Liberalism and illiberalism: A postcolonial approach

This short text uses examples from US liberal imperialism to illuminate the postcolonial critique of liberalism and its standpoint. First, it thinks of the postcolonial critique as one that sees the liberal script as a constitutive boundary-drawing project. Liberalism universalizes not in opposition to but through its particularizing moves. Second, it claims that the postcolonial critique does not emerge from nowhere. It comes from the space of the “colonial”: a sociopolitical site of difference, both material (or “actual”) and conceptual, that liberal projects seek to organize hierarchically and, in so doing, generates the space for critique. To illuminate these points, the text refers to America’s new empire of the early twentieth century that encompassed Puerto Rico and the Philippines and to the colonized subjects’ own anticolonial critique of that empire.

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