The thesis of Lal's provocative contribution to the debate on empire, globalization, and U.S. power is that empire, despite its current reputation, has tended to be a progressive historical force, providing order and the conditions for prosperity. In a breathtaking, quick survey of ancient and modern empire, Lal argues that empire has served as a governance mechanism for disparate peoples who otherwise would have been trapped in the conflicts and inefficiencies of anarchy. Echoing Niall Ferguson's Colossus, Lal also contends that the United States, following in the footsteps of the British, is the last surviving empire; its global rule has been mostly informal and indirect, but it has been crucial in the creation of an open world economy. The book's most interesting argument regards the dangers facing the U.S. order: Washington advances the interests of itself and the global order by spreading material values but endangers this order by spreading Western moral values. In other words, empire put in the service of capitalist modernization is sustainable, but empire used to spread Western beliefs generates backlash.
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