Imperialism: Historical and Biological Perspectives

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Imperialism: Historical and Biological Perspectives

Imperialism evokes images of past grandeur, expansive landholdings and wealth that do not seem to be conducive to modern-day existence. Yet as a general paradigm of behavior, imperialism may be more ubiquitous and inherent than first glance would suggest. By drawing analogy between the actions of historically imperialistic nations and bee colonies, a universal “imperialism” emerges, spanning history and nature. In the Roman Empire and current US “empire” (as some consider it), imperialism is manifested as binary hierarchies and symbols of power. Bee colonies, likewise, exhibit such extensions of imperialism. Thus, we can construct a paradigm for imperialism that functions in many times and places. One thing to note is that the Roman Empire fell, and people are pessimistic about the US’s current situation and global involvement; bees, on the other hand, have sustained their imperialistic behavior for millions of years. The pervasive behavioral similarities between bees and man suggest an underlying genetic cause, but past and imminent troubles with human imperialism suggests that imperialism may also transmitted as a meme, a cultural entity, subject to natural selection.

“The simplest definition of imperialism is the domination and exploitation of weaker states by stronger ones.” This “ancient and easily observable phenomenon.” is easily recognizable in the Roman Empire and current US foreign relations but harder to pick out in a colony of bees because very human constructs of states are applied. Imperialism is simply a concept I will use to discuss the behavior of bee colonies, though the universality of this behavior lies in nature. In other words, binary hierarchies (a distinctly two-tiered caste system) and symbols of organization and power can be identified in bee colonies, qualifying bees as imperialistic according to this construct.

The Roman Empire is an archetype of the human execution of imperialistic tendencies. At its peak, known as the Principate (27BC-235AD), the Empire spanned Europe, Asia and Africa.

The main drive of such expansion was not so moral or cultural, as “the approach of the Roman government was essentially pragmatic…The frontier peoples were to be tamed, neutralized, and exploited. The exposure of conquered barbarians to a superior way of life was part of this policy…not an end in itself.” In other words, holding land and exploitation were the priorities of Roman government in pure “parasitic” and imperialistic fashion.

Additionally, binary hierarchy reveals itself in empires. In the Roman Empire, this binary system existed on numerous levels, including the humiliores and honestiores of the native Romans, the slaves and masters on farmland, and ruler and foreign subjects.

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