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Republican discourses and imperial projects : liberty and empire in American political discourse.

Kennedy, Geoff (2009) 'Republican discourses and imperial projects : liberty and empire in American political discourse.', Spectrum: a journal of global studies., 1 (1). pp. 53-68.


Early American republican discourse represents a significant innovation on the traditional republican antagonism to ‘empire.’ While no consensus was established as to the kind of international strategies that would be adopted by the new state in order to enhance its greatness, a significant number of American leaders sought the creation of a ‘Republican Empire‘, or an ‘Empire of Liberty.’ While these ‘imperial projects’ assumed different positions in regard to territorial expansion—Jefferson—and commercial expansion—Hamilton—they each represented a conceptual reconciliation between the politics of empire and the politics of liberty. This discursive innovation can be explained in terms of the specific political and socio-economic processes of state formation in the 18th century. In particular, the form of state created by the architects of American politics was intentionally designed to prevent the development of tyranny—either in the form of mob rule or the ‘imperium’ of an autocratic ruler. This political development was in part made possible by the development of capitalist social property relations, a transformation that fundamentally transforms the dynamic of state expansionism and domestic politics and distinguished the American republic from the republican states that preceded it.

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Record Created:22 Jun 2011 09:20
Last Modified:22 Jun 2011 12:59

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