Recently, nina de jesus argued that libraries perpetuate systematic, institutionalized oppression by virtue of adhering to the democratic principles and values espoused during the Age of Enlightenment. Her argument can be summarized as follows:
Premise 1: Libraries embody and perpetuate the values of the Enlightenment.
Premise 2: The values of the Enlightenment are oppressive.
Conclusion: Libraries embody and perpetuate oppressive values.
On its face, this is a valid argument, which is just to say that if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true as well. Yet, validity is no substitute for soundness and we can rightly ask whether de jesus’ argument is, in fact, a sound one. Are her premises true?
This post will attempt to argue that de jesus’ argument is flawed in its second premise: hidden within the claim that the values of the Enlightenment are oppressive are historical and methodological assumptions that significantly weaken her argument. This is not to say that libraries are immune from institutionalized oppression. Rather, the argument I wish to make is that the values of the Enlightenment are not the proximate cause for ongoing oppression. If anything, as I hope to show, the historical and material “conditions that both caused and are caused by the Enlightenment” are frequently mischaracterized and misunderstood. The values of the Age of Reason, far from being a direct cause of institutionalized oppression in libraries, may be the best cure.
The roots of oppression
To begin, we need a functional definition for institutional oppression: What does it mean? Unfortunately, de jesus does not tell us. However, given the context of her argument, we can best approach institutional oppression as a derivative concept from Critical Race Theory.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) finds its origins in the mid-1970s as an amalgam of the legal indeterminacy found in Critical Legal Studies, social constructionist theories in sociology, and feminist theories of the invisible hand of patriarchy. The basic tenets of CRT include (1) that racism is an ordinary feature of society, not an aberration; (2) that racism advances the interests of white elites; (3) that race is a category freely manipulated by elites when convenient. These concepts combine to yield racial realism, described by Derrick Bell as the view that the law and courts of the United States are “instruments for preserving the status quo and only periodically and unpredictably serving as a refuge of oppressed people.” Whereas the racial idealism characteristic of the preceding Civil Rights Era largely focused on oppression as a byproduct of racist thinking, racial realism posits that oppression is built into social structures. Even if racial idealists succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of each and every racist individual, systems ranging from law to education to healthcare and beyond have been constructed to favor whites over all other racial identities. To a racial realist like Bell, idealist conceptions of racial equality are untenable and the standard liberal invocations of “[legal] precedent, rights theory, and objectivity merely are formal rules that serve a covert purpose. Even in the context of equality theory, they will never vindicate the legal rights of black Americans.”
Critical Race Theory ultimately found a broader audience as discussions of gender, sexuality, and indigeneity adopted a realist stance towards oppression. In shifting the locus of critique from the psychological barriers that prevent full adoption of liberal values such as equality, liberty, and freedom to the social structures that perpetuate oppression regardless of equality ideology, critical theorists can posit a new relationship between oppression, individual attitudes, and community values. And libraries, as social institutions, are subject to just such an analysis. As de jesus argues, if modern public libraries were founded to create better citizens, and the idea of the citizen is tied to a social structure founded in liberal values, then libraries are “tools to perpetuate” that social structure. Accepting the racial (and gender and sexual and indigenous and so on) realism suggested by CRT leads to the unavoidable conclusion that libraries are complicit in oppression. Paraphrasing Bell, we can say that liberal library values of neutrality, objectivity, privacy, and intellectual freedom “merely are formal rules that serve a covert purpose.”
Of course, many librarians will scoff at the idea that libraries are complicit in systemic oppression. However, de jesus raises several compelling examples of oppressive structures: adherence to an abusive code of intellectual property law; persistent neglect of indigenous and minority voices in library collections; cataloging and classification practices that ignore or under-represent oppressed voices; technology initiatives that presume a white, middle-class patron. Again, it is not that librarians involved in copyright, collection development, cataloging, or technology initiatives are intentionally perpetuating oppressive practices; the basic tenets of liberal equality ideology are widespread in libraries. Instead, following CRT, it is the very act of adhering to liberal ideals of equality that conditions ongoing oppression in library services, regardless of how we would like to treat people. As Christine Pawley notes, “’treating everyone nicely’ is not an answer to the problem of white privilege in libraries.” Rather, the answer lies in critically assessing and deconstructing the core epistemological categories that condition our worldview.
