Networks of Domination: The Social Foundations of Peripheral Conquest in International Politics

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9780199362165: Networks of Domination: The Social Foundations of Peripheral Conquest in International Politics

In the nineteenth century, European states conquered vast stretches of territory across the periphery of the international system. Much of Asia and Africa fell to the armies of the European great powers, and by World War I, those armies controlled 40 percent of the world's territory and 30 percent of its population. Conventional wisdom states that these conquests were the product of European military dominance or technological superiority, but the reality was far more complex.

In Networks of Domination, Paul MacDonald argues that an ability to exploit the internal political situation within a targeted territory, not mere military might, was a crucial element of conquest. European states enjoyed greatest success when they were able to recruit local collaborators from within the society and exploit divisions among elites. Different configurations of social ties connecting potential conquerors with elites were central to both the patterns of imperial conquest and the strategies conquerors employed. MacDonald compares episodes of British colonial expansion in India, South Africa, and Nigeria during the nineteenth century, and also examines the contemporary applicability of the theory through an examination of the United States occupation of Iraq.

The scramble for empire fundamentally shaped, and continues to shape, the international system we inhabit today. Featuring a powerful theory of the role of social networks in shaping the international system, Networks of Domination bridges past and present to highlight the lessons of conquest.

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About the Author:


Paul K. MacDonald is an assistant professor of political science at Wellesley College.

Review:


"In the age of Facebook and LinkedIn, everyone knows that being well-networked confers social power. But who knew that this applies even to empires? Paul MacDonald's creative, masterful study of British imperialism and America's occupation of Iraq shows that successful domination depends not just on out-gunning the locals but also on out-networking them. Empire works when outsiders succeed in forging extensive social ties with locals, and when locals' own networks are fractured by internal divisions. These persuasive findings will sharpen the insights of those who think about grand strategy and those who study how social network patterns shape our world." --Jack Snyder, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations, Columbia University


"One of the major debates in the history of world politics is how Europeans managed to conquer so much of Eurasia. The easy answer is military superiority but the story is much more complicated than that. MacDonald provides welcome conceptualization, evidence and elaboration for the important roles of what he calls collaborators and fragmentation." --William R. Thompson, Distinguished Professor and Donald A. Rogers Professor of Political Science, Indiana University


"Paul MacDonald's book is not only a masterful synthesis of historical evidence-much of it rooted in copious primary-source work-and sophisticated theory It is also one of the most important books written in years on international security. MacDonald's findings have sweeping implications for how we understand imperialism, conquest, and the projection of power. Indeed, it will force scholars and observers of international relations to rethink core assumptions about the rise of western European empires and the dynamics of contemporary interventions." --Daniel H. Nexon, Georgetown University


"In this illuminating study, MacDonald argues that the success of imperial conquest during the colonial era hinged less on brute power than on the ability of European states to build and exploit social ties with elites among the colonized. The book is a sober reminder that great military power and dreams of empire cannot guarantee control of even a small foreign country -- much less world domination." --Foreign Affairs


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