Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal by Karuna Mantena

By Karuna Mantena

Alibis of Empire offers a unique account of the origins, substance, and afterlife of past due imperial ideology. Karuna Mantena demanding situations the concept that Victorian empire used to be essentially legitimated by means of liberal notions of development and civilization. in truth, because the British Empire won its farthest achieve, its ideology used to be being dramatically remodeled by means of a self-conscious rejection of the liberal version. The cave in of liberal imperialism enabled a brand new culturalism that under pressure the hazards and problems of attempting to "civilize" local peoples. And, hand in hand with this shift in considering used to be a shift in perform towards versions of oblique rule. As Mantena exhibits, the paintings of Victorian criminal pupil Henry Maine used to be on the middle of those momentous alterations. Alibis of Empire examines how Maine's sociotheoretic version of "traditional" society laid the foundation for the culturalist good judgment of overdue empire. In charting the circulate from liberal idealism, via culturalist rationalization, to retroactive alibi inside of nineteenth-century British imperial ideology, Alibis of Empire reveals a extraordinary and pervasive dynamic of contemporary empire.

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Here, I begin with the Eyre controversy, not least because Mill himself played a prominent role in this public debate. Moreover, in many of the debates, Millian liberalism would become the avowed target for critics from Carlyle to Stephen, who specifically saw his brand of “sentimental liberalism” as inimical to political stability both at home and abroad. 73 As reports of the extent and brutal nature of the rebellion’s suppression came to light, Mill (now a Liberal MP for Westminster) joined the Jamaica committee, which was formed initially to lobby the government for an official inquiry, and then (when it was clear that the government would do no more than dismiss Eyre from his post) to bring criminal charges against Eyre and his deputies.

As Stephen wrote, if the Government of India have decided on removing all anomalies from India, they ought to remove themselves and their countrymen. Whether or not that mode of expression can be fully justified, there can, I think, be no doubt that it is impossible to imagine any policy more fearfully dangerous and more certain in case of failure to lead to results to which the Mutiny would be child’s play, than the policy of shifting the foundations on which the British government of India rests.

For Mill, the nation was not only the site for “the growth and development of a people,” it was also a form of cultural achievement, equivalent in normative status to civilization. ”72 Nationality not only functioned as the means of justifying the exclusion of barbarous societies from the norms of international law; more importantly, it revealed the extent to which, for Mill, civilization and barbarism were only ever features of collectivities. With the focus on the collective nature of learning and cultivation, Mill’s theory of civilization here (as well as Mill’s proposed science of ethnology) anticipates the anthropological theory of culture, which also came to emphasize the cultural and historical determination of behavior in the context of ongoing processes of social integration and collective learning.

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