Situating the Enlightenment
Ensconced in the publicly expressed values of librarianship we find several common concepts: intellectual freedom, respect for privacy, neutrality, equitable service, and the general concept of a public good. As Wayne Bivens-Tatum explains, these values are direct descendants of the “egalitarian rhetoric” of the Age of Enlightenment, a period in which the pursuit of reason and knowledge was viewed as the ideal path to self-improvement for all. The aforementioned values of and related to intellectual freedom are an integral part of this trend insofar as the modern institution of the public library was created as a means of fostering the type of well-informed citizens necessary to maintain a democratic state. But, why is a democratic society to be preferred? Why is self-directed, public education via library collections necessary to maintain a democracy? Why are liberal, democratic values to be desired? Answering these questions requires a brief look at the historical context of the Enlightenment.
With the collapse of the intellectual supremacy of the Catholic Church following the Thirty Years War, many late-seventeenth century philosophers began to express a general disillusionment with the dogmatism of the Counter Reformation and over time a broad anti-ecclesiastical movement arose that attempted to “deny any credence to the traditional Catholic conception of what was called the ‘law of nature’.” Seeking an alternative to theological hegemony, the French Academy became embroiled in the so-called Quarrel between the Ancients and Moderns, a debate between traditional humanists who held Greek and Roman antiquity as the paragon of civilization and forwards-looking modernes who saw the progress of science (Galileo, Hooke, Newton, et al.) as an alternative to dogmatism; intellectuals sought “a philosophy that would be responsive to the changing nature of the external world and above all to the ever-changing perceptions, passions, and beliefs of the human-animal.” Over the course of the eighteenth century this search for a new philosophy would expand beyond the initial French philosophes to include Scottish moralists, American revolutionaries, and German idealists. Embracing science, reason, and political theories based in natural law rather than divine right, these philosophers questioned absolute power, criticized dogmatism, promoted intellectual freedom, and sought in earnest to discover principles on which a just social order could be established. Writing in 1784, Immanuel Kant provided the definitive summary of the Enlightenment: “Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of enlightenment.”
Yet, the Enlightenment age was far from monolithic. Religious leaders criticized real or perceived atheism and the privileging of reason over faith, so much so that advocating Enlightenment beliefs could lead to the death penalty. Conservatives used the French Revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror as a criticism of enlightened liberalism. Later, 19th Century Romantics like Hegel would lament the loss of subjectivity and tradition and, in the 20th Century, Gadamer would continue Hegel’s criticism and assert further that rationalism and the rejection of prejudice are untenable aims: all thought is grounded in prejudice, even rational thought. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno famously accused the Enlightenment of totalitarianism for refusing to accommodate mythology, superstition, or spiritualism. To Horkheimer and Adorno, the legacy of the Enlightenment is threefold: the suppression of tradition by force, dehumanization and disenchantment due in the absence of religious conceptions of harmony and purposefulness, and the commodification of knowledge and information. Most contemporary criticism of the Enlightenment follows in the same vein as Horkheimer and Adorno including, for example, many of the most prominent post-colonial theorists; Partha Chatterjee provides a representative argument:
Beliefs held by other peoples turn out to be manifestly irrational and false when judged in terms of Western criteria of rationality or truth. The question then arises: how is one to interpret the fact that large numbers of people collectively hold beliefs that are false? Is it fair, or legitimate, or valid, to proceed by designating such beliefs as false and then to and find out why, or how, such irrational beliefs are communally held? Would that not involve the bias of ethnocentrism?
