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2005: Empire and the Future World Order

Empire got itself a bad name during the past century but recently more and more voices are making themselves heard in the international debate, speaking up for the notion of empire as a “benign form of order”. For instance, the British historian Niall Ferguson argues in his book Colossus for the notion of an American – yet reluctant – empire in the making.

We now know that the fall of communism did not, as many had expected, lead to a new world order. History did not come to an end, but seems to have taken a leap into a new era, whose contours are yet to be revealed.

The Engelsberg Seminar 2005 invites participants to discuss the subject of empire and world order from both historical and present perspectives. Is for instance the United States an empire? If it is, are its population and elite prepared to shoulder such a burden? Can an empire play a positive role in creating a stable, liberal and democratic order? What characteristics must an empire have to be successful in the long term? Or are imperial ambitions in fact essentially destabilising? If so, what are the alternatives to empire when it comes to creating a stable world order?

Are there other power centres in the world, such as the European Union and China, which can and want to challenge the US in this role or build supporting empires? What role will these giants play on the global stage? Historical analogies can provide us with a guide and valuable advice for the future, but only if used cautiously. What can be learnt from the history and development of the Roman, Ottoman, Spanish, Habsburg and British empires based on the concept of empire as a benevolent form of order?

Which bodies can promote an international order that creates stability and encourages development towards democracy and respect for human rights? The United Nations was intended to be such an organisation, but as its 60th anniversary approaches, it is difficult to feel unbridled enthusiasm. Its victories have been many, but its failures hard to endure; even the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, a couple of years ago asserted that the entire UN system was in need of radical reform to regain its legitimacy. However, what can the UN accomplish without the approval and collaboration of powerful nations?

The only remaining superpower or hyperpuissance, the USA, through its unique position, plays a central role in the world order, but as developments in Iraq show, it is more difficult to win the peace than to win the war. What is the state of the US resolve and its ability to find allies? Europe appears the self-evident partner in such an alliance. Historical and political ties are strong – but perhaps they are dissolving. Europe has frequently distanced itself from US foreign policy, but what alternatives could the European Union offer? And last but not least, the often stated fact that globalisation is bringing the world closer does not of necessity lead to greater affinity: it may just as well create greater awareness of differences and in its turn lead to new conflicts.



Hugh Thomas: The Russian Im­perialism – Past and Present

Writer and Historian, UK, The Rise of the Spanish Empire Richard Pipes, Professor, Harvard University, USA

Nathan Shachar: The Portuguese Empire

Writer and Journalist, Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

Orhan Pamuk: The Loss of the Ottoman Empire

Author, Turkey

Jan Morris: Late Beauties of the British Empire

Author, UK

Charles Maier: Order and Disorder – A Survey of European Systems of States in the 20th Century

Center for European Studies, Harvard University, USA

György Schöpflin: Austria­-Hungary – Empire and Democracy Won’t Combine

MEP of EU Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

Tøger Seidenfaden: Empire by Attraction – The EU Adventure

Editor-in-Chief, Politiken, Denmark

Peter Bender: Are the Americans the Romans of Today?

Writer and Journalist, USA

Philip Bobbitt: Future Demands on Nation States – Reflections on Security

Professor, Texas University School of Law, USA

William Kirby: When Did China Become “China”?

Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, USA

Ross Terrill: Chinese Imperialism

Dr, Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University, USA

David Rieff: The United Nations and the Crisis of the World System

Writer and Journalist, USA

Shashi Tharoor: UN and the Future World Order

Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Informatiom, United Nations

David Coleman: Future Demographic Trends

Professor of Demography, Oxford University, UK

Robert Cooper: The European Empire

Director-General for External and Politico-Military Affairs at the Council of the European Union

Deepak Lal: The British Empire – Maintaining a Liberal Global Order

Professor, University of California, USA

Ian Buruma: Democracy and Culture

Writer and Professor, Bard College, USA