Alexander the Great and the History of Globalization

Liebert, H. (2011) “Alexander the Great and the History of Globalization.” The Review of Politics 73: 1-28.

Alexander the Great is often understood to be the first statesman to attempt a “universal state,” owing in large part to his philosophical education under Aristotle. This picture of Alexander informs many of his depictions in popular culture, and influences his appropriation in contemporary discourse on globalization. I argue here that Plutarch’s Life of Alexander offers and alternative view of Alexander’s political action, one that explains his imperial ambitions by focusing on his love of honor and the cultural indeterminacy of his native Macedon, rather than his exposure to philosophy. Plutarch’s portrayal of Alexander provides a useful model for the study of globalization by showing how political expansion can arise from and give rise to indeterminate political identities.