By Jennifer Pitts
A dramatic shift in British and French principles approximately empire spread out 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 firstly of this era to criticize eu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering international locations. through the mid-nineteenth century, notwithstanding, the main widespread 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 turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and no more tolerant of cultural distinction. even as, imperial growth in another country got here to be obvious as a political undertaking that will help the emergence of good liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts exhibits that liberal thinkers often celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but additionally pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian overseas politics. but such moments characterize now not an important characteristic of liberal proposal yet a awesome 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 idea and foreign justice, and an illuminating standpoint 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
9 Smith never published a complete account of his historical theory, though he drew on it in the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and at greater length in Wealth of Nations (1776). 10 While Smith was not the ﬁrst to publish a stadial account, then, his lectures on jurisprudence were probably delivered several years before the ﬁrst stadial theories were published in Scotland. 12 While the notes from the 1762–63 lectures, published for the ﬁrst time in 1978, are remarkably complete and appear to capture the argument and its illustrations in great detail, we cannot place the same conﬁdence in the particular language that we might in a published text.
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.
Such a notion inﬂects the work of Tocqueville and J. S. Mill, even though both of them rejected biological theories of human difference. 46 The racism of Mill’s contemporaries also should be taken into account when we consider his effort to prosecute Governor Eyre of Jamaica, as I argue in chapter 5. Mill was contending with virulent racism among Eyre’s British defenders, including such prominent and eloquent writers as Carlyle and Ruskin. Mill’s insistence, in that context, on the importance of securing justice for Britain’s black and white subjects alike represents a striking commitment to the moral equality of different races.