By Jennifer Pitts
A dramatic shift in British and French rules 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 in the beginning 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, even if, 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 development grew to become extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and no more tolerant of cultural distinction. whilst, imperial enlargement out of the country got here to be obvious as a political venture that may help the emergence of sturdy liberal democracies inside of 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 function of liberal idea yet a amazing 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 singular review of contemporary political notion 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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Additional info for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
He proposes that hunting society naturally evolves into pastoral society through the gradual taming of animals. ”43 Hunting societies, Smith argues, do not extend property beyond immediate possession because there is nothing one can own that is worth the trouble of protecting in this way. 44 Still, while such societies might be simpler in their organization, their laws less precise and their manners less reﬁned than those of more advanced societies, they are not, in his account, generically different from the other three stages, or set apart from the course of history.
14 CHAPTER 1 cannot hold. For many in the eighteenth century, including Adam Smith, already believed that no European country could be persuaded to give up its colonies, in which so much honor and self-respect were invested. And critics of empire survived throughout the nineteenth century, even if their voices were muted and their inﬂuence negligible. 31 The erosion of absolutist or ancien re´gime powers and the partial emergence of the democratic nation-state produced pressures and anxieties for liberal thinkers of the period that may have facilitated a turn to empire.
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. Moreover, Smith reminds us, to live under a good system is not necessarily to understand how it evolved, or even exactly how it works: even if Europeans beneﬁted from a fortunate set of circumstances to produce relatively free and effective governments, they might not be in a position to export those institutions.