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Imperialism: A Study


This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can usually download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Imperialism: A Study

Overall customer rating: 5.000

Urgent, Prescient, Timely and Fascinating

by JamesRMacLean on Apr 9, 2007

The word "imperialism" today has become worn from misuse. Many of us have come to expect the word to signify that the speaker is a radical Marxist, or perhaps an embittered citizen of a defunct imperial power. Unfortunate indeed, because discussion of imperialism as a type of foreign policy decision has thereby been squelched. 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 laissez-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.

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