Colonial Capitalism And The Dilemmas Of Liberalism: Locke, Burke, Wakefield And The British Empire
This dissertation offers a historical investigation of liberalism as a unified yet internally variegated intellectual field that has developed in relation to "colonial capitalism." I examine the impact of colonial economic relations on the historical formation of liberalism, which is often overlooked in the scholarship on the history of political thought. Focusing on the British Empire between the late-seventeenth and early-nineteenth centuries, I analyze three historical cases in which the liberal self-image of capitalism in Britain was contradicted by the manifestly illiberal processes of displacement and coercion in its imperial possessions. I situate this contradiction within the debates on property claims in American colonies, the trade relation between Britain and its Indian dominions, and the labor problem during the colonial settlement of Australia and New Zealand. Corresponding to the three nodal questions of "property," "exchange," and "labor," I analyze the works of John Locke, Edmund Burke, and Edward Gibbon Wakefield as three prominent political theorists who attempted to reconcile the liberal image of Britain as a commercial and pacific society with the illiberal processes of conquest, expropriation, and extraction of British colonialism. Highlighting the global and colonial as opposed to the national or European terrain on which modern economic relations and their political theorization have emerged, I emphasize the need to situate the history of political thought in a global context. I conclude that the historical evolution of liberalism cannot be properly grasped without an account of the colonial origins of global capitalism and of the problems of legitimacy these colonial origins posed for political theory.
colonalism; capitalism; British Empire; liberalism; John Locke; Edmund Burke; political theory; political economy
Bensel, Richard F; Frank, Jason; Kramnick, Isaac; Rubenstein, Diane S.
Ph. D., Government
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis