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Empire As A Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America's Present Predicament Along with a Few Thoughts about an Alternative

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0977197231
ISBN-10: 0977197239
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Appleman Williams (1921-1990) was one of the 20th century's most prominent historians of American diplomacy. His The Tragedy of American Diplomacy is often described as one of the most influential books written on American foreign policy, and Empire As A Way of Life is considered a seminal work on the study of American imperialism. Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University, former director of its Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005), and author of several books, including the recently published The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005) and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (2002).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Ig Publishing (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977197239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977197231
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Moss on April 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
The two brief reviews of Empire as a Way of Life need brief comment themselves. First, Williams was not a Marxist though he certainly admired the contributions of Karl Marx to our understanding of how the modern world came into being. He was also curious about how it came to pass that Marx fell into intellectual oblivion.
Second, Williams meant Empire as a Way of Life to be an essay to be read by the widest possible audience and certainly not one to be read after his much more detailed, complex works on diplomacy. And so it happened: Empire became a book widely read by lower division college students in history, political science, and sociology. We welcome the book in its new edition.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though dead for sixteen years, it is remarkable how much of a visionary William Appleman Williams truly was. He opens this book with a description of how America's political system has transformed our original ideology into an empire that is ever thirsting for new markets and how we've become more or less a slave to our own creation. Since so few people participate in our political system, our system has devolved into empire, though it remains Williams' hope that somehow this will change. This book is his attempt to illustrate how empire has emerged through the machinations of members of each political party who choose to follow the path of empire. This path has led America to be at odds with much of the rest of the world as we attempt to satisfy our need for growth.

Readers should be forwarned that much of Williams' arguments in this book are rehashings of ideas he put forth with much more detail in Contours of American History, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, and The Roots of the Modern American Empire. Empire as a Way of Life should not be a reader's first encounter with Williams. His earlier works illustrate how deep Williams'knowledge of US history truly is. What this book does is develop his earlier arguments into a concise indictment of our society and its need for empire to sustain our growth. Williams points out that this does not need to be the case, but disinterest amongst American voters and the corporate world's ability to manipulate the issues creats the reality in which empire thrives.

According to Williams, most, but not all, presidents give in to demands for empire and in reality do a disservice to the rest of the world and to our own ideology.
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Format: Paperback
In this superb analysis W.A. Williams unveils the continuous hypocrisy of US home and foreign policy. Expansion, conquest and intervention are transformed into `a pious rhetoric of virtue, wealth, freedom and democracy'. In reality, those in power destroyed the cultures of the First Americans, conquered half of Mexico and denied liberty, equality and welfare to large numbers of people at home and abroad.

The roots of these policies are to be found in the surplus production of agricultural and, later, industrial products and the need to conquer overseas markets for selling these surpluses. In other words, it was (is) waging wars for trade. By the way, the surplus proceeds went (go) to a minority.

The few who rule the US see an imperial policy as the end and purpose of American culture. They want to be the just judge (and jury), the center of global government and the policeman enforcing that power!
But for W.A. Williams, it is an illusion to reap the rewards of empire without paying its costs and without admitting that the US is an empire.
As H.J. Raymond said: `I greatly fear we shall sacrifice our liberties to our imperial dreams.'
Already in 1980, 50 % of all US scientists and engineers were employed in military work and 53 % of all tax dollars were used for military operations (more than double the health + education budget).

The author also criticizes heavily Roosevelt's New Deal, because it created an institutional link between the huge companies and the military. Power became even more consolidated and centralized. The State and the large corporations had become the Very Visible Hands oiling the economic process by taxes imposed on ordinary citizens, while the proceeds went (go) to ...

For W.A.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Makes you feel powerful living in the USA, yet so dirty. Can this be the reason why George Washington refused a third term in office? The political angles into "freedom" require an ignorance to ethics. No idea since I am but a peasant, but it is an interesting read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Note: the main point here concerns the Kindle edition. It is _not_ the edition with the preface by Andrew Bacevich. That preface is only 3 or 4 pages long but it is missing -- completely -- from Amazon's Kindle version.

Apart from that, "Empire as a Way of Life" was William Appleman Williams's last book, originally published in 1980. It is not his finest work, but it surprisingly fresh over 35 years later.
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Format: Hardcover
U.S. foreign policy is as bad as British foreign policy with Bush and Blair skipping around the world hand-in-hand kicking sand in everyone's faces, along with a few bombs, missiles and so forth. How did we come to this?

William Appleman Williams explained it well twenty-five years ago when he wrote this essay. Imperialism has always been our nation's "raison d'etre" despite all the high-sounding libertarian rhetoric to the contrary. In Williams's Marxist view of elite behavior, elites have always sought to enhance their pocketbooks at the expense of everyone around them.

The Revolutionary War was a war to secure their pocketbooks from the mercantilists in England.

The Constitution was a "coup d'etat" over the Articles of Confederation and the libertarian United States of America because the elites (Hamiltonians) who pulled it off wanted wars with North Africa and the Articles prevented the warmongers from starting them.

The War of 1812 was fought on behalf of Yankee elites and their pocketbooks.

The War Between the States was a war for empire. Abraham Lincoln made a "bargain with the 'Devil'"(p 92) to rape the Bill of Rights on behalf of Yankee elites and their pocketbooks.

The Spanish-American War was instigated by the U.S. on behalf of elites and their desire to acquire the Philippines. After the U.S. liberated the Philippines quite quickly, they spent the next three years killing Filipinos in the name of empire.

The British were so impressed with American empire, they sent a fifth column to win us over to join them in the trenches of France for the Great War. Woodrow Wilson obliged them by sending our boys over to the Western Front to "usher in a millenium of democratic progress" (p134).
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