By Karuna Mantena

Alibis of Empire offers a singular account of the origins, substance, and afterlife of overdue imperial ideology. Karuna Mantena demanding situations the concept that Victorian empire was once basically legitimated by means of liberal notions of development and civilization. in truth, because the British Empire received its farthest succeed in, its ideology was once being dramatically reworked through a self-conscious rejection of the liberal version. The cave in of liberal imperialism enabled a brand new culturalism that under pressure the risks and problems of attempting to "civilize" local peoples. And, hand in hand with this shift in considering was once a shift in perform towards versions of oblique rule. As Mantena exhibits, the paintings of Victorian criminal student Henry Maine was once on the middle of those momentous adjustments. 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 stream from liberal idealism, via culturalist rationalization, to retroactive alibi inside nineteenth-century British imperial ideology, Alibis of Empire reveals a remarkable and pervasive dynamic of contemporary empire.

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Extra info for Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism

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According to Maine, understanding the origins and evolution of property had been obscured by the dominance of natural law theory (in both its Roman and modern incarnations) that understood dominion in terms of individual modes of natural appropriation. By contrast, Maine offered an alternative sequence in which property was originally held in common and gradually over time becoming divided, breaking down into forms of individual ownership. Maine’s thesis about the communal origins of rights in property (and of modern conceptions of rights in general) effectively called into question the historical and logical priority of the unitary conception of individual proprietorship, and imputed alternative communal modes a legitimate historicity.

The most important mechanism, in this regard, was the implementation of a sound system of laws based upon English principles that would induce peace and security and thereby effect a change in moral and religious practices. Without law and order, which was Britain’s great export, India would dissolve into the chaos and anarchy in which it was supposedly found.

The liberal manifesto of reform included 30 C H A P T E R O N E the expansion of education (where missionaries in particular took the lead) and a liberal economic policy (support of laissez-faire and the breaking up of “feudal” tenures). 43 In terms of aspirations the liberal age was the first in which eventual self-government by Indians was first contemplated,44 for the morality of rule was premised precisely on the grounds that once Britain completed its educative role in improving the morals and habits of the natives, giving them the capacity to exercise their liberty, its paternalist duty would be over.

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