Home > Book Summary > Jack Snyder Myths of Empire

Jack Snyder Myths of Empire

This will be short



Snyder explicitly follows in Waltz’s framework working within his structural theory to expand unit level theory. Snyder approaches the question of imperial overexpansion historically surveying a number of powers which did overexpand and cases in which it ended badly or well.

This means that Snyder does place good frame to think of American Imperialism, but he doesn’t  tell us anything about how such projects will end. (point made by Wesley).

The causes of imperial overexpansion are the following:


  1. Realism: Multipolarity. Advantages of attacking versus defending. Other
  2. Cognitive faults of leaders: information biases, (snyder asks if this is so, why does it  recur in history with different leaders?)
  3. Domestic elite groups pursue narrow interests.

Best explanation: Coalition of different domestic elite groups each pursuing narrow interest. They go too far to the point  where theycan no longer reverse their cummulaitve log rolling actions. Also ideology

(49) Democracies place checks on overexpansion.

Stages of industrilization tells us about the organization of dometic political groups. Early (UK), Late (France, Germany, Japan), Late Late (USSR)

(154) Importance of relatively free domestic information flows as well as free public discourse.


Note: Still assumes that states have interest if it can act in ways against its interests. The sate has an interest in surviving and staying on top.

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