to democracy even where some
democracy already exists, and that any war calls for
other wars.
Bush and Blair, and Fallaci and Berlusconi, assume
that war has being waged initially by Islam, not by
them. They hold "Islam" as the opposite to
"democracy", and as the new "enemy": the new "Evil
Empire/Russia". France and Germany, Russia and China,
do not seem to totally agree, even though they have
problems with Islam too (or because of that). 
Does it all come down to "oil" resources instead ? I
do not know for sure. In any case, I think that the
problems of communication between
anglo-saxon-protestant and arab-muslim cultures are
somehow underestimated: and such neglet does not help.
This is a long story. I read that in the '500
Elizabeth the Queen of England and the Sultan of the
Mecca used Italian translators and translations as an
intermediate step in their written corrispondence. The
Italian translators, it seems, used to change the
meaning of the letters coming from both sides, in
order to keep both writers unaware of the fact that
the other writer did not agree on their respective
statuses (king-subject, for the Sultan, or independent
nations, for Elizabeth). 
Being Italian, even though Italy did not exist then as
a sovereing state or national language and it is not
so certain to which extent it does exist now, I feel
my duty to call for always more attention and honesty
in the analyses of cultural assumptions on both and
any sides.

Francesco Ranci 

--- Trichur Ganesh <tganesh@stlawu.edu> wrote:
> I disagree with the comparison you make, Elson.  In
> a talk that I gave in a Conference titled "The Real
> Situation" on the 29th of January, I compared the
> current empire-making bid of the US to the Hapsburg
> bid for European empire.  I think that is the
> correct comparison.  In both cases the terms of the
> bid are similar, the religious wars of Reformation
> (Catholics vs. Protestants), 'good vs.evil', in both
> cases also, a clear case of 'overstretch'.  For more
> elaboration on this you may want to read my "The
> Current Conjuncture".  Ganesh K. Trichur.
> Elson Boles wrote:
> > This is a question I wish Boris had put to
> Wallerstein:
> >
> > While there is no comparison between Bush and
> Napoleon as individuals, is there a reasonable
> comparison between the US hawks "pre-emptive"
> polices toward an American Empire and France's
> Napoleon era?
> >
> > Wallerstein in several pieces on the three
> hegemonies refers to counter- hegemony: attempts to
> create world-empires and the second before last
> being Napoleon.  If we accept the general
> comparison, one could contend that there is more in
> common between the US hawks and Napoleon than with
> Nazism.  There are the stated aims of world
> dominance but also "democratization" (and the
> contradiction is consistent with Napoleonic Europe),
> and liberalism.
> >
> > But of course, as Arrighi also stresses, cycles
> don't repeat, but evolve.  And in this case, what is
> obviously different is that the old hegemon is
> making the attempt based on its superior military,
> while the new center(s) of the world-economy don't
> have the military edge.  That means that the pattern
> of successive hegemons ended with the US and it
> seems unlikely that there will be another hegemon. 
> But that seems to jibe with the oddity of the US
> (the last hegemon) making the effort toward
> world-empire since, in the current era of
> bifurcation, the old rules are off, strange things
> happen, and the future is difficult to predict (but
> impossible?).
> >
> > The US seems much less likely to succeed by
> comparison to Napoleon, for all the reasons that
> Wallerstein and others have stated.
> >
> > So, to elaborate, one of the question is, is the
> attempt comparable?   Another is, if the US does
> fail, what are the chances that Europe will succeed
> through a de Lampedusa scheme?  (I think the chances
> are higher than Wallerstein suggests though he
> claims that prediction is nearly impossible - and
> predictability is another issue I'd like to take
> up).
> >
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