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 exhibits in A flip to Empire, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham have been between many initially 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, even if, the main admired 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 overseas got here to be noticeable as a political undertaking that will help the emergence of good liberal democracies inside Europe. Pitts exhibits 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 no longer an important characteristic of liberal notion yet a outstanding 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 bargains a singular review of recent political suggestion and foreign 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
Smith’s view of historical development as at once universal or natural, and also shot through with contingency, indicates that the use of despotic power for the purpose of inducing progress in a backward society is both unnecessary and presumptuous. 37 Progress, Rationality, and the Early Social Stages An important consequence of Smith’s attention to material causes of development and to the role of chance and unintended consequences in historical development is an avoidance of disdainful or belittling characterizations of societies in the early stages of development.
48 Although Mill regarded biological explanations as lazy and crude, he considered the identiﬁcation of the “character” of different human groups—and the ranking of those groups on a scale of advancement—an essential element of sociological analysis. As we will see, he considered Bentham’s neglect of such categories and hierarchies one of the most important failings of Bentham’s thought. 49 As a result of these features of nineteenth-century philosophies of history and theories of progress, the very idea of linear development or progress has been described as imperialist in character.
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. 39 Tocqueville, as I argue in chapter 7, regarded the abolition of slavery in the French West Indies as essential for keeping the islands within the empire. Economic Development and Industrialization The far greater cultural conﬁdence of mid-nineteenth-century Europeans, especially Britons, compared with their predecessors of a few generations earlier can also be attributed to the extraordinary surge in economic and technological development of the ﬁrst decades of the nineteenth century.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts