Alien Rule

By Fahey, John E. | Military Review, July-August 2015 | Go to article overview

Alien Rule


Fahey, John E., Military Review


ALIEN RULE

Michael Hechter, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2013, 218 pages

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted the growth of a vast subfield of scholarship on modern imperialism and intervention into the affairs of other states. Many scholars are heartily opposed to Bush-era instances of state building and use studies of earlier empires as critiques of current or recent U.S. policy. Michael Hechter's Alien Rule stands out among this field by making the controversial suggestion that, although alien rule--the rule of one group by people not of that group--often is exploitative, alien rule can be beneficial to a subjected people.

Alien rulers can become legitimate and effective if they provide competent, fair, effective government. He finds several examples of successful alien rule throughout history, and even some contemporary examples, though the latter fall mostly in the category of academic receivership, some stepfamilies, and business mergers. His most useful sections examine how an alien ruler gains legitimacy in the eyes of its subjects.

In the popular imagination, foreign rulers are invariably detested by a unified native population, but this is rarely the case in the real world. Hechter argues that the belief that native rule is always better is misguided. While alien rule is a particularly difficult type of governance, the author correctly points out that all political leaders face the same problems that aliens do. Every leader has to govern fairly, inspire trust, and encourage growth in order to maintain legitimacy and power without resorting to expensive forms of oppression. Alien rulers often replace failed or defeated native rulers and have the highest probability of success when they replace native rulers who are seen as incompetent or unfair. …

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