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The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy

Empire and Liberty

Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7
Swift Lecture Hall Swift Hall (1025 E. 58th St.), the University of Chicago

The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy
The University of Chicago


Recent assertions that the United States possesses a worldwide empire are often accompanied by comparisons to other empires, some of which have tried to reconcile imperial rule with domestic liberty or even claimed to rule abroad for the sake of liberty. While the United states is rarely thought to have an empire in the sense of regularly sending its citizens to rule other peoples directly in the fashion of the Roman and British empires, it is sometimes thought to exercise imperial power in the looser sense of compelling other states to do its will or serve its interests in the Athenian mode. We propose to examine the relationship between empire and liberty in a manner that both scrutinizes and draws on these recent debates and discussions. In addition to the United States past and present, we will focus on three empires: the Athenian, republican Roman, and British.

We will consider a wide variety of historical and theoretical questions regarding the character of each empire and of empire as such: the practical demands of wielding imperial power, the justice and injustice of various imperial regimes, the qualities of soul that lead to and arise from empire, and the compatibility of empire with freedom at home and abroad. Finally, we will consider whether the United States has had an empire in the past and whether it has become or is becoming a worldwide empire today, whether such an empire would be good for America and Americans, and whether it would be good for the world.

All sessions will be held in the third-floor lecture hall of Swift Hall (1025 E. 58th St.) on the campus of the University of Chicago. Questions about this event may be directed to Stephen Gregory (773-702-3423, Stephen-gregory@uchicago.edu).


Conference Schedule

Empire and Liberty

University of Chicago
Swift Hall
May 6-7, 2005

Friday, May 6

The Demands of Empire

9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m Athens as Hamlet: The Irresolute Empire
Barry S. Strauss, Cornell University

Imperial Power in the Roman Republic
Susan Mattern-Parkes, University of Georgia

The Demands of Empire and the United Kingdom
Jeremy Black, University of Exeter

The Requirements of American Hegemony, Whether Sought or Fated
Charles Fairbanks, Johns Hopkins University

2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Imperial Regimes, Justice, and the Human Soul
Theoretical Approaches

Empire and Liberty, Viewed at the First Opportunity
Clifford Orwin, University of Toronto

Machiavelli on Rome’s Republican Empire: Consequences and Alternatives
Christopher Lynch, Carthage College

On the United Kingdom and Liberalism
Uday Singh Mehta, Amherst College



Saturday, May 7

Imperial Regimes, Justice, and the Human Soul
Historical Approaches

9:30 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.

The Freedom to Rule: Athenian Imperialism and Democratic Masculinity
Ryan Balot, Washington University

Rome and the Hellenistic World: Masculinity, Militarism, Monarchy and Republic
Arthur Eckstein, University of Maryland

Disraeli, the British Empire and "Diseased Appetites"
William Kuhn, Carthage College

2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The Past, Present, and Future of American Empire
A Roundtable

David C. Hendrickson, Colorado College
Pierre Hassner, Centre d'Études et de Recherches Internationals
William Kristol, the Weekly Standard
Deepak Lal, University of California at Los Angeles

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©2004 The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy, University of Chicago
Revised: October 4, 2004