Pitts shows that liberal thinkers usually celebrated for respecting not only human equality and liberty but also pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian international politics. Yet such moments represent not a necessary feature of liberal thought but a striking departure from views shared by precisely those late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville saw as their forebears.
Fluently written, A Turn to Empire offers a novel assessment of modern political thought and international justice, and an illuminating perspective on continuing debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.
The book ranges widely across Victorian intellectual life and beyond. The opening essays explore the nature of liberalism, varieties of imperial ideology, the uses and abuses of ancient history, the imaginative functions of the monarchy, and fantasies of Anglo-Saxon global domination. They are followed by illuminating studies of prominent thinkers, including J. A. Hobson, L. T. Hobhouse, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, Herbert Spencer, and J. R. Seeley. While insisting that liberal attitudes to empire were multiple and varied, Bell emphasizes the liberal fascination with settler colonialism. It was in the settler empire that many liberal imperialists found the place of their political dreams.
Reordering the World is a significant contribution to the history of modern political thought and political theory.
"Karuna Mantena provides the first comprehensive account of the centrality of Henry Maine in the transformation of British imperial ideology in the late nineteenth century. With great insight and erudition, Mantena elucidates the connections between Maine's sociotheoretic model of traditional society and the ideology and practice of British indirect rule."--Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University
"Alibis of Empire offers indispensable correctives to the standard intellectual histories of empire. It shifts the focus from political to social theory and concentrates attention on Henry Maine, a figure whose contribution to British imperial ideology was probably greater than that of any other thinker of his time. The book is written with economy and subtlety, and its argument is persuasive and important. It will be of great interest to a variety of readers, especially intellectual historians, historians of empire, and political theorists."--David Armitage, Harvard University
"This is an important contribution to scholarship on the British empire, one that provides new insights into debates about the changing nature of colonial discourse in nineteenth-century England, the relative strengths of social and political theory at the time and well into the twentieth century, the meaning of 'culture,' and the legacy of Henry Maine's writings for English colonial practice in India and beyond."--Barbara Arneil, University of British Columbia