What determines the boundary of civil society? Hume, Smith and the justification of European exploitation of non-Europeans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Civil society consists of members obligated to respect each other s rights and, hence, trade with each other as equals. What determines the boundary, rather than the nature, of civil society? For Adam Smith, the boundary consists of humanity itself because it is determined by identification: humans identify with other humans because of common humanness. While Smith s theory can explain the emotions associated with justice (jubilance) and injustice (resentment), it provides a mushy ground for the boundary question: Why not extend the common identity to nonhuman animals? Or why not restrict the boundary to one s own dialect, ethnicity or race? For David Hume, the boundary need not consist of humanity itself because it is determined by self-interest: a European need not respect the property of outsiders such as Native Americans, if the European benefits more by exploiting them than including them in the European society. While Hume s theory can provide a solid ground for the boundary question, it cannot explain the emotions associated with justice. This paper suggests a framework that combines the strengths, and avoids the shortcomings, of Smith s and Hume s theories.
LanguageEnglish
Pages26 - 49
Number of pages24
JournalTheoria
Volume60
Issue number134
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Cite this

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title = "What determines the boundary of civil society? Hume, Smith and the justification of European exploitation of non-Europeans",
abstract = "Civil society consists of members obligated to respect each other s rights and, hence, trade with each other as equals. What determines the boundary, rather than the nature, of civil society? For Adam Smith, the boundary consists of humanity itself because it is determined by identification: humans identify with other humans because of common humanness. While Smith s theory can explain the emotions associated with justice (jubilance) and injustice (resentment), it provides a mushy ground for the boundary question: Why not extend the common identity to nonhuman animals? Or why not restrict the boundary to one s own dialect, ethnicity or race? For David Hume, the boundary need not consist of humanity itself because it is determined by self-interest: a European need not respect the property of outsiders such as Native Americans, if the European benefits more by exploiting them than including them in the European society. While Hume s theory can provide a solid ground for the boundary question, it cannot explain the emotions associated with justice. This paper suggests a framework that combines the strengths, and avoids the shortcomings, of Smith s and Hume s theories.",
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What determines the boundary of civil society? Hume, Smith and the justification of European exploitation of non-Europeans. / Khalil, Elias Lafi.

In: Theoria, Vol. 60, No. 134, 2013, p. 26 - 49.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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