Claims to universality, to reason, to objectivity…these core values of the Enlightenment are but one historical and material possibility among many and it is intellectual hubris to assume that all peoples or cultures should desire them.
The Enlightenment has also become a frequent target for critique in some areas of library and information science. In addition to de jesus, Thomas Weissinger criticizes the way “unmodified Enlightenment worldview values of rationalism and individualism necessarily condition the profession’s overall understanding of diversity and fairness.” Olof Sundin and Jenny Johannisson discuss institutional oppression, explaining that the dominant position of Enlightenment discourse in LIS “potentially means that marginalized groups within, for example, an organization are forced to use tools that have been created to further the interests of other more “powerful” groups.” Todd Honma argues that in librarianship, “what counts as ‘universal’ knowledge is an unquestioned and unacknowledged white perspective [which is] a product of Enlightenment values.” Indeed, throughout LIS scholarship there are many arguments to the effect that (1) the values of the Enlightenment condition the worldview of the modern library and (2) those values are an expression of a particular worldview: white, European, settler, male.
This brings us around full circle to institutional oppression and, while I take the existence of institutional oppression as a given, it remains to be seen whether the Enlightenment is uniquely (or even significantly) responsible for said oppression. How do we move from general conceptions of liberty, freedom, and equality to deeply entrenched oppression? A few things are in order. First, we can look at the arguments de jesus provides linking Enlightenment democratic liberalism to oppression. Second, we can look at the underlying philosophical methodology underpinning the connection she identifies. Finally, we can ask whether anything of the Enlightenment is salvageable after de jesus’ critique goes through.
The Enlightenment and Three Logics of Oppression
In a footnote to her article, de jesus claims that the Enlightenment was fundamentally “evil” and characterized by “a set of philosophical and political ideas that directly led to the deaths of millions of people and the subjugation of pretty much the entire world under white colonial powers.” This is a strikingly bold stance, yet not uncommon. Honma foreshadows de jesus in his own footnote: “Enlightenment values and positivism were intrinsically tied to ideologies and practices that perpetuated racism, colonialism, and the enslavement of whole populations based on the color of one’s skin.” Note that neither is claiming merely that Enlightenment values were offered as justification for subjugation, death, and enslavement. If that were the case, defenders of liberal values would only need to argue that oppression only arises from Enlightenment values due to misunderstanding, misappropriation, or post hoc justification: core liberal, democratic concepts, like any abstractions, can certainly be twisted and abused in self-serving means. As Wayne Bivens-Tatum explains,
Undoubtedly, most persons in the eighteenth century, just like most persons today, could not live up to the challenge of the best and most enlightened thought of the day. Even revolutionaries devoted to political equality could ignore the oppression of women and slaves, but by doing so they acted in a contradictory manner, not out of enlightened motivations.
Yet, Honma and de jesus are arguing something else: that the values of the Enlightenment in themselves are oppressive; that slavery, colonialism, subjugation, and death arise because of Enlightenment values, not in spite of them. To further this point, de jesus offers Andrea Smith’s three “logics” of oppression: slavery as the anchor of capitalism, colonialism as the anchor of genocide, and orientalism as the anchor of war. Unfortunately, de jesus never explains how capitalism, colonialism, and orientalism are necessary adjuncts to Enlightenment values and there are substantive historical reasons to question the implied relationships.
