Nice job reining in my definition of “high culture,” Morgan. I think your qualified definition makes it easier to advance the claim that pluralism and high culture are in fact at odds. For it is hubris, not good taste that makes it difficult for countries like France to embrace diversity. 

  Moving on to your question about the cultural backdrop of imperialism. Wow. This is one for dissertations, conferences, and anthologies, not for blogs run by college seniors. But in the spirit of the My Opinion Is Right No Matter What Experience Tells Us (MOIRNMWETU, catchy, isn’t it?) blogosphere, I’ll hazard a guess.

  Uday Singh Mehta’s book Liberalism and Empire argues that liberalism’s impulse to “better the world” is what drove nations like England (the focus of his book, but the same claim can apply to France et al.) So what can we make of this argument? My reading of Mehta led my to conclude that liberal political commitments were a necessary but not sufficient part of Nineteenth Century colonialism. It undoubtedly will be argued that colonizers used force as a means of exporting their way of life to the rest of the world. The fact that they did this does not mean, however, that their way of life required them to do so. At the end of the day, colonialism was a choice– a choice that ran counter to European political idealism at the time– but a choice nonetheless. I am only taking on one facet (political theory) of culture, and I am overlooking other considerations that may have informed colonialism. That said, please– thoughts, criticisms, nasty letters. Go.

Daniel Corbett