After a lecture, some questions, lots of reading and a tutorial could we arrive at a definition of empire? No. The closest i came was to devise some hallmarks of empire:
· border control
· money and military might
· ethnicity as a tool: finely tuned dynamic of inclusion and exclusion
· effective centralized government combined with empowered lawmakers at the locality
· monolithic polity
and Branding/culture: dress, language, capitals, architecture etc

All of these can also be adapted to look at corporate empires too.

Constantine cavafy's 1904 poem 'waiting for the barbarians' keeps coming to mind. It explores most of the 'hallmarks' from above. This has been one of my favourites since i first heard it in 2006 read by indigenous professor and lawyer larissa behrendt as a preface to a forum on homelands and displacement in australia

In Paul Burton's lecture on the Collapse of the Roman empire I was particularly struck by Demandt's 210 reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire. Within this list there seems to be reference to nearly every complication in collapse across all the subject areas that we have, and will be talking about. For example: Abolition of rights; Absence of character; Apathy; Capitalism; Climate; Epidemics; Excess; Over-expansion to Terrorism. I particularly felt the link between the excess and greed of the Roman Empire and the previous panel on the GFC. I was surprised by the climatic elements mentioned by Burton including near-industrial exploitation of resources, deforestation and over-farming. The possibility of sea-level rise seems like the idea of 'presentism' that was mentioned (imposing contemporary concerns on historical events) but the more agriculturally and industrially based factors seemed plausible as a part of the problem. This point isn't surprising but it is something that I had never considered in a problem (The Roman Empire) that I have always considered political. It brought home to me one of the emerging themes of the course, that macrocosmic problems are seemingly always comprised of a multitude of factors (perhaps even 210?).

The standout consideration for me from Joan Beaumont's talk was that empiric collapse happens when the focus shifts from the creation of wealth to over-investment in the military. From my somewhat patchy knowledge of political history this seems to be an apt conclusion. One figure that I came across suggested that the USA, including expenditure on Iraq and Afghanistan (not usually included in DoD budgeting) spent $623bil on defence vs. Everybody else in the world, which totaled around $500bil. The intuition of looking at past mistakes makes the future of US imperialism seem somewhat wobbly.

The discussion following the lecture was fascinating. The salient feature of which was the idea that studying history may only be so useful in predicting the future. Which tied nicely back to the previous discussion of Black Swans. We were warned that looking for patterns can be a dangerous game to play. I enjoy looking for patterns in history, I believe that the patterns are inevitable but perhaps the process for each collapse is wildly unpredictable.

I was also intrigued by the discussion of empire in the twenty-first century. That it has become an unfashionable (colonial?) concept and that the rise of ego and the individual is incompatible with the patriotism and human-canon-fodder style wars of imperialism witnessed in previous Empires. It was also suggested that Empire is impossible with a three-year election cycle. I wonder then if these are all 'Western' symptoms and we are at a massive disadvantage to rising powers with diametric philosophies?

This week's tutorial reading covered differentiating concepts of empire. The remnants of colonial empire in Zaire, the commercial empire of Martha Stewart and the historical comparisons of the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire. It is from comparisons between these studies that I devised my previous 'hallmarks'.


Is the collapse of empires something that happens catalytically, in a certain culmination of many factors that incites rapid breakdown?

· Is it therefore futile to look for one cause of empire collapse?

· Is time too great a force for superpowers, is evolution just a natural progression?

Is it impossible to have an objective stance about contemporary events, can collapse only be defined retroactively?

Is political tyranny important in the twenty-first century? Or are the empires of today’s world based on the infiltration of dominant ideology (>Religion; educational models; consumer models; dominant corporations; communicative culture and language) rather than centralized governmental control