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Ince, Onur Ulas (2018) Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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This book analyzes the relationship between liberalism and empire from the perspective of political economy. It investigates the formative impact of “colonial capitalism” on the historical development of British liberal thought between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. It argues that liberalism as a political language developed through early modern debates over the contested meanings of property, exchange, and labor, which it examines respectively in the context of colonial land appropriations in the Americas, militarized trading in South Asia, and state-led proletarianization in Australasia. The book contends that the British Empire could be extolled as the “empire of liberty”—that is, the avatar of private property, free trade, and free labor—only on the condition that its colonial expropriation, extraction, and exploitation were “disavowed” and dissociated from the increasingly liberal conception of its capitalist economy. It identifies exemplary strategies of disavowal in the works of John Locke, Edmund Burke, and Edward G. Wakefield, who, as three liberal intellectuals of empire, attempted to navigate the ideological tensions between the liberal self-image of Britain and the violence that shaped its imperial economy. Challenging the prevalent tendency to study liberalism and empire around an abstract politics of universalism and colonial difference, the book discloses the ideological contradictions internal to Britain’s imperial economy and their critical influence on the formation of liberalism. It concludes that the disavowal of the violence constitutive of capitalist relations in the colonies has been crucial for crafting a liberal image for Anglophone imperialism and more generally for global capitalism.

Item Type: Authored Books
Keywords: capitalism, colonialism, liberalism, empire, property, trade, labor, John Locke, Edmund Burke, Edward G. Wakefield
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISBN: 9780190637293
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2022 15:51

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