With a tip of the hat to Savage Minds, Andrew Galley and his philosopher friend, I direct your attention to



Muthu, Sankar. Enlightenment Against Empire. 2003.


Given the title and topic, I thought it might be of particular interest to Keith Hart and to others interested in Hart's Enlightenment-based critique of the current state of the global political economy. I just this morning purchased the book and downloaded to the Kindle reader on my iPad. A brief scan of the introduction has already yielded three interesting thoughts.


1. The "long 18th century" (late 17th to early 19th centuries) saw the flourishing of anti-Imperialist thinking among several of Europe's leading intellectuals: Adam Smith, for example, as well as Diderot, Kant, and Herder, on whom this book focuses. 


2. This century was exceptional, sandwiched between centuries in which imperialism was actively embraced as a positive ideal.


3. The anti-imperialism that flourished during this period was not (Muthu's most radical claim) based on contemporary assertion of universal human rights, but rather on seeing human beings as cultural agents, whose diversity should be respected.


WARNING: I have not yet read the whole book and do not yet know how Muthu develops this argument. I only note that this claim appears to be what he is saying, based on a cursory reading of only the introduction. 




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Comment by Keith Hart on May 20, 2011 at 1:28pm
Thanks for bringing this up, Jon. I am on the road in Brazil and a bit strapped. But my main reason for not replying is that I bought the book a couple of years ago and have not yet read it. I would just say that Herder fits more closely to the focus you have drawn attention to here. His relationship to Kant as a model for contemporary options in anthropology is fascinating.


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