Big Ideas frequently reruns old lectures. For example there was one with Niall Ferguson on his book Empire. I had been looking for quite some time for a podcast with Ferguson, but abandoned the Big Idea lecture (mp3), because it dated 2002. With all the remarks Ferguson makes about Iraq, I felt this was hopelessly outdated.
But then I was following Columbia University's course Conceptual Foundations of International Politics, with a lecture by Rashid Khalidi about 'alternate views of American Supremacy' in which is mentions that in his opinion the US are an empire and takes that perspective to analyze how American Foreign policy is viewed and how it fails and succeeds. Khalidi mentions Ferguson as one who supports that view that the US is an empire and refers to him. And this made me take up the Ferguson lecture at Big Ideas again.
The point to take away from Ferguson's lecture is that the US are an empire by all means of its hegemony (especially in 2002) and that in comparison to its predecessor Great Britain, actually enjoys some significant advantages in the sense that it has fewer contesters and a huge hinterland. Yet, Ferguson makes a point why the US are not succeeding in being an empire in comparison to the British, for lack of two factors. One is that those that rule in name of the empire abroad and are military and not regular elite and therefore not the most qualified to rule and let prosper. Another is that nobody from the US thinks of moving abroad and making a life across the empire, as did so many Brits.
This connects well with what Khalidi points out at Columbia, are the weaknesses of the US foreign position. Still, this course is also rather dated (2007) and so my next podcast in this subject will be Khalidi's recent lecture (March 2009, at the University of Chicago) that came out in UChannel. (Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East)
Conceptual Foundations of International Policy - Columbia University,
Lawrence Freedman - Big Ideas,
New Learning - Don Tapscott on Big Ideas,
Why isn't the whole world developed?.