Tuesday, April 07, 2009

John Stuart Mill was an out-and-out colonialist; Edmund Burke, quite overtly anti-Semitic

Re: 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: The Illusion of Human Progress and the Ideal of Human Unity (part 5 of 6) Debashish Tue 07 Apr 2009 12:00 AM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

The pervasive racism of 19th c. Europe is coming increasingly to the limelight. Homi Bhabha has been at the forefront of demonstrating the conflicted nature of post-Enlightenment colonialism, one the one hand universalist in its belief in "the white man's burden" of civilizing all human beings, on the other hand, invested in the business of maintaining power relations with the colonies through the claim of racial superiority. Individual thinkers/agents within a historical discourse can hardly escape from its internal dialectics.

John Stuart Mill, whom you invoke here, is an important case in point. An out-and-out colonialist, whatever he may have theoretically affirmed for human equality was more than counterbalanced by his conviction that the British were racially superior to the Indians. This is how Uday Mehta puts it, in his influential work Liberalism and Empire:

In India. . . especially following the mutiny of 1857, there was in fact an unmistakable tilt toward the hardening of authoritarian policies and a racializing of political and social attitudes. This was a tilt to which thinkers like J.S. Mill added their prestige and that they justified in their theoretical writings. For example, in Considerations on Representative Government, Mill had made clear that in colonies that were not of Britain’s ‘blood and lineage’ any move toward greater representation was not to be countenanced. (Mehta, 1999, pp 195-96)

As for Edmund Burke, though he espoused a form of liberal pluralism, he was quite overtly anti-Semitic. DB

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