By Jennifer Pitts
A dramatic shift in British and French principles approximately empire opened up 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 before everything 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 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 turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and no more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial growth in a foreign country got here to be noticeable as a political undertaking that would help the emergence of reliable liberal democracies inside Europe. Pitts indicates 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 symbolize no longer an important characteristic of liberal suggestion yet a impressive departure from perspectives shared via accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire deals a singular overview of contemporary political suggestion 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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Extra info for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
Indeed, many (including both James and John Stuart Mill) held that British rule in India was in fact costly to Britain, but that it was nonetheless justiﬁed by the great beneﬁts it conferred on its Indian subjects. INTRODUCTION 17 Moreover, the abolition of the slave trade and then slavery removed one of the most glaring injustices of eighteenth-century European politics and society from the sights of reformers. Radicals no longer could—or needed to—point to slavery as evidence of barbarousness or injustice of the European political order.
7 This wariness of European complacency and self-congratulation largely disappeared among later theorists of progress who took it for granted that Europe was in every way advanced in comparison to the despotic and benighted East and the savage New World. If Smith’s theory of development gave later thinkers some of the terms and tools of analysis with which to advance such ideas, those thinkers were nonetheless doing an injustice to Smith’s approach. Given that Smith’s account of development remained unpublished for over a century and was transmitted only through his students’ use of the ideas he introduced in lectures, it is perhaps unsurprising, though disappointing, that the tolerance and skepticism of his approach were to a great degree lost in subsequent decades.
The equation of savages with children, common among other developmental thinkers, tends to suggest an explanation for the simplicity or “rudeness” of savage society at the level of the individual cognitive incapacities. Smith, in contrast, did not attribute societal development to enhanced mental capacities on the part of individual members of a society; his are resolutely complex explanations at the level of social interaction. 38 CHAPTER 2 Similarly, Smith did not regard savages as incapable of forming the abstract ideas necessary to the institution of property; he argued that they simply had not yet experienced the needs that would lead them to institute extended property rights.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts