Tolerant Imperialism: J.S. Mill's Defense of British Rule in India

Review of Politics 68 (4):586-611 (2006)
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Some critics of Mill understand him to advocate the forced assimilation of people he regards as uncivilized, and to defend toleration and the principle of liberty only for civilized people of the West. Examination of Mill’s social and political writings and practice while serving the British East India Company shows, instead, that Mill is a ‘tolerant imperialist’: Mill defends interference in India to promote the protection of legal rights, respect and toleration for conflicting viewpoints, and a commercial society that can cope with natural threats. He does not think the principle of liberty is waived for the uncivilized, or that the West should forcibly reshape them in its own monistic image. Mill’s tolerant imperialism reflects a tension between liberty and moral development that surfaces also when Mill thinks about the scope of government in civilized societies.
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