Overview for Liberalism and Empire
We understand liberalism to be a set of ideas committed to political rights, the limited authority of the state, and self-determination, yet it also served to justify an empire built on political domination. Uday Mehta argues that imperialism, far from contradicting liberal tenets, in fact stemmed from liberal assumptions about reason and historical progress. Confronted with 'strange' cultures such as India, British liberals could see them only as backward or infantile. In this, liberals manifested a narrow conception of human experience and ways of being in the world. Ironically, it is in the conservative Edmund Burke--a severe critic of Britain's arrogant, paternalistic colonial expansion--that Mehta finds an alternative and more capacious liberal vision. Shedding light on fundamental tensions in liberal theory, Liberalism and Empire reaches beyond postcolonial studies to revise our understanding of the grand liberal tradition and the conception of experience with which it is associated. This exciting study of the response of liberal theory to its encounter with the unfamiliar will be essential reading for philosophers, political scientists, historians and others interested in liberalism and postcolonial studies.
Uday Singh Mehta (Author)
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