Paved Intentions: Civilization and Imperialism

By Mazower, Mark | World Affairs, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Paved Intentions: Civilization and Imperialism


Mazower, Mark, World Affairs


If there is one thing John McCain and Barack Obama seem to agree on, it is that there remains a place for morality in world affairs. Both have lent their support to the idea that America has a duty to stand up for the cause of freedom. In both cases, their advisers have called for alliances of democracies that will bypass the flailing UN--its Security Council paralyzed by the obstruction of authoritarian powers, its General Assembly packed with petty despots who have no interest in promoting human rights. Not so long ago, the ending of the Cold War stimulated hopes for the creation of a new world order in which the United Nations would be able to regain some of the luster that it had lost over the preceding decades. It was this sense of the beginning of a new historical epoch which also directed scholarly attention back toward the start of the postwar era that had just ended. But the increasingly grim spiral of events in the early 1990s--the war in the former Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda--put into question the robustness of the human rights regime that had been established after the Second World War.

If today's humanitarian interventionists have lost hope that the UN can reform itself to intervene decisively in the name of civilized values--this, despite the sentiment that culminated in Kofi Annan's "Responsibility to Protect," or R2P, as the humanitarian community abbreviates it--they remain convinced that America and its partners can, or at any rate, should try to do so. If Bosnia and Rwanda are the stations of their cross, Sierra Leone--and maybe Kosovo and Iraq--offer their models for the future. Absent their guiding hands, it will not be the U.S. and its allies that define the norms of civilized international behavior, but Putin's Russia or perhaps China.

This sense of the need for moral leadership abroad has only been sharpened by 9/11 and its aftermath; witness the evangelism of Tony Blair and George W. Bush and the rhetorical appeal to an "Alliance of Civilizations." Yet before this goes much further, we might want to take a deep breath and look back. For all this talk of stomping round the world to uphold or promote civilization has a long history and cannot be divorced from the rise and fall of Europe and European values over the last two centuries. While the values implicit in the idea of civilization seemed natural and uncomplicated to most Europeans over this period, they looked much more questionable to those who were abused and colonized in its name. So let this new generation of interventionists at least take stock, lest they risk drawing on the prejudiced values of past generations and finding that their moral arsenals have been even more depleted than their real ones.

Between 1815 and the Second World War, an international system of states grew up that was based on the primacy of European power and values and the spread of European "civilization." The term civilization emerged in both Britain and France around the middle of the eighteenth century. It connoted both the process by which humanity emerged from barbarity and, by extension, the condition of a civilized society; namely, the security of person and property. Thus, what is especially striking about Europe's development after Napoleon's defeat is its political coloration. Civilization now conveyed a liberal program based on cooperation rather than conquest. Francois Guizot's History of Civilization in Modern Europe defines civilization as "the history of the progress of the human race toward realizing the idea of humanity," and highlights the key themes for the future: the "expansion of mind" and of the full and rational enjoyment of the human faculties, and the spread of rights. Guizot acknowledged that there had been other civilizations--Egypt and India, for example--in the past. But European civilization was superior because it combined cultural community with an acceptance of political diversity.

If civilization was located in Europe, then Europe's overseas expansion required deciding how far civilization could be exported. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Paved Intentions: Civilization and Imperialism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.