Read e-book online A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain PDF

By Jennifer Pitts

ISBN-10: 0691115583

ISBN-13: 9780691115580

ISBN-10: 0691127913

ISBN-13: 9780691127910

A dramatic shift in British and French rules approximately empire spread out 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 ecu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering international locations. by means of the mid-nineteenth century, despite the fact that, the main well-liked 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 development turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. whilst, imperial enlargement overseas got here to be noticeable as a political undertaking that may help the emergence of good liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts exhibits that liberal thinkers frequently celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but additionally pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian overseas politics. but such moments signify now not an important function of liberal concept yet a impressive 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 unique overview of contemporary political inspiration and foreign justice, and an illuminating viewpoint 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

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And yet Smith’s theory is unusual in its refusal to rank societies or deprecate members of less “polished” societies, and Smith did not draw on it to support civilizing European rule over other societies, as theorists of progress, almost without exception, did in the nineteenth century. Despite Smith’s own nonjudgmental approach to non-European societies, it is unsurprising that his theory of development may have left an ambivalent legacy: that the categories and historical arguments he introduced were deployed by others to justify civilizing imperial rule.

As I will argue, a theory of progress need not imply a pejorative assessment of less “advanced” peoples or support for European colonial expansion. Smith’s most important philosophical differences with his successors, particularly those in the nineteenth century, lie in his complex account of historical change and in his distinctive moral psychology and moral philosophy. Some of the central features of Smith’s theory of societal development were shared by other Scottish conjectural historians, although of all the Scottish historians he was the most consistently respectful of precommercial societies as well as the most consistently skeptical about European claims to superiority and the expansion of European political power around the globe.

17) Efforts to impose radical societal change, Smith suggests, are likely to be ineffective or even dangerous. Smith’s attention to the unforeseen consequences of human action produces a tempered approach to politics without putting a halt to political action or efforts toward improvement and reform. 36 If, as moral and political agents, we understand the moral order or logic of society to be partly opaque to us, we will be more tempered in our efforts to deploy great power, and especially violence, for distant and uncertain ends.

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A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts


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