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Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521715331
ISBN-10: 0521715334
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Editorial Reviews


"If you want to understand how Empires are established, how they flourish and how they vanish, and if you're only reading one book, make it Barkey's Empire of Difference. Here, on impressive display are: an amazing command of six centuries of Ottoman history, a rare ability to illuminate the analysis with comparisons from neighboring empires, and, most important, a never-failing grasp of the theoretical questions that matter. The intellectual ambition of this enterprise is audacious; it is an ambition that is fully realized. It vindicates the promise of historical sociology at the highest level."
-James C. Scott, Yale University

"This book about the past has stunning relevance to the present - and to the future. Karen Barkey has not only contributed to our understanding of empire - she has derived from history lessons that are highly pertinent to the modern, post-imperial world. She combines the skills of an imaginative and disciplined scholar with an intimate personal knowledge of the Ottoman legacy as well as a natural talent for lucid explication and narrative verve. She explains how the longevity of the Ottomans' 'Abode of Peace' was a result of their ability to adapt to changing internal and external circumstances - and how the intercommunal peace itself resulted from Sultans' and viziers' efforts to make a virtue out of diversity. Her concept of a 'negotiated enterprise'-in effect, a social arrangement on a massive scale that relied as much on soft power as hard power-has direct application to the challenges and opportunities for both national and transnational governance today. Altogether an achievement of brilliance, accessibility, and contemporary utility."
-Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and author of The Great Experiment

"The Ottoman Empire was one of the most successful and long-lasting examples of legitimate rule over a population characterized by extensive religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Karen Barkey convincingly argues that this achievement was due to the Ottomans' ability to maintain openness and tolerance. She draws from a rich literature to argue her compelling case. In retelling the story of the Empire's accomplishments and eventual demise, she greatly succeeds in introducing Ottoman history into the literatures in comparative history and historical sociology. The Ottoman case will now take its deserved place in the growing debate on empires. This book will be mandatory reading for any intelligent discussion on empire."
-Çağlar Keyder, Binghamton University, State University of New York and Boğaziçi University

Book Description

This book is a comparative study of imperial organization and longevity in the Ottoman Empire. Barkey's research demonstrates that the flexible techniques by which the Ottomans maintained their legitimacy, the cooperation of their diverse elites, and their control over economic and human resources were responsible for the longevity of this "negotiated empire."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521715334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521715331
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Karen Barkey's book is most welcome because it rejuvenates sociological theories of empire.

She starts by proposing an "imperial model" (Part I of the book). Here, she uses a social network perspective and suggests that empires "broker" local networks and political units (such as nations etc); this "brokerage" is sustained via a number of institutions from the imperial center that exert indirect rule on the periphery. A counterintuitive conclusion is that empire fosters diversity and shelters difference, much more so than other political regimes (think about how nation-states try to erase religious or ethnic differences).

Then she delves into the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into a Nation-State (Part II). This, in itself, is highly informative. While I am not an expert on the Ottoman Empire, she obviously masters the topic. The empirical material is very well-exposed and confirms the theories exposed in the first part of the book.

The book received two awards in 2009, and rightly so:

The "J. David Greenstone Award" of the Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association

The "Barrington Moore Book Award" of the Comparative and Historical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association (co-winner)

The key takeaway of the book is, for me, as a sociologist, that "empire" is not necessarily something that should be discarded on ideological grounds, rather studied scientifically.

This is a must read for sociologists, political scientists, and historians who are interested in empires and do not fear to reconsider their presuppositions.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on October 25, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a dazzling and fascinating tour from the establishment of the vast and durable Ottoman Empire to the birth of the Turkish modern state, not from a European perspective but from a near-Eastern one. However, to be perfectly clear, this book is an academic work of sociology as applied to history: it is heavy with the driest jargon, has no narrative whatsoever to it, is frequently repetitive, and demands that the reader know a great deal about not just Ottoman history, but also histories of the Romans, Habsburgs, Russians, and Byzantines. From my reading, I would say it is a graduate-level book. That being said, the ground that the book covers - how to explain the longevity of certain multi-ethnic and -religious empires - is absolutely essential for any serious student of history. This book is the best single treatment I have ever seen of the subject and will richly reward anyone who perserveres with it. While difficult, once I finished it I went right back through it a second time, underlining it with the enthusiasm of a student.

Rebelling against the template of rise and decline, the author seeks to explain what enabled the Ottoman Empire to last from 1300 to the eve of WWI.
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This is a wonderfully imaginative look at the Ottoman history. Professor Barkey explains that what made Ottomans so successful was not their military might, or religious fervor, but just the opposite their flexibility, ability to adapt and build coalitions with people and cultures very different than their own.
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