not with ideals of democracy and freedom but with settler colonialism wiping out the Native populations to make room for white development, chattel slavery fueling capitalist growth through the 19th century, and imperialism enabling the economic exploitation of societies abroad.
around the world — from World War 1 through the Cold War — was justified in terms of the global good, with “national exceptionalism” transformed into an “unimpeachably noble” crusade for democracy.
A few affluent, white, mostly male political
philosophers like John Rawls (author of A Theory of Justice), hailing exclusively from Harvard, Princeton and Oxford, expanded their historically innocent abstractions at the expense of feminist and anti-colonial writers. A whole history of conquest and domination was erased.
America’s moral self-justification
for its military incursions became even more inflated after 1989, with elites throughout the West coming to believe that the expansion of the capitalist marketplace around the world was not only universally beneficial but perhaps inevitable.
Those degraded by racist Western empires
had very different ideas about how to achieve liberty and justice, and a range of figures — from Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Jose Marti, Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Gahndi, and Sun Yat-sen to W.E.B. Du Bois, Aime Cesaqire, and Frant z Fanon — offered both a strong critique of Western p olitical and economic arrangements and alternative visions of human coexistence on a fragile planet . But these figures were largely ignored in the West.
When cultures crack
and societies implode,
there is always a bunch of big abstract-thinking intellectuals running around pontificating for all they’re worth.
— liberally adapted from Pankaj Mishra’s Bland Fanatics – Liberals, Race and Empire