quotations about imperialism

Imperialism quote

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness -- and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.



I came, I saw, I conquered.

JULIUS CAESAR, attributed, Plutarch's Lives


The builders of empires always justified their actions by their beliefs that they and their cultures were superior to the cultures of those they conquered. The English imperialists, like the Romans, the Portuguese and the Spanish before them, believed in their superiority and strength, and that their actions were instruments of the divine order. In the British Empire God was indeed an Englishman.

ADAM JAMROZIK, The Chains of Colonial Inheritance


Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.

EDWARD W. SAID, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2003


Radio ... is now the chief agent of imperialism. It does not purify the spirit of man, does not, like the book, bring him back to the sanctuary of solitude, but throws him to the lions, subtly preparing his mind for the blood and chains of public sacrifice.

GEORGES DUHAMEL, In Defense of Letters


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Only he who has no use for the empire is fit to be entrusted with it.

ZHUANGZI, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu


The concept of unlimited expansion that alone can fulfill the hope for unlimited accumulation of capital, and brings about the aimless accumulation of power, makes the foundation of new political bodies--which up to the era of imperialism always had been the upshot of conquest--well-nigh impossible. In fact, its logical consequence is the destruction of all living communities, those of the conquered peoples as well as of the people at home.

HANNAH ARENDT, Imperialism: Part Two of the Origins of Totalitarianism


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Imperialists never can believe that "their" subject peoples "really" want to repudiate them. If they show that they do so, they must have been "misled by agitators", "corrupted by the subversive agents of hostile powers", or, as the Russians out it, suborned by "Fascists, Americans, Horthvists, Pilsudskyists, imperialists, etc., etc., etc." They must be protected from themselves, imperialists always conclude, and at all costs prevented from deciding their own futures.

UNKNOWN, Imprint, 1961


Amid the welter of vague political abstractions ... where meanings shift so quickly and so subtly, not only following changes of thought, but often manipulated artificially by political practitioners so as to obscure, expand, or distort ... a certain broad consistency in its relations to other kindred terms is the nearest approach to definition which such a term as Imperialism admits. Nationalism, internationalism, colonialism, its three closest congeners, are equally elusive, equally shifty, and the changeful overlapping of all four demands the closest vigilance.

J. ALLAN HOBSON, Imperialism


Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capitalism is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

VLADIMIR ILYICH LENIN, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism


What sets imperialism of the capitalist sort apart from other conceptions of empire is that it is the capitalist logic that typically dominates, though ... there are times in which the territorial logic comes to the fore. But this then poses a crucial question: how can the territorial logics of power, which tend to be awkwardly fixed in space, respond to the open spatial dynamics of endless capital accumulation? And what does endless capital accumulation imply for the territorial logics of power?

DAVID HARVEY, The New Imperialism


Imperialism [is] more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where Colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against.

ARCHIBALD P. THORNTON, Doctrines of Imperialism


Within its history, Anglo-American imperialism has alienated the world outside the West in the form of the other, so that it could dream the other's redemption in the form of the self.

ERIC CHEYFITZ, The Poetics of Imperialism


America's entire war on terror is an exercise in imperialism. This may come as a shock to Americans, who don't like to think of their country as an empire. But what else can you call America's legions of soldiers, spooks and special forces straddling the globe?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, New York Times, July 28, 2002


When imperialism feels weak, it resorts to brute force.

HUGO CHAVEZ, speech, Jan. 31, 2005


If we examine the various theories of imperialism that have been propounded we find that ... they all affirm a condemnatory axiom ... that imperialism is evil, that it is the evil behavior of rapacious capitalists or atavistic warriors, or perhaps more generally, an evil that lurks in all human beings; presumably too, as historic evil, it carries ineluctably the fatality of its own self-punishment ... [but] we must clearly distinguish between the two varieties of imperialism that have alternated and competed in the world's history -- the progressive and the regressive.

LEWIS S. FEUER, Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind


Empires always develop mission statements. The Romans said they brought order and justice to the conquered, the Spanish brought the word of God, the British free trade and prosperity, the French la mission civilisatrice, the Americans democracy and free enterprise.... Mission statements typically strengthen after expansion has begun, for they offer more elevated motives than mere profit and insecurity; they deflect attention from the militarism of the project, and they are useful in giving a sense of moral uplift to the imperialists themselves.

MICHAEL MANN, The Sources of Social Power


Empires are always dying.

STEWART BRAND, The Clock of the Long Now


Triumphant peoples, successful peoples, possessing peoples--empires!--do not want crucified criminals as their chief cultic symbol, especially not when they themselves are the crucifiers ... as they regularly are!

DOUGLAS JOHN HALL, "Where in the World Are We", Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture


There will come a time of fire and night, when enemies rise and empires fall, when the stars themselves begin to die. That time is already here.

KEVIN J. ANDERSON, Of Fire and Night