- Unknown Binding: 386 pages
- Publisher: Gordon Press (1975)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 087968237X
- ISBN-13: 978-0879682378
- Package Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,370,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Imperialism: A study
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"If we are indeed entering a new period of imperialism, Hobson is a sound guide to what may come. He writes boldly and clearly, and his pithy insights into the world economy stand as a model of economic writing.... Reading Hobson, I am struck by the many parallels between 2002 and 1902. One hundred years ago, he saw that globalization--then known as imperialism--meant that it was impossible for one country to leave another country alone. World capitalism made isolation, even if desirable, an impossibility.... As Americans embark on a new imperial project--of rescuing failed states and winning the 'clash of civilizations' so that terrorists have no haven--we should be alert to the possibility that we will record our own 'complete' delusions." --G. Pascal Zachary, author of The Global Me, In These Times, September 2, 2002" --This text refers to the Printed Access Code edition.
J. A. Hobson (1858-1940) was an English economist and early social theorist. In Imperialism, published in 1902, he argues that imperial expansion was caused by the need to find new markets for the output of the Industrial Revolution, resulting in capitalistic exploitation of the colonies, and leading to international conflict. --This text refers to the Printed Access Code edition.
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His answer: Economics. According to Hobson, Britain's upper classes earned more income than they could realistically consume or invest. Chronically weak spending led to gluts of unsold goods and a drying up of investment opportunities. Seeking a way out of this trap, British financiers and manufacturers looked to foreign markets for salvation. However, these markets couldn't absorb Britain's excess savings (via exports and investment) unless they were under British control. Business and financial interests thus organized and led an Imperialist lobby supported by military officers, colonial civil servants, missionaries, arms manufacturers, and the jingo press. Imperialism was engineered by elites, but the wider British public went along. Ignorant of foreign cultures, ordinary Britons thrilled to the exploits of Empire and flattered themselves that they were in the vanguard of humanity. As always, the stupid enabled the greedy.
Hobson was not an economic determinist or a revolutionary. He argued that higher levels of public spending and a more egalitarian distribution of income would keep domestic demand in line with supply, thus neutralizing the need for imperial expansion. And as readers will discover, "Imperialism" is much more than a tract on international politics and economics. It covers an amazing range of topics, from the psychology (and hypocrisy) of late-Victorian imperialism to the structuring of "native" labor policies that would support colonial plantations and mines. It illuminates every subject it treats. In one startling passage, Hobson even foresaw a world where China has developed a powerful manufacturing sector by combining Western investment with indigenous cheap labor. He wrote: "It is at least conceivable that China might so turn the tables upon the Western industrial nations, and...flood their markets with her cheaper manufactures, and refusing their imports in exchange might take her payment in liens upon their capital, reversing the earlier process of investment until she gradually obtained financial control over her quondam patrons and civilizers." And this was written in 1902!
"Imperialism" isn't perfect. In particular, it advances a theory of imperialism but doesn't subject the theory to detailed empirical confirmation by examining particular episodes of annexation. But while imperfect, "Imperialism" is a great book. Six stars.
But in 1902, when Hobson wrote Imperialism, it was not yet a term of odium. Imperialism was a foreign policy strategy advocated as a benefit to the colonial power and to the subjugated nation alike; one advocate referred to it as "...the greatest secular agency for good known to the world," and some of the greatest minds of the day--John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, William Gladstone, Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner--were "social imperialists," partisans of a mission to bring liberal institutions to the rest of the world, and create markets for British manufactured goods. More common by far were advocates of imperialism as an alternative to redistributive socialist policies, as an outlet for surplus population (Britain was widely regarded as being overpopulated), and as a backyard for flagship companies. Hobson was addressing these arguments without acrimony, and without assuming a radical agenda his readers were unlikely to share.
The fact that self-described socialists and lassez-faire dogmatics alike, in 1902, regarded "imperialism" as a means to their rival ends, shows that this was not merely a right-left debate, and Hobson attacks the idea of solving the problems of capitalist societies by making war on other nations. His analysis of imperialism and its allure for the industrialized world makes this one of the most revealing books on 19th century history. The effects of imperialism on the rest of the human race are spelled out with precision and clarity, as is his nuanced analysis of why it is doomed to fail. Hobson's forecasts of the future of imperialism is astonishingly prescient, especially his passage on China.
Hobson was a pioneer of the underconsumptionist theories, theories later advanced by Keynes, Samuelson, and Tobin. Underconsumption presupposes that mature economies are unlikely to be be able to consume all that they produce; as a result, more capital accumulates, the marginal return on that capital declines, and stagnation sets in. But while Hobson was a seminal mind in economics, this is not an economics book--it is overwhelmingly a historical survey of ideologies, propaganda and the harsh reality, a disciplined yet creatively assembled explanation of how the needs of industrial Britain were so woefully met by imperial dogma. With the terrifying triumph of neo conservative ideology in our era, it is an extremely relevant book for contemporary citizens of America, and of the world.