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Network Imperialism: Considering the advent of U.S. empire-making on the web

Network Imperialism: Considering the advent of U.S. empire-making on the web

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Published by Zachary McCune
Many scholars have argued that the U.S. is an imperial power, but few have considered the aspects of this imperialism online. Looking at the development of cyber warfare, US CYBERCOM, intellectual property task forces, and Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom, this essay argues for the existence of a "network imperialism."
Many scholars have argued that the U.S. is an imperial power, but few have considered the aspects of this imperialism online. Looking at the development of cyber warfare, US CYBERCOM, intellectual property task forces, and Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom, this essay argues for the existence of a "network imperialism."

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Published by: Zachary McCune on Feb 28, 2011
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07/19/2013

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NetworkImperialism
Considering the advent of U.S.empire-making on the web
// by Zachary McCune
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I
s the United States an Imperial Power? Te question has been asked, and answered,rom the position o military actions, political theory, history, economics, discourseanalysis, law studies and cultural criticism. Tese approaches, spanning the scholasticwork o J.A. Hobson, Edward Said, and Antonio Negri among others, continually assertthat imperial power does what it has always done: make empires. And while these studiesand theories still resonate today, they are in o re-consideration or the network spaces o the digital age. For i America is an imperial power today, then that empire must extend intoand be maintained through what has been called cyberspace, the global inormation net-work, the world wide web, or most commonly, the internet.  In short, i America is an impe-rial power, it must be engaged in a orm o network imperialism to keep its military might,economic prowess, and oreign policy agendas working throughout the emergent spaces o new media networks. With the development o  “Cyber Command”, the U.S. has openlyacknowledged its weaponization o network power. Trough staunch intellectual propertycampaigns designed at combating “piracy” throughout the web, the U.S. government has ex-tended the reach o its law ar beyond the physical territories o its jurisdiction. And even asSecretary o State Hillary Clinton calls or the world to deend the new virtues o “internetreedom,” her comments actually dene a new American doctrine that is being developed toserve U.S. interests and quietly develop a 21st century network empire.Several helpul theoretical rameworks exist or conceptualizing o imperialism, and con-necting its characteristics to contemporary U.S. actions and policies online. Working in1902, J.A. Hobson works between the terms ‘empire’ and ‘imperialism,’ considering theormer to be the product and domain o the latter. Hobson is quick to center the historyo the idea writing “Te root idea o empire in the ancient and medieval world was that o a ederation o states under a hegemony, covering in general terms the entire known recog-nized world, such as was held by Rome under the so-called Pax Romana” (Hobson 8). For
the question
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theories of imperialism
 
Hobson, and or many subsequent assessments o imperialism, the ancient Roman rootso the idea are completely oundational, and in a way, redeeming, as they positioned anymodern attempts at imperialism as an imagined recovery o this golden Western epoch. othis eect, Hobson writes o the “ancient” and “medieval” idea not as a situation o conict,violence, and oppression, but instead points to the Pax Romana, as the signature, and thusredeeming quality, o empire. Later he writes, “Political philosophers in many ages…” inwhom he includes Dante, Kant, and Machiavelli, “have speculated on an empire as the onlyeasible security or peace” (Hobson 9). Despite damning aspects o imperialism, Hobsonallows it to be redeemed as a orm o necessary security.Perhaps more empirically, Hobson notes that imperialism was always intrinsically an inter-national venture. In the rst quote above, Hobson outlines the subordination o states to“hegemony,” or leadership/dominance, as an indispensable characteristic o classical empire.But maybe with an eye on contemporaneous British empire, Hobson acknowledges that theinternationalism o empires was “not always based on a conception o equality o nations(Hobson 9). Te act that Hobson even uses “not always” leaves the door open or empireto be ounded on the “equality o nations” not matter how unlikely that equality may be. Ingeneral, Hobson’s ideas o empire draw at once rom historical analysis while also moving towards an empirical, evidential analysis best exemplied by his “Measure o Imperialism”chapter in which he attempts to give deniteness to term imperialism” by looking overstatistical tables o property, population, and possessions with regard to European countrieso the time (Hobson 15). Tis approach suggests that imperialism can be discerned not onlyin history, but also within contemporary reality. By examining and ultimately connecting disparities (what David Harvey will call asymmetries’) between nations, Hobson suggeststhat some nations (the imperial powers) hold more assets and thus power than others, allow-ing them to control the actions o a secondary set o nations. Connecting these observanceswith his historical model o empire (hegemony over a ederation o states) Hobson con-cludes that imperialism is alive and active at the dawn o the 20th century.
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