By Jennifer Pitts
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 indicates in A flip to Empire, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham have been between many initially of this era to criticize eu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering international locations. by means of the mid-nineteenth century, although, the main favorite 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 grew to become extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and no more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial enlargement in a foreign country got here to be noticeable as a political undertaking that may help the emergence of reliable liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts exhibits that liberal thinkers often celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but in addition pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian overseas politics. but such moments signify now not an important characteristic of liberal suggestion yet a impressive departure from perspectives shared through accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire deals a unique overview of recent political suggestion and overseas justice, and an illuminating standpoint on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.
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Extra resources for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
14 CHAPTER 1 cannot hold. For many in the eighteenth century, including Adam Smith, already believed that no European country could be persuaded to give up its colonies, in which so much honor and self-respect were invested. And critics of empire survived throughout the nineteenth century, even if their voices were muted and their inﬂuence negligible. 31 The erosion of absolutist or ancien re´gime powers and the partial emergence of the democratic nation-state produced pressures and anxieties for liberal thinkers of the period that may have facilitated a turn to empire.
All the thinkers considered here, then, can be described as universalists who negotiated in different ways the tensions between universalistic moral commitments and a recognition of particularity. 50 Still, their universalism took different forms with radically different implications for international politics and cross-cultural judgment. ”51 But they developed signiﬁcantly different understandings of how that equality might function in practice, given the undeniable differences between European societies and their colonial subjects.
In discussing the development of property as an institution, Smith does assert that people “at ﬁrst . . 54 Yet according to Smith this is not because of their limited imagination but because, like members of other societies, hunters employ a spectator method to determine rightful possession. This method, applied to the goods valued in hunting societies— namely wild game—produces an idea of legitimate possession as being direct possession only. Smith’s narrative of the “progress” by which this notion of property, natural to hunting societies, gradually gave way to one that recognized ownership even when an owner was absent did not rely on changes in the very mental structures and capacities of the people involved, but rather in the emergence of new kinds of valuable possessions thanks to the natural development of a new mode of subsistence.