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 first and foremost of this era to criticize eu 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 trendy 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 grew to become extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. even as, imperial growth in a foreign country got here to be obvious as a political venture that would help the emergence of solid 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 foreign politics. but such moments signify no longer an important characteristic of liberal idea yet a remarkable departure from perspectives shared by means of accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire deals a singular evaluate of contemporary political inspiration 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 resources for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
Colonial expansion violated many principles of Smith’s economic theory: it diverted capital away from where it would “naturally” be invested; it effectively taxed the majority of the nation not involved in the colonial trade for the beneﬁt of a few, and it imposed great military expenses on the metropolitan citizenry. While Smith believed the beneﬁts of global trade could be had without the costs of imperial rule (whether over European settlers or non-European populations), the new economic analyses synthesized by Pomeranz suggest that the violence and coercion of European colonial rule were essential to Europe’s vast economic growth in the decades after Smith’s death, which was denied to countries like China that continued to follow the path of trade alone.
Indeed, some of the nuances of Smith’s approach may well have been lost on those who heard the lectures and incorporated his approach in their own writings, such as his student and later colleague John Millar. Smith’s theory of history and approach to cross-cultural judgments, informed by his moral philosophy, achieve a degree of subtlety unmatched in other accounts. That his insights were to some degree lost may be due to the absence of a text from which later theorists of societal development could learn.
Smith’s theory of history and approach to cross-cultural judgments, informed by his moral philosophy, achieve a degree of subtlety unmatched in other accounts. That his insights were to some degree lost may be due to the absence of a text from which later theorists of societal development could learn. 13 Smith emphasizes material factors in his taxonomy of societies, characterizing each stage by the dominant mode of subsistence and tracing the more complex forms of property, social relations, laws, and institutions that developed with each new stage.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts