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Williams’ basic argument is that empire is a deeply rooted cultural assumption, which structures the “reality” our society is capable of addressing. Empire, which is to say constant economic expansionism, is so much a part of America’s way of life, so fully woven into the national fabric, that it can no longer be perceived as such. Americans are incapable of recognizing the common thread that links our domestic and international woes from Vietnam and Iran to gas lines at home because we have carefully hidden from ourselves the fact that we are an economic empire. America certainly didn’t invent empire, but we did invent a unique set of rationalizations. Our notion of ourselves as unprecedented in history, as a City on a Hill, contributed a messianic rhetoric to our drive to remake the world in our image. Instead of setting out frankly to acquire an empire and its responsibilities, we conducted our constant expansionism in the self-righteous pose of policeman to the world, and cloaked our intentions from ourselves by claiming a specious “natural right” to the world’s resources. Our history, viewed in Williams’ light, is a long struggle to shape the world into the ideal market for our surplus. This is empire through political and economic influence, but it is empire nonetheless. Williams argues that the gravest cost of empire isn’t in shattered bodies but in loss of imagination the kind of political imagination that would enable us to seek out alternatives. The flipside of imperium abroad is loss of cultural vitality at home. Our predicament is that we are trapped by our inability to face honestly our imperial way of life; we are stuck in a sort of cultural adolescence, unwilling to make mature decisions because we are incapable of admitting to the basic realities of global politics and our stake in them. We can’t see the “energy crisis” for what it is, we can’t see Soviet policy for what it is, we can’t see popular revolutions for what they are, because we are looking at the world from our imperial incubator. There is every danger that we will destroy our country and much of civilization with it before we grow up. Williams doesn’t begin to suggest where to go from here. He merely insists that as a precondition we must understand our imperial assumptions. He wrote the book, he says, “to encourage a searching dialogue about the character of our culture.” Such a dialogue would be like a coming of age. Empire As a Way of Life is anything but an academic study. As its subtitle proclaims, it is “An Essay on the Causes and Character of America’s Present Pre dicament Along with a Few Thoughts CHEESECAKE ON THE RIVERWALK ebei 010 kan9a roo \(loud Serving sandwiches to seafood, from 11:30 until 11:30 every day of the week; open till midnight in the Metro Center, San Antonio, Texas Printers Stationers Mailers Typesetters High Speed Web Offset Publication Press Counseling Designing Copy Writing Editing Trade Computer Sales and Services Complete Computer Data Processing Services PR IN =C %FUTURA 70 TRADES UNIONCOUNCIL 0 PRESS AUSTIN TEXAS UP Ulna 512/442-7836 1714 South Congress P.O. Box 3485 Austin, Texas 78764 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17