First, on the connection between slavery and capitalism, de jesus argues that “the enslavability of Black people is a necessary and foundational part of capitalism, such that slavery is not the result of capitalism, but rather that capitalism itself is structured around this logic.” Yet, the Atlantic Slave Trade was founded several centuries prior to the Enlightenment in a time of mercantilist economic theory, where positive trade balances and militarization directly lead to state-sanctioned slavery. In contrast, the laissez-faire capitalism described in Adam Smith’s 1776 Wealth of Nations was a thorough critique of mercantilism, including direct prohibitions on colonialism and slavery. Granted, Smith’s argument was that slavery created market inefficiencies, which only underscores capitalist amoralism. However, the point remains: slavery should be tied to mercantilism, not the capitalism of the Enlightenment. Moreover, it is a historical mistake to view Enlightenment-era views of slavery as fundamentally racial. As shown from Barbary slave raids in the Mediterranean to Scottish workhouse slavery to the thousands of Irish sent to colonial plantations by Oliver Cromwell, theories on slavery and theories on race were largely held distinct during the Enlightenment. Many historians have even argued that the concept of “race” did not take hold until the slave trade came under attack by Enlightenment-inspired abolitionists. Of these abolitionists, it is well worth pointing out that even when we do find Enlightenment philosophers arguing on behalf of chattel slavery, we are equally likely to find philosophers and political theorists arguing vehemently from Enlightenment values against slavery, to the extent that the Enlightenment is frequently singled out as the primary source of antislavery thought. Ultimately, the historical connection between capitalism, Enlightenment, and slavery is tenuous at best; the Atlantic slave trade in particular was created and perpetuated under mercantilist economic theory which did not fully subside until the Victorian Age.
On the connection between colonialism and genocide, it is absolutely true that colonialism lead directly to the genocide of well over 90% of indigenous Americans. In a landmark survey, Thornton estimates the pre-Columbian American Indian population at some 72 million, falling to only 4 million by the eighteenth century. However, it should be noted that this holocaust occurred almost entirely before the rise of Enlightenment ideals. This is not to say that settlers from the late eighteenth century onwards played no role in the destruction of native culture and peoples. Rather, it is just to point out that colonialism and the bulk of its subsequent holocaust predate the Enlightenment. In point of fact, when we look to the (continuing) erasure of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, we see many strains of thought that stand diametrically opposed to Enlightenment rationality, anti-dogmatism, and anti-imperialism. In the first great colonial wave from the 15th through early 18th centuries, Spanish, Portuguese, and British colonizers sought refuge in evangelical, missionary theological doctrines, or theories of divine providence  that would later be translated into the Manifest Destiny that underpinned American colonialism. The second, larger wave of colonialism—the “Scramble for Africa” of the late 19th century—was motivated by a series of factors: the search for new markets and raw materials by industrial capitalists, the rise of Romantic nationalism, theories of social Darwinism, and Victorian imperialism. While Enlightenment values certainly played some role in late 19th Century colonial expansion, the specifically counter-Enlightenment ideologies of Romanticism were far more prevalent and controlling. As it stands, colonialism and the Enlightenment are uneasy bedfellows and the best we can say is that even though Enlightenment values did not directly lead to colonialism, the Enlightenment-era was unfortunately ambivalent towards it. Though Diderot, Kant, Smith and other Enlightenment philosophers were specifically and unequivocally opposed to colonialism, that theory did not lend itself to practice.
Finally, on the connection between orientalism and war, de jesus invokes Edward Said (by way of Smith) but never quite pins down the locus of connection. It seems that she is arguing that Western European values tend to exist within a framework that sets them as necessarily opposed to the “other”: non-European values. For de jesus, orientalism “allows the [United States] to justify its ongoing wars” and, further, it is implied that the othering of non-European worldviews encourages Western European values to exist as the “default, normal, civilized” conditions for understanding the world. Thus, liberal, democratic values such as equality, intellectual freedom, or human rights only attain their superiority within a system that necessarily casts aspersions on alternative values. There is some truth to this assessment, insofar as all social and political systems can be described in terms of what they are not. Yet it is worth remembering that Said’s criticisms are directed at the entirety of Western civilization over more than 2000 years; the Enlightenment did not uniquely encourage orientalism any more than did the Roman Empire or the Renaissance. Likewise, Said’s theories apply equally well to any case in which a dominant culture asserts intellectual and cultural hegemony over its rivals. Said has not identified a specifically white, Western, or European phenomenon but instead has identified a general social and political theory that equally describes Ming attitudes towards Mongols, Ottoman attitudes towards Southern Europeans, or Incan attitudes towards other Andean cultures.
