By Jennifer Pitts
A dramatic shift in British and French rules approximately empire opened up within the sixty years straddling the flip of the 19th century. As Jennifer Pitts exhibits in A flip to Empire, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham have been between many firstly of this era to criticize eu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering countries. by way of the mid-nineteenth century, even though, the main well-known British and French liberal thinkers, together with John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville, vigorously supported the conquest of non-European peoples. Pitts explains that this mirrored an increase in civilizational self-confidence, as theories of human growth turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial growth in another country got here to be visible as a political venture that would help the emergence of solid liberal democracies inside Europe. Pitts indicates that liberal thinkers frequently celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but in addition pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian overseas politics. but such moments symbolize now not an important function of liberal inspiration yet a amazing departure from perspectives shared by way of accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire bargains a singular overview of contemporary political concept and overseas justice, and an illuminating point of view on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.
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Additional resources for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
Ferguson (as a self-conscious Highlander who celebrated the virtues he saw as characteristic of “savage” societies) was particularly attuned to the easy and false superiority of “civilized” ADAM SMITH ON DEVELOPMENT 27 Europeans who took it for granted that their own values ought to serve as a standard for all other societies. 6 And Dunbar criticized Europeans for their tendency to set themselves apart from the rest of humanity, arguing that “[a]ccording to this theory, the oppression or extermination of a meaner race, will no longer be so shocking to humanity.
Mill developed a restrictive, normative understanding of nationhood that required both the bonds of fellow-feeling forged by a common political culture and the capacity for self-government that was peculiar to a small group of European nations. The narrowness of his deﬁnition of nationality reﬂected his belief that nationhood was an arduous achievement: if this was true for Britain, how much more so, on his account of progress, for backward peoples. At the same time as the development of democracy produced profound anxieties for liberal thinkers such as Tocqueville, it also meant that they had a commitment to their state’s political order that their ancien re´gime predecessors such as Diderot did not have.
How did Smith theorize societal development without making the kinds of moral judgments about the superiority or inferiority of entire peoples that can be found in varying degrees in contemporaneous and, usually in a more pronounced manner, in later theories of progress? Understanding the sources of Smith’s tolerant approach to cross-cultural judgment serves both to correct mistaken assertions that have been made about Scottish conjectural history as a whole, and to indicate the broader intellectual disposition that animates Smith’s political thought, including his hostility toward European colonization.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts