Synopses & Reviews
The American road to empire started when the first English settlers landed in Virginia. Simultaneously, the first Russians crossed the Urals and the two empires that would dominate the twentieth century were born. Empires Apart covers the history of the Americans and Russians from the Vikings to the present day. It shows the two empires developed in parallel as they expanded to the Pacific and launched wars against the nations around them. They both developed an imperial 'ideology' that was central to the way they perceived themselves.
Soon after, the ideology of the Russian Empire also changed with the advent of Communism. The key argument of this book is that these changes did not alter the core imperial values of either nation; both Russians and Americans continued to believe in their manifest destiny. Corporatist and Communist imperialism changed only the mechanics of empire. Both nations have shown that they are still willing to use military force and clandestine intrigue to enforce imperial control. Uniquely, Landers shows how the broad sweep of American history follows a consistent path from the first settlers to the present day and, by comparing this with Russia's imperial path, demonstrates the true nature of American global ambitions.
"Superficial similarities resound without resonating in this ambitious but muddled comparative history. Landers, retired finance director of Penguin Books in London, finds 'parallels' between the American and Russian megastates: both spread over continents while slaughtering native peoples, built formal empires through war, and justified it all with ideology and hypocrisy. But he wrestles with contrasts that weaken the comparison: Russia was a czarist, then Communist autocracy bent on military security, while the United States is a raucous democracy motivated, he contends, by greed and religious fanaticism. Landers devotes most of his meandering, repetitious narrative to the United States, but his vague conception of 'imperialism' forces him to retreat to an incoherent theory of American 'corporate imperialism,' whose catchall depredations range from invading Iraq to selling the world on Coca-Cola, and refusing to invite Noam Chomsky onto talk shows. His arguments proceed without scholarly rigor, by way of provocative interpretations ('in some ways, Jackson was the Lenin of America') that pass with little elaboration and no footnoting. Landers's goal is to condemn America's misdeeds (and tweak its self-regard) by association with Russian-style despotism, but the historical insights he gleans are meager and murky. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A fresh, commanding, and thought-provoking narrative history of the competing Russian and American empires.
About the Author
Brian Landers recently retired as Finance Director of Penguin Books in London.