So, when it comes to the institutional oppressions established by the Enlightenment, the “logics” marshalled by de jesus are historically suspect. However, that is not to say that the so-called Age of Reason did not lend itself to values and/or beliefs that lend themselves to oppression. Though I am unconvinced by de jesus’s appeal to three “logics,” I do not think we have to look very far to find two very real and well-documented legacies of the eighteenth-century that bear on contemporary understandings of the role of libraries. The first of these, scientific racism, has so distorted contemporary Western civilization that it is virtually synonymous with racism simplicter. The second, the Enlightenment insistence its own “civilizing mission” still manifests itself in oppressive power relations to this very day. Both scientific racism and the civilizing mission stand supreme among the Enlightenment-era worldviews that continue to perpetuate the oppression de jesus rightly points out.
The Problems of Enlightenment
Scientific racism refers to the anthropological theses advanced by Enlightenment (and Romantic) philosophers to account for differences between human races. Traditionally, these racial differences were accounted for via scriptural evidence. To the Enlightenment philosophers rejecting theological hegemony, these racial and cultural differences stood in need of a secular explanation. The taxonomic revolution heralded by Carl Linnaeus’ 1735 Systema Naturae set the agenda for a burgeoning science of anthropology by classifying humans into four groups: white European, yellow Asian, copper American, black African. It was further argued that white Europeans were superior to the other, “degenerate” races and that all racial differences were, in effect, essential differences. These notions of essential difference lead many to argue that people of color were furthermore essentially inferior to Europeans. Hume argued that “the negroes and in general all of the other species of men…[are] naturally inferior to the whites” and that “there never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white.” Kant wrote that “the Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the ridiculous,” once even arguing that “this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.” And in the American vein, Jefferson hypothesized that “the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.” Granted, there were many Enlightenment philosophers who argued forcefully against these “scientific” theories of race (e.g., Henri Gregoire, Nicolas de Condorcet, or Thomas Reid). Yet, as Said has noted, most of the major liberal Enlightenment figures such as Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau still asserted a fundamental superiority of the European man even as they argued against slavery and colonialism. When coupled with the rise of Romantic nationalism in the nineteenth century, Enlightenment views on race provided powerful narratives to justify oppressive institutions: people of color are essentially inferior and society must implement systems to safeguard white superiority.
With respect to libraries, we still see this racist thought in action through a variety of mechanisms. Our privileging of the “Western canon” and associated dismissal of inferior non-Western literature is an example: library collection development is mediated by subject-specialists educated/indoctrinated in Western values and collection benchmarked against other libraries, which only serves to perpetuate a largely static canon of Western thought. Likewise for our current classification schemes which—as de jesus notes—tend to marginalize non-European intellectual products. Likewise, too, for all manner of technology initiatives, information literacy concepts, and other library actions: Western European culture is tacitly held as the default and correct lens through which to understand libraries.
Part of this trend can be located in a second problematic legacy: the stadial view of historical progress. Briefly, many Enlightenment thinkers embraced a sociological worldview that described a specific arc of sociocultural evolution: from hunter-gatherers to pasturage to agriculture to commerce. Coupled with this was the arc from “savage” to “civilized” and in the minds of many Enlightened men, indigenous peoples that did not have a mercantilist economic structure were less civilized and stood in need of civilizing. This sentiment is clearly evident in Bivens-Tatum’s discussion of the “universal appeal” of Enlightenment values, which de jesus is correct to criticize. The very concept of universality inherent in ideas such as reason or human rights lead many to attempt to erase native and/or non-European cultures and supplant them with a genericized set of European values: sort of an anti-ecclesiastical version of Christian missionaries seeking to bring the word of Christ to the “pagans.”
