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    Did the states which founded the UN have liberal or illiberal governments?

    Bowring, Bill (2016) Did the states which founded the UN have liberal or illiberal governments? Baltic Yearbook of International Law 15 , pp. 31-44. ISSN 1569-6456.

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    This article contains a sceptical appraisal of the call for papers, and an attempt to unpack and criticise the various layers of assumptions contained in it. First, I start with some close parallels between the British and Russian colonial experiences. The collapse of Britain’s maritime and Russia’s continental empire have caused deep crises of identity and purpose in both cases. Second, close attention must be paid to Kant’s 1795 proposal in “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”, which is so often referred to, in the context of his philosophy as a whole. This contribution has been more often cited than actually read. What did Kant have in mind so soon after the French Revolution, and the experience of universalising nationalism? The passages I cite, denouncing the British imperial enterprise, may not be so familiar. Third, attention is focused on Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, both fathers of modern liberalism; and on my ancestor, editor of Bentham’s works, John Bowring. I show in detail how liberals became imperialists. Fourth, I analyse the contribution to the question of “liberal” as against “illiberal” states of Anne-Marie Slaughter, writing in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War and the demise of “communism”. Fifth, I examine Britain. It is subjected to scrutiny as a “paradigm” of a state with liberal governments, and I ask what was “liberal” about the activities of British colonisers all over the world. I close where I started, with a comparison of Britain and Russia.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Reflections (from the standpoint of Britain and its empires, and the USSR and Russia) on the dangers of epithets, and the development of international law. ISBN: 9789004329744
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Business and Law > Birkbeck Law School
    Depositing User: Bill Bowring
    Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2016 14:40
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:23


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