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13 - Property, Trade and Empire

from Part II - Concepts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2021

Randall Lesaffer
Affiliation:
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Janne E. Nijman
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Amsterdam
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Summary

Grotius recast Aristotelian theories of human sociability in terms of self-preservation.Religious war in Europe had undermined the Thomist notion of mutual human affection as a basis for society.If society was established by the need to survive, then justice, which maintained society, must be understood in terms of its contribution to that necessity.Grotius therefore resolved the Ancient Roman and Greek problem of how to reconcile justice and expedience by reinterpreting justice in terms of expedience.For an individual, or state, to act out of self-preservation was necessarily just.His fusion of justice and expedience was one reason he was insistent upon distancing his thought from the Academic Sceptics, such as Carneades, who argued that there was no such thing as justice and that all moral action was expedient.For Grotius, part of the law of self-preservation was the necessity for individuals to secure the means for self-preservation and this meant that the acquisition of property, and trade, were central parts of that process.These principles applied also to the artificial person of the state which found itself in competition for survival with other states.The expansion of the state was therefore justifiable for its preservation.Indeed, following this reasoning, empire effectively became a necessity, and an inevitability, for the survival of European states.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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References

Further Reading

Borschberg, P., ‘Hugo Grotius, East India trade and the king of Johor’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 30 (1999) 225–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Borschberg, P., ‘The seizure of the Sta. Catarina revisited: the Portuguese Empire in Asia, VOC politics and the origins of the Dutch-Johor alliance (1602–c.1616)’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 33 (2002) 3162.Google Scholar
Fitzmaurice, A., Sovereignty, Property, and Empire 1500–2000 (Cambridge, 2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keene, E. Beyond the Anarchical Society: Grotius, Colonialism and Order in World Politics (Oxford, 2002).Google Scholar
Tuck, R., Philosophy and Government 1572–1651 (Cambridge, 1993).Google Scholar
Tuck, R., The Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant (Oxford, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Ittersum, M.J., Profit and Principle: Hugo Grotius, Natural Rights Theories and the Rise of Dutch Power in the East Indies (1595–1615) (Leiden, 2006).Google Scholar

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