This attempted erasure and homogenization manifests itself in libraries in several ways. Early political leaders championing the cause of public libraries held the view that “libraries could provide a civilizing influence on the masses and be a means to shape the populace into adhering to hegemonic social norms” which lead to the all-too-familiar refrain of the librarian as a “social steward” of the general population. Libraries were founded in large part to educate not the white elite, but the indigenous peoples, immigrants, freed slaves, lower classes, and others who stood in need of a “civilizing” social ethic. To take but one contemporary example, English-only education initiatives persist to this day and contribute to the destruction of native languages and cultures. Thankfully, library organizations like REFORMA are pushing back on the “civilizing” racism inherent in native language bans, but the damage has been done in many respects, with potential library patrons being forced to either force themselves into an English mold or abstain from libraries altogether.
Libraries and the Enlightenment: A Question of Methodology
Even if de jesus’ arguments regarding slavery, colonialism, and orientalism are historically and philosophically suspect, the legacies of scientific racism and civilizing seem to still support her second premise: the values of the Enlightenment are oppressive. However, one last consideration must be met. de jesus’s argument only goes through on the particular methodological assumption that we cannot understand or apply a concept outside of its historical and material context, a belief that de jesus references several times. I’ll call this view intellectual originalism and I wish to contrast it with what I will call intellectual progressivism. My intent here is to show that there are ways of viewing the Enlightenment that allow us to bracket racism, classism, sexism, and other negative attitudes of the Enlightenment philosophers.
Intellectual originalism just is the view that we cannot separate the historical and material context of a concept from the concept itself. The term ‘originalism’ is meant to draw a parallel to the conservative, American principle of Constitutional interpretation known as originalism according to which our interpretation of the Constitution must track “the meaning that its words were understood to bear at the time they were promulgated.” By analogy, intellectual originalism holds that we cannot understand a concept (i.e., a value) independent from the meaning that concept had when first promulgated. Hence, if an Enlightenment value like political equality is to be understood today, we must focus on what political equality meant during the Enlightenment. To whom and in what respects did the concept apply and for whose benefit? Frequently encountered under the aegis of post-structuralism, this position requires that each and every concept we wish to consider must be approached historically, first and foremost.
Contrast this with a vastly different theory of jurisprudence: the “Living Constitution” doctrine. This doctrine holds simply that the Constitution should be interpreted in light of contemporary society, rather than its original meaning, leading to a dynamic and ultimately progressive document. As David Strauss explains, the Living Constitution doctrine holds simply that “precedents evolve, shaped by notions of fairness and good policy.” Chief proponents of this doctrine have included Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Earl Warren, and Thurgood Marshall, all of whom presided over broad expansions of civil rights, civil liberties, and associated progressive ideals. Applied to the Enlightenment, the analogy is simple: intellectual progressivism holds that the scope and application of core Enlightenment values have changed over time. As society progresses, Enlightenment values are extended to those left out in the case of civil liberties or rescinded when it becomes clear that they contribute to oppression. The values remain the same, only our interpretation of them is modified to match contemporary understanding.
In light of these methodological approaches, we can say the following about the Enlightenment. First, on the originalist approach we have to take seriously the way scientific racism conditioned post-Enlightenment values. Enlightenment-inspired philosophers and politicians were able, with a straight face, to extol virtues of equality, liberty, and freedom for all humans if only because non-Europeans were not fully human on their view. For some, this lead to ambivalence, for others it lead to the ascendency of stadial, Whig progressivism that interpreted history as a march towards universal liberal enlightenment: if non-Europeans are not fully human, they should be civilized through exposure to Western values. Libraries, as core institutions for the promulgation of Western values, played and continue to play an integral role in this civilizing mission.
Second, however, on the progressivist approach, we can separate liberal, democratic values from their historical context and assert that the intellectual freedom and political equality advocated by libraries is not strictly the same as that advocated by prominent Enlightenment or Romantic men. Accepting that scientific racism and Whig history arose as ways to interpret liberal values, rather than as the foundation for said values, we need only shift our frame of interpretation and keep the values intact. Libraries promote intellectual freedom, the power of knowledge, and the right to education as core values that have only expanded in scope since the eighteenth century.
