I decided to publish my write-ups from my comprehensive exam reading fields. I am publishing them *as is.* Thus they represent my thoughts as a new PhD student. They were written between September 2011 and July 2012. The full collection is accessible here.

The American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl with One Spoon

Anthony J. Hall

  • Anthony J. Hall, The American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl with One Spoon (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003).

Anthony J. Hall is a professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge in Calgary. Hall is considered to be a member of the 9/11 Truth Movement, which asserts that the media and government have hid the real facts of September 11th from the public in an effort to cover-up complacency and/or involvement on the part of American corporations and other high-ranking individuals. Hall’s distaste for the chain of events after September 11th, particularly the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, is quite evident in The American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl with One Spoon. In this work, Hall attempts to analyze the indirect, mainly economic, ways in which the United States has spread its power and informal empire around the globe, particularly since World War II when formal European imperialism was replaced by unregulated, superpower hegemony. Hall also focuses a great deal on early aboriginal policy and the relationship between aboriginals and early corporations.

The relationship between aboriginals and corporations, Hall argues, has been extremely important in the ascent of global corporations. The ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples through such means as ecocide and assimilation policies has been extremely systematic in North America. Hall views the Canadian government’s 1982 recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights as an important point of reference for his project because it acts as a shining example for the rest of the West. The invasion of Iraq, Hall contends, is the latest example of the American imperialist tradition, a tradition that originated during westward expansion and relies on the myth that Western domination and advancement is synonymous with the advancement of progress and civilization. The key to present-day Western, particularly American, domination, he argues is the West’s military-industrial technopoly, a kind of mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between United States military power and large, commercial corporations. This relationship, according to Hall, originated during American westward expansion, and was characterized, as Patricia Nelson Limerick noted in The Legacy of Conquest, by the conquest of Native Americans and their land. Like Terry Anderson and Peter Hill, Hall argues that this process of conquest was distinguished by the transformation of this land into private property, although Hall does not view this process as optimistically as Anderson and Hill, under the ownership of both individuals and corporations. It is in the West, Hall asserts, that corporations first attained personhood. Unlike Anderson and Hill, Hall is critical of American laissez-faire economic policies, behind which they are able to hide when they are attempting to force their agendas abroad. In order to understand present-day events in the Middle East, one must understand the origins of its patterns in the history of American westward expansion and its European imperial antecedents. Hall sees European imperialism, the American West, and the contemporary events in the Middle East as linear events that have been driven by the West’s belief in the ultimate advancement of civilization over savagery and barbarism. Terrorism replaced native savagery and the communism of the twentieth century as the enemy of this advancement; all three labels when used by the West dehumanize and criminalize the individuals who find themselves in the crossfires of this forward march.

Similarly to Stephen McVeigh in The American Western, Hall points out that President George W. Bush’s rhetoric after September 11th turned sharply once again to the expression of civilizing principles. While McVeigh links this largely solely to the American West, Hall expands this argument to include the entire historic, Western imperialist spirit. Hall also interestingly links America’s talent for cultural appropriation to the use of names such as “Apache” for the military equipment used in the Middle East. Aside from McVeigh, the readings in this course have not fully traced the connection of western ideology to the present-day foreign policy. Readings such as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Strenuous Life” have placed the ideology at the turn of the century, but have not advanced it further. Hall presents a refreshing argument for contemporary applicability of western history.

Feature Photo: A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter lands in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerry Saslav), Flickr Commons. 

Published by Jessica M. DeWitt

Dr. Jessica M. DeWitt is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States. She is passionate about the use of digital technologies to bridge the gap between the public and researchers. In addition to her community and professional work, she offers various editing and social media consultancy services.

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