For more than one thousand years, the Roman Empire ruled over a vast territory that was unprecedented in both scope and scale. When it finally did fall under pressure from barbarian invasions and internal political divisions (among many other factors), many historians argue that the Romans sowed the seeds of their own demise. Is the same set of processes now happening in the West?
The historian Peter Heather and the political economist John Rapley have come together to interrogate this question in their excellent new book, “Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West.“
In their discussion with Departures host Robert Amsterdam, Heather and Rapley explain how the forms of antiquity and modernity may have changed dramatically between the fall the of the Roman empire and the current buckling of Western hegemony, but nevertheless, how so many parallels continue to bear truth. Chief among them has been the global pivot towards nationalist populism, with the movement of labor and capital to the periphery, there’s been a traditionally destructive rush to preserve the status quo ante.
What may be done about the current trends, as much as they resemble the fall of Rome, remain quite unclear.