Reclaiming the Enlightenment in Librarianship
Towards the end of her article, de jesus writes that
[l]ibraries as institutions were created not only for a specific ideological purpose but for an ideology that is fundamentally oppressive in nature. As such, the failings of libraries can be re-interpreted not as libraries failing to live up to their ideals and values, but rather as symptoms and evidence of this foundational and oppressive ideology.
Hopefully I have shown that her argument for the oppressive nature of Enlightenment values is unfounded. Of course, this is not to say that libraries do not exist in institutional oppression. Reflecting over the previous discussion, the point I wish to make is simply that the history of oppression is far more complex than de jesus is willing to admit. Rather than pin oppression on Enlightenment values simplicter, it makes more sense to take a broad view and consider the interplay of mercantilism, imperialism, religious dogma, manifest destiny, Romantic nationalism, racist anthropological theories, Whig histories, and, yes, the Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment gave us racists as well as abolitionists, capitalists as well as Marxists, misogyny and feminism (Wollstonecraft)…it was a remarkably complicated time. If anything, from a purely historical standpoint, I’d argue that religious and quasi-religious views of providentialism were more plausibly responsible for the more grotesque instances of oppression than any liberal, democratic value. So, rather than single out Enlightenment values as uniquely oppressive and in need of dismantling or “decolonization,” I would say it is more apt to promote those values in a more holistic way. Effectively, we have good reason to question whether de jesus’ second premise is true.
Returning to Bivens-Tatum’s assessment of the relationship between libraries and the Enlightenment, it is worth noting that he seems to promote a progressive (rather than an originalist) view. As he argues,
as proponents of intellectual freedom, libraries are by default implicated in the entire scheme of Enlightenment values…[but] espousing a belief in intellectual freedom without also espousing a belief in critical reason, individual liberty, and emancipation from intolerance and bigotry leads results in philosophical incoherence. Intellectual freedom does mean that libraries should provide all information to all people, but it does not mean that librarians have to remain neutral towards that information.
I find this view compelling and I believe de jesus does as well: libraries “could come to represent and embody freedom. They could become focal points for the free exchange and access of ideas, knowledge, and imagination.” Institutional oppression exists, but we can only counteract it if we have the freedom to reject it and the freedom to pursue alternative discourses and on this I agree with de jesus that libraries are poised to be focal points for emancipation. But we should not forget that the very invocation of this freedom to exchange ideas, knowledge, and imagination is itself an enlightened position; it is the appeal to the free use of one’s reason in public, or following Kant’s summation of Enlightenment: Sapere Aude!
Notes and stuff
 de jesus, n., “Locating the Library in Institutional Oppression,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe (2014, September 24). http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/locating-the-library-in-institutional-oppression/
 However, it is not clear whether de jesus’ argument can be formalized under universal and/or existential quantifiers.
 de jesus, §3.2
 Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (New York: NYU Press, 2012), 7-9.
 Derrick Bell, “Racial Realism,” Connecticut Law Review 24 (1992), 364.
 Ibid., 376.
 de jesus is quite vague in addressing oppressive library practices and this list may exceed her intended scope.
 Christine Pawley, “Unequal Legacies: Race and Multiculturalism in the LIS Curriculum,” Library Quarterly 76, no. 2 (2006), 162.
 cf. American Library Association, Intellectual Freedom Manual (Chicago: American Library Association, 2010).; American Library Association, Code of Ethics of the American Library Association (Chicago: American Library Association, 2008), available online at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethicss; American Library Association, The Freedom to Read Statement (Chicago: American Library Association, 2004), available online at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/freedomreadstatement
 Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Libraries and the Enlightenment (Los Angeles: Library Juice Press, 2012), 99.
 Ibid., 100.
 Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945), 492.
 Anthony Pagden, The Enlightenment and Why it Still Matters (New York: Random House, 2013), 45
 Joan Dejean, Ancients against Moderns: Culture Wars and The Making of The Fin de Siècle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).
