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Enlightenment against Empire - Sankar Muthu

Enlightenment against Empire

Paperback Published: 31st August 2003
ISBN: 9780691115177
Number Of Pages: 368

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In the late eighteenth century, an array of European political thinkers attacked the very foundations of imperialism, arguing passionately that empire-building was not only unworkable, costly, and dangerous, but manifestly unjust. "Enlightenment against Empire" is the first book devoted to the anti-imperialist political philosophies of an age often regarded as affirming imperial ambitions. Sankar Muthu argues that thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder developed an understanding of humans as inherently cultural agents and therefore necessarily diverse. These thinkers rejected the conception of a culture-free "natural man." They held that moral judgments of superiority or inferiority could be made neither about entire peoples nor about many distinctive cultural institutions and practices.

Muthu shows how such arguments enabled the era's anti-imperialists to defend the freedom of non-European peoples to order their own societies. In contrast to those who praise "the Enlightenment" as the triumph of a universal morality and critics who view it as an imperializing ideology that denigrated cultural pluralism, Muthu argues instead that eighteenth-century political thought included multiple Enlightenments. He reveals a distinctive and underappreciated strand of Enlightenment thinking that interweaves commitments to universal moral principles and incommensurable ways of life, and that links the concept of a shared human nature with the idea that humans are fundamentally diverse. Such an intellectual temperament, Muthu contends, can broaden our own perspectives about international justice and the relationship between human unity and diversity.

Industry Reviews

"A well-argued first book that is as original as it is convincing."--Foreign Affairs "Every now and then a book comes along to remind us once again that history and culture are not absolute terms. They are dynamic and relative to their past and present. Sankar Muthu has written such a book. His analysis clearly demonstrates that the historical process we have come to know as the 'Enlightenment' was really many enlightenments... This book is highly recommended for students of history, philosophy, and culture."--Colonial Latin American Historical Review "[A] rich and elegantly written book... Muthu's provocative thesis is that moral universalism did not suffice to ground opposition to empire... Enlightenment Against Empire moves beyond accounts of political positions into thoughtful reconstructions and syntheses of arguments, and among its many virtues is to remind us that work in the history of political thought need not be done in an antiphilosophical fashion."--Jacob T. Levy, Perspectives on Politics "Inspired by a more multifaceted view of the Enlightenment, Muthu looks at a forgotten legacy from this period, its anti-imperialism."--Gregory Jusdanis, Research in African Literatures "Enlightenment against Empire, dealing with European attitudes to the non-European world, is a valuable contributio. n... [T]his is an admirable study, handling an important subject with insight and care."--John Hope Mason, History of Political Thought

Introduction: Enlightenment Political Thought and the Age of Empirep. 1
Enlightenment Anti-imperialism as a Historical Anomalyp. 3
Synopsisp. 6
Toward a Subversion of Noble Savagery: From Natural Humans to Cultural Humansp. 11
Noble Savagery in Montaigne's "Of Cannibals"p. 14
Lahontan's Dialogue with a Huronp. 24
New World Peoples in Rousseau's Conjectural Historyp. 31
Diderot and Bougainville's Voyagep. 46
Diderot's Tahiti: Appropriating and Subverting Noble Savage Theoryp. 52
The New World as a Device of Social Criticism: The Overlapping and Rival Approaches of Diderot and Rousseaup. 59
The Dehumanization of Natural Humanityp. 66
Diderot and the Evils of Empire: The Histoire de deux Indesp. 72
The General Will of Humanity, the Partial Incommensurability of Moeurs, and the Ethics of Crossing Bordersp. 77
On the Cruelties Unleashed by Empire in the Non-European Worldp. 87
Trading Companies and Conquest: On Commerce and Imperial Rulep. 97
The Disastrous Effects of Empire upon Europeansp. 104
Europe: Not a Civilization Fit for Exportp. 111
Humanity and Culture in Kant's Politicsp. 122
Humanity as Cultural Agencyp. 125
Cultural Freedom and Embedded Reasonp. 130
From Humanity to Personalityp. 133
Kant's Social Criticism: The Vulnerability and Commodification of Cultural Agencyp. 135
Humanity as Dignityp. 138
Noumenon as the Curtailment of Metaphysicsp. 141
Aesthetic Humanity: The Opportunities and Injustices of 'Civilized' Sociabilityp. 144
Humanity as Cultural Agency in Political Context: Combating State Paternalismp. 155
Humanity as Cultural Agency in a Philosophy of History: Kant's Narrative of Hopep. 162
Kant's Anti-imperialism: Cultural Agency and Cosmopolitan Rightp. 172
Self-Cultivation, Pluralism, and Cultural Freedomp. 173
Anthropological Diversity: From Race to Collective Freedomp. 180
Anti-imperialism and Cosmopolitan Rightp. 186
An Unusual Social Contract Doctrinep. 200
Pluralism, Humanity, and Empire in Herder's Political Thoughtp. 210
Generalizations, Contingency, and Historical Judgementp. 212
The Flux of Historyp. 218
On the Horizons of Knowledge and Universal Standardsp. 221
Early Thoughts on National Communitiesp. 224
'Humanity' as Philosophical Anthropologyp. 226
Conceptualizing Human Diversity: Sedentary versus Nomadic Societiesp. 238
Beyond Empire and toward International Justice: 'Humanity' as a Moral Idealp. 247
Conclusion: The Philosophical Sources and Legacies of Enlightenment Anti-imperialismp. 259
Pluralizing 'the' Enlightenmentp. 260
Universal Dignity, Cultural Agency, and Moral Incommensurabilityp. 266
Notesp. 285
Works Citedp. 325
Indexp. 341
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691115177
ISBN-10: 0691115176
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 31st August 2003
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.52