International Politics

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 33–48 | Cite as

Republic or empire: the genealogy of the anti-imperial tradition in US politics

  • Taesuh ChaEmail author
Original Article


This article analyzes an alternative perspective on the relationship between the USA and the concept of empire. We should note that another rich vein of policy dissent, the anti-imperial tradition, has long existed in American history. A republican tension between ‘empire’ and ‘republic’ has formed the core problematique of American political thought from the beginning. Furthermore, this enigma has haunted US politics along its trajectory, even though James Madison tried to invent a federalist solution to the ancient dilemma of liberty and power. Therefore, I will explore the lineage of the American tradition of anti-imperialism and its foreign policy manifestations, stretching back from the founding era to the contemporary world by re-reading American political development through the lens of republican security theory. I hope that such exercise will shed light on the future direction of US grand strategy in our age of the American hegemonic decline.


Republicanism Anti-imperialism US grand strategy The Jeffersonian tradition Donald Trump 



The author would like to thank the members of the Empire and Imperialism in the History of Political Thought Workshop at Seoul National University who read and helped him work through early iterations of these ideas. For specific comments or conversations, he is also grateful to Daniel Deudney, Bo Ram Kwon, Byoung-Kwon Sohn, and Sungwoo Park.


This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A3A2924409).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Institute of National InterestChung-Ang UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceSungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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