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Civil Society and Empire

Civil Society and Empire: Ireland and Scotland in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World

James Livesey
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nph5w
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  • Book Info
    Civil Society and Empire
    Book Description:

    James Livesey traces the origins of the modern conception of civil society-an ideal of collective life between the family and politics-not to England or France, as many of his predecessors have done, but to the provincial societies of Ireland and Scotland in the eighteenth century. Livesey shows how civil society was first invented as an idea of renewed community for the provincial and defeated elites in the provinces of the British Empire and how this innovation allowed them to enjoy liberty without directly participating in the empire's governance, until the limits of the concept were revealed.

    The concept of civil society continues to have direct relevance for contemporary political theory and action. Livesey demonstrates how western governments, for example, have appealed to the values of civil society in their projections of power in Bosnia and Iraq. Civil society has become an object central to current ideological debate, and this book offers a thought-provoking discussion of its beginnings, objectives, and current nature.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15590-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Civil Society and the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World
    (pp. 1-23)

    A handful of terms have left the lexicon of political theory to become slogans; civil society has done so twice. Civil society was a central category for liberal thinkers in the eighteenth century and then an ideal for their nineteenth-century interpreters but became eclipsed in the more brutal political world of the middle twentieth century. Despite this occlusion it surprisingly provided the rallying call for the loose association of reformers that provoked the 1989 revolutions in Europe.¹ Having been implied in this epochal moment, civil society became ubiquitous and in the aftermath of the twin shocks of 1989 and 2001...

  5. CHAPTER ONE COFFEE, ASSOCIATION, AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND
    (pp. 24-53)

    In the past twenty years historians interested in explaining change in early modern Europe have placed a powerful new factor alongside such classic components as the rise of the bourgeoisie or the military revolution: conversation.¹ Civil conversation, polite or even impolite debate, gossip: all of this talk created networks that could be turned to many diverse purposes. We have come to understand the Enlightenment, in particular, as a sociability that encouraged reasoned debate in local circles and between dispersed people, rather than a particular doctrine or set of ideas.² The idea of sociable, or civil, conversation has extended our idea...

  6. CHAPTER TWO IMPROVEMENT AND THE DISCOURSE OF SOCIETY IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY IRELAND
    (pp. 54-89)

    The manner in which Ireland negotiated the emergence of the new British Empire at the turn of the eighteenth century is not well understood.¹ Ireland and Britain had very different experiences of the Glorious Revolution. The necessary fictions of abdication and an empty throne were incredible in Ireland, especially when James came to Dublin to reassert his claim, and so the issues of loyalty and obedience could not be avoided.² The Revolution was far from bloodless, and between 1689 and 1691 Ireland became one theatre of the European war between Louis XIV and William III. Major land battles were fought...

  7. CHAPTER THREE THE AUTHORITY OF THE DEFEATED: Catholic Languages of the Moral Order in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 90-127)

    Eighteenth-century Ireland may have been a Protestant kingdom, but it was a Catholic country. Eventually an account of how that majority might be incorporated in the kingdom, and on what terms, would have to be given. The simplest resolution was to define the Catholic population as subjects of the Protestant kingdom, but this solution, while legally coherent, left unspecified the manner in which Catholics, and particularly elite Catholics, were in practice to participate in economic and social life.¹ The project of improvement was one route through which this problem could be approached. Dobbs recognised the possibility that Catholics might be...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR THE EXPERIENCE OF EMPIRE: The Black Family, Britons, and the Emergence of Society
    (pp. 128-153)

    The successes of British arms and commerce in the middle of the eighteenth century had paradoxical outcomes for many British people. The strengthened empire threatened the individual’s ability to act as an independent citizen, to exercise liberty, even as it offered a stable legal context for civil life and trade.¹ British power depended on trade, and protecting that trade required a strong state; but how was commercial liberty to reconcile “the strong presiding power, that is useful towards the conservation of a vast, disconnected, infinitely diversified empire with that liberty and safety of the provinces which they must enjoy?”² As...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE A HABITAT FOR HOPEFUL MONSTERS: David Hume and the Scottish Theorists of Civil Society
    (pp. 154-176)

    Eighteenth-century Irish thinkers adapted to the limitations on their political agency by investing in new ideas of improvement, friendship, and utility; provincial Scots went further in their adjustment to the emerging British Empire and looked for entirely new philosophical grounds on which the public virtues of a commercial order could be justified. This Scottish debate was so rich that it moved well beyond its original context and use to become a primordial reference for debate on the general nature of commercial modernity. In his seminal work on the creation of modern identity, Charles Taylor places the moral philosophers of eighteenth-century...

  10. CHAPTER SIX CIVIL SOCIETY AND EMPIRE IN REVOLUTION: Ireland and Britain in the 1790s
    (pp. 177-213)

    Under questioning from a secret committee of the Irish House of Lords after the failed rebellion of 1798, Thomas Addis Emmet, a leader of the United Irishmen, made a very strange observation. Asked by the lord chancellor, John Fitzgibbon, if he thought that the government had been foolish to allow the United Irishmen to meet even after government agents had penetrated the organisation, Emmet replied, “I thought they were right in letting us proceed. I have often said, laughing among ourselves, that if they did right they would pay us for conducting the revolution, conceiving, as I then did, and...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 214-220)

    Gustave de Beaumont, the friend and collaborator of Tocqueville, came to Ireland in 1835 and 1837 to prepare his study of the country, which was published in 1839. He was introduced to every level of Irish life, from popular societies for the support of the orphan children of Dublin to the very selective company of the Vice-Regal Lodge.¹ Despite his extensive exploration of the complexities of Irish associational life he was not introduced to anything like an Irish civil society. In fact, the Dublin barrister Henry Joy, a descendant of the Henry Joy who had written on Irish civil society...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 221-276)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 277-294)