Imperialism And Democracy: White House Or Liberty Square?

By James Petras, Countercurrents.org23 October, 2011

The relation between imperialism and democracy has been debated and discussed over 2500 years, from fifth century Athens to Liberty Park in Manhattan. Contemporary critics of imperialism (and capitalism) claim to find a fundamental incompatibility, citing the growing police state measures accompanying colonial wars, from Clinton’s anti-terrorist laws, and Bush’s “Patriot Act” to Obama’s ordering the extrajudicial assassination of overseas US citizens.

In the past, however, many theorists of imperialism of varying political persuasion, ranging from Max Weber to Vladimir Lenin, argued that imperialism unified the country, reduced internal class polarization and created privileged workers who actively supported and voted for imperial parties. A historical, comparative survey of the conditions under which imperialism and democratic institutions converge or diverge can throw some light on the challenges and choices faced by the burgeoning democratic movements erupting across the globe.

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