“The conquest of earth, which mostly means the taking away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much,” Joseph Conrad writes in Heart of Darkness. “What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…”
With the help of the Idea, the ugly facts of conquest can be tucked away from sight. ["The Black Hole of Empire"] shows that colonialism cannot be viewed only as the deplorable past; its ideology and practices endure and continue to shape our present. With masterful synthesis, it shows that the process of justifying acts of conquest produced enduring political theories of empire and the modern state. So much so that in a world without colonies, the right to declare an exception is still an imperial right. Great powers can still march into sovereign territories, claiming an exceptional right to intervene. We still live in a world where the exercise of power over others is redeemed by the Idea. More here.