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 at the beginning of this era to criticize ecu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering countries. via the mid-nineteenth century, in spite of the fact that, the main popular 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 not more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial enlargement in another country got here to be visible as a political venture that would support the emergence of solid 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 now not an important function of liberal proposal yet a remarkable 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 deals a unique review of recent political notion 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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Additional info for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
Notably, when Smith mentions a child who beats a stone in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, he compares him to a dog and a choleric man, but abandons the reference to the savage. 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.
For Smith, development through the four stages is at once a natural process and one pervaded with contingency and the unpredicted consequences of myriad individual actions. Smith did not regard Europe’s development as the result of a uniquely progressive culture. 32 Moreover, on Smith’s view Europe’s history was in many respects not a model of pure natural development at all. 34 First, as we have seen, Smith believed that many beneﬁcial developments, such as the extension of civic and political freedoms, resulted from actions taken for quite other reasons.
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