Practical Politics

A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in by Alice Conklin

By Alice Conklin

This booklet addresses a important yet usually missed query within the background of recent France and glossy colonialism: How did the 3rd Republic, extremely popular for its professed democratic values, let itself to be seduced via the insidious and chronic attraction of a “civilizing” ideology with detailed racist overtones? via concentrating on a specific workforce of colonial officers in a selected setting―the governors common of French West Africa from 1895 to 1930―the writer argues that the fitting of a distinct civilizing venture had a decisive effect on colonial policymaking and at the evolution of recent French republicanism generally.
French rules of civilization―simultaneously republican, racist, and modern―encouraged the governors normal within the 1890’s to assault such “feudal” African associations as aristocratic rule and slavery in ways in which referred again to France’s personal event of innovative switch. mockingly, neighborhood directors within the 1920’s additionally invoked those comparable rules to justify such reactionary regulations because the reintroduction of compelled hard work, arguing that coercion, which inculcated a piece ethic within the “lazy” African, legitimized his lack of freedom. by way of always invoking the tips of “civilization,” colonial coverage makers in Dakar and Paris controlled to vague the elemental contradictions among “the rights of guy” assured in a republican democracy and the forcible acquisition of an empire that violates these rights.
In probing the “republican” size of French colonization in West Africa, this e-book additionally sheds new mild at the evolution of the 3rd Republic among 1895 and 1930. one of many author’s significant arguments is that the belief of a civilized venture underwent dramatic adjustments, because of ideological, political, and fiscal variations happening concurrently in France and its colonies. for instance, revolts in West Africa in addition to a extra conservative weather within the metropole after global conflict I produced within the governors basic a brand new recognize for “feudal” chiefs, whom the French as soon as despised yet now reinstated as a way of regulate. This discovery of an African “tradition” in flip strengthened a reassertion of conventional values in France because the 3rd Republic struggled to recapture the area it had “lost” at Verdun.

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