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 initially of this era to criticize ecu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering countries. through 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 turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial enlargement in a foreign country got here to be noticeable as a political venture that may help the emergence of good liberal democracies inside Europe. Pitts exhibits that liberal thinkers often celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but in addition pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian foreign politics. but such moments symbolize no longer an important function of liberal idea yet a impressive 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 bargains a singular evaluation 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
Pomeranz has argued that it was not until the last decades of the eighteenth century that some western European economies became decisively more productive than those in parts of China, Japan, or India. 41 Although a portrait of Asian societies as stagnant was beginning to emerge, when eighteenth-century Europeans compared their own society with those of China or India, it did not seem obvious to them, as it did to French and British observers several generations later, that their own societies were dramatically more progressive, wealthier, or superior or more enlightened in their social and political practices.
Since at least the late seventeenth century Europeans had sought explanations for the emergence of modern states and commercial activity, for the diversity of societies about which ethnographic information was increasingly proliﬁc, and for the apparent similarities between Europe’s own past and some contemporary societies (such as indigenous Americans or nomadic Arabs). 2 In many other hands, developmental theories undergirded a European chauvinism very unlike Smith’s tolerant impartiality, and were used to justify the colonial conquests he abhorred.
39 While Smith undoubtedly believed that the development of modern commercial societies was largely a story of progress, to suggest that he therefore regarded nomadic societies as ignoble is misleading— for he accorded them and their customs and values, as he understood them, a striking degree of moral respect. 41 Smith analyzes hunting societies much as he does later stages, treating their practices with a comparable interpretive generosity, and describing their members as reasonable. As we will see, he implies throughout his discussions of hunting societies that their members make moral judgments in the same manner as all other people do, through an exercise of sympathy and an effort to imagine how an impartial spectator might judge their motives, emotions, or actions.