Devoir de Philosophie

Analysis of the weapons of empires

Publié le 17/09/2023

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« 13/09/2023 Faculty of Humanities Repertoires of powers in ancient and modern empires By leaning on Burman’s and Cooper’s book, it would be possible to focus on the repertoires ancient and modern empires – even if this concept is quite unpopular to define different policies of modern countries – were used to or currently keep on taking benefit in order to improve the way power is harnessed in different spaces and different periods.

Repertoire, or invetory, of power is a term used to definite the numerous kind of tools which a political entity can take profit of to secure its own power.

These tools are not to be seen in a unique shape, they can be indeed versatile and polymorphous towards history so that they can match occasional scenarios. The book opens on a great exemple of unsuccessful use of this repertoire such as the fall of Alexander the Great’s empire : even if the empire of the Macedonian ruler stretched over a really huge part of the planet, from the Greek landcoasts till today’s Afghanistan and Pakistan, it was torn apart in a blink of an eye due to the very breakable bases it was successfully built on.

If we remain focused on the very first chapters of the book, it is possible to identify several weapons ancient China and Rome took profit of in order to sustain their empires towards centuries regardless of the huge size and the ethnical diverisity.

Political strategies and ideologies are the main means these policital entities could benefit of.

If we have a look on the Italian peninsula of the VIII century BCE, we might observe how Rome managed to build one of the greatest empire from a tiny inhabited hill.

During the very first centuries of the Roman military success, the city succeeded in speading out the mythological histories of its foundation by calling on the mythic voyage of a demigod named Aenea or the legendary story of two twins nursed by a female wolf in order to consolidate the imaginarium of this emerging empire based on noble values among conquered and (still) not conquered tribes.

Imperial 1 China - or ancient China - never turned to 1 It would be indeed problamatic to speak about ancient Chine through the syntagm « imperial China » as the Chinese empire lasted until 1911 according to the traditional historiography.

It would be better to refer to this period of Chinese history in aid of an other adjective. popular legends about its glorious birth – regardless of the civilizational superiority of the Celestial Empire2 on barbarians – but it exploited the new Confucianism spreading through the empire in order to give the social pyramid a moral socle the population could understand, accept and tolerate with the help of this new system of values. In relation to the most important political strategies numerous actions can be enumerated.

Once Rome successfully annexed new lands, the Eternal City was not used to rule out local elites but had tendancy to assimilate them into a huger system whose based on the key-concept of the law.

In order to feed indigenous griefs, as we can think, because of the non-respect of traditional social structures, Rome furthermore never swept out local customs and managed to integrate them into a new legal pluralism (p.34) so that local tribes and cities could peacefully accept the new government.

Beside the law, citizenship was an additionnal powerful weapon in Rome’s hands.

It fed loyality of non-Romans who where egged on embracing Roman values in order to take profit of the same rights a regular and ordinary Roman could dispose of.

We find interesting to underline how the Roman system, based on a certain emerging meritocracy, nourished a sort of cooperation with this upwarding system.

It is bemusing to realize how the complexe concept of citizenship is still used today.

France is a luxuriant exemple.

In order to get the French citizenship and passport, more specifically one of the most powerful 3, it is not only mandatory to master French and French history, but a strong level of knowledge of republican values is required as well.

Moreover, making France and French institutions glow and shine on the international arena could even a faster path to obtain this striven citizenship4. We might believe that Roman fortune and political longevity lew on these specific methods.

On the other side of the world, China has never asked the populace to approve the new syste, the centre introduced.

Laws could surely be discuessed but it was quite inthinkable to a discussion in a more or less public space.

Moreover China had a more fluctuant attitude toward local elites : either it exerminated them in order to erase the birth a counterweight or they were invited to join the capital to keep an 2 GRANET, Marcel, La religion des Chinois (1922), Paris, Albin Michel, 2010, p.23. The second most powerful with other countries after Japan: 4 All necessary approaches are illustrated on the official page of the French Ministry of Interior : available in English too. 3 eye on them and contribuate to the imperial gentlee culture.

If laws and citizenship were some of the main socle of the Roman empire, self-surveillance is the equivalent parallel in the Chinese policy.

Mutual surveillance was instaured in order to have a general control regardless of the distance between those remote lands and the capital.

This system was fuelled with rewards for preventing illicite acts and betrayals and severe penalities for not contributing in preventing them were executed as well. Cooperation mixed with upwarding possibilites is ensured.

We consider it pretty unavoidable not to think about how this system partially works nowadays as well : even if several centuries divide ancient from modern China and even if the selfsurveillance does not longer operate like before, this system of social credit, consisting in a moral reconstruction of a more harmonious society 5.

Denonciation and rewards issued as a result of this practice have progressivly been disappearing during the last four decades since the wake of liberalisation of the Chinese economy in the 80’s but it is quite captive to underline how such an ancient and primitive system of mutual surveillance did work since its very first application.

Furthermore it is also interesting to show how this system of denonciation for social or economic benefits keeps or kept on working in other coutries even if in a chronologically and conceptually more limitated field of implement.

An obvious exemple could be given by the South Korean way of checking the outbreak of Covid19 since the very beginning of the pandemic.

Although the country is far from being a totalitarian or dictatorial regime, the South Korean government had been promoting the reporting of any breach of health regulations during the several lockdowns, rewarding perpetrators.... »


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