Americans "imperialism" goes farther than the mid nineteenth century. Tripolitan war in 1801. Americans use US naval power to project economic interests in North Africa and the Mediterranean. I'm sure US imperialism goes back farther than that.
I just finished this book called Culture and Imperialism
by Edward W. Said (the name Said is pronounced Sai-eed). One of the things I found interesting in his first few chapters were the defintions of imperialism and colonialism. Imperialism is according to Said the, "... the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory
" (Said,9) When he goes on to the topic of colonialism, he notes that colonialism, "...is a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory.
" (Said,9) This seems very much in line with what Khethil had stated in post #1. But here is where it gets into the deep interpretation of imperialism. Said (quoting Micheal Doyle) states that "Empire is a relationship, both formal and informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of maintaining an empire.
" (Said, 9) But one of the more interesting thoughts of Said appears later at the end of the chapter in which Said notes that "...colonialism has largely disappeared... but imperialism has lingered in a cultural sphere influencing political, ideological, economic, and social practices
." (Said, 29)
But throughout the book, Said imparts that imperialism is not about "accumulation and acquisition,"
but rather the existentialist notion of a people dominating another based on their conceptions of the others inferiority. Imperialism based in culture rather than force?
Interestingly enough, America is not mentioned as much as the French, the Germans, and the English. Said notes that American exceptionalism has not so much absolved but classified Americans in a different niche compared to the English, French, and Germans, etc. In so many words, Said says that The Europeans are primarily at fault for imperialism because "empire (to the french, british, and germans) was a major topic of unembarrassed cultural attention.
"I don't want to quote the entire book, but suffice to say that Both the Americans and the Europeans did it, but the Americans always provided a legitimate justification (whether or not it made sense to everyone else.) BAM! EXCEPTIONALISM!!!
Said in a way makes me think that Americans do not classify into the classic view of imperialism. It seems like a term which is unsuited to the American experience. For better or worse, I don't want to get into that, but I to a point do not agree with moniker of American "imperialism."
Is imperialism unethical? Sure. Especially if you consider the inextricable connection with Imperialism and Colonialism. It is a projection of power (by definition) which is imposed on a state. However, if you take Said's definition into account, McDonalds in England shows that America is exercising some manner of imperialism on Britons. Does this fit with our conceptions of imperialism... or maybe even capitalism? Is capitalism then a method of imperialism? Is that why, as Khethil had provided in examples 2 and 3 of his first post notions of American imperialism from the perspective of Marxists? This all seems to reduce things down to culture and not simple notions of political influence and notions of domination which are commonly associated with "imperialism."