 Ibid., 68
 Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Translated by James Schmidt. In What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth Century Answers and Twentieth Century Questions (1784; repr., Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), 58.
 Philipp Blom, A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment (New York: Basic Books, 2010).
 This, despite the fact that most revolutionaries were not liberal and held no affinity towards the Enlightenment. See Jonathan Israel, Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre (Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, 2014).
 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 277.
 Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectics of Enlightenment (London: Verso, 1997), 6.
 Ibid., 88
 Ibid., 197
 Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 11.
 Thomas Weissinger, “Competing Models of Librarianship: Do Core Values Make a Difference?” Journal of Academic Librarianship 29, no. 1 (2003), 32.
 Olof Sundin and Jenny Johannisson, “Pragmatism, Neo‐pragmatism and Sociocultural Theory: Communicative Participation as a Perspective in LIS,” Journal of Documentation 61, no. 1 (2005), 35.
 Todd Honma, “Tripping over the Color Line: The Invisibility of Race in Library and Information Studies,” InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies 1, no.2 (2005), 15.
 de jesus, n. 4
 Ibid., 22
 Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Libraries and the Enlightenment. (Los Angeles: Library Juice Press, 2011), 22-23.
 Andrea Smith, “Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy,” Global Dialogue 12, no. 2 (2010).
 de jesus, §3.1
 It is interesting to note that the majority of European economic thought is derived from Islamic thought. Cf. Jairus Banaji, “Islam, the Mediterranean, and the Rise of Capitalism,” Historical Materialism 15 (2007): 47-74.
 “From the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by free men comes cheaper in the end than the work performed by slaves. Whatever work he does, beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance, can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by any interest of his own.”
 George W. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 35-41.
 David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), 391-445.
 On some interpretations, mercantilism persisted until the United States dropped the gold standard in 1971.
 Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492 (Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 1987), 42.
 Luis Rivera, A Violent Evangelism: The Political and Religious Conquest of the Americas (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992).
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-2001 (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).
 Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States: 1607-1876 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 14-15.
 By most estimates, less than 10% of Africa was colonized by 1850; more than 90% was colonized by 1914.
 Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 72-73.
 de jesus, §3.3
 de jesus, §3.3
 Here it is worth noting that Western Europe was far from the only imperialist, colonizing, slave-trading culture.
 Such as man’s descent from Adam (Gen. 1:27-31, 2:8-25), the mark of Cain (Gen. 4:10-4:15), or the curse of Ham (Gen. 9:20-27).
 Immanuel Kant. “On National Characteristics, So Far As They Depend upon The Distinct Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime,” In E. C. Eze (Ed.) Race and the Enlightenment (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1997), 57
 Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (London: John Stockdale, 1787), 239.
 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1993), 291.
 John J. Doherty, “The Academic Librarian and the Hegemony of the Canon,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 24, no. 5 (1998), 403-406.
 Bivens-Tatum, 23.
 Paul T. Jaeger, Ursula Gorham, Lindsay C. Sarin, and John Carlo Bertot, “Libraries, Policy, and Politics in a Democracy: Four Historical Epochs,” Library Quarterly 83, no.2 (2013), 168.
 It should be noted that, like the Enlightenment, the history of librarian thought is far from monolithic. A cursory review of the library literature shows that the English-only focus of librarianship was criticized at least as early as 1934, when William Randall argued that “the necessity for co-operation and exchange in thought and ideas between American and foreign librarians has been realized. American librarianship can no longer be self-sufficient.” William M. Randall, “Review of Library Literature, 1921-1932. A Supplement to Cannons’ Bibliography of Library Economy, 1876-1920,” Library Quarterly 4, no. 3 (1934), 501.
 Antonin Scalia, “A Theory of Constitution Interpretation”
 David A. Strauss, The Living Constitution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 36.
 de jesus, §4
 de jesus, §4
 Bivens-Tatum, 187
 de jesus, §4