Culture and Imperialism

S.i.a.A.o.W. is discussing the Enlightenment, universalism and pluralism — which provides a good moment for me to recommend my friend Sankar Muthu’s excellent new book on just this topic: Enlightenment and Empire, which, as I have long promised to say, shows off Professor Muthu at the height of his swinging artistry…

… I’ve plugged this book before, but the difference now is that it is finally in the shops (at least, there was a copy in Cody’s in Berkeley two weeks ago, which I happily snapped up). And what a good book it has turned out to be — a very serious and sympathetic study of the anti-imperialist theories developed by, in particular, Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant and J. G. Herder, which explores their understandings of human unity and cultural difference in a series of illuminating discussions of some key texts and episodes from the latter part of the eighteenth century. It’s very readable, and exceptionally timely.

You can read the introduction here. And since it’s been published in hardback and paperback simultaneously, there are copies to suit all budgets.

The other must-read Enlightenment book of recent years is, of course, Jonathan Israel’s colossal Radical Enlightenment. But since the folks at S.i.a.A.o.W. have got the word “spinoza” in their collective email address, I like to imagine that they have a well-thumbed copy on their collective bedside table already…

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