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Imperialism Fueled By A Dubious Sense Of Capitalism Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2588 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Imperialism is a developing world concept taken on by the strongest powers on the globe. The idea of colonizing or occupying another nation or territory for economic or territorial purposes is an overarching idea that resonates with occidental powers. Intellectuals such as Karl Marx, Nicolai Lenin, Joseph Schumpeter, and John Hobson each have their own views on imperialism that all mange to be intertwined and unequivocally potent to the modern day understanding of imperialism. Despite a specified piece designated on imperialism, Marx’s contributions were attributed during points in his writings on India and in the Communist Manifesto. His views on imperialism are understood as the expansion of capitalist relations throughout the globe. Lenin and Hobson despite some diverging ideas both spear headed the concept that imperialism was a product of capitalism. Schumpeter, on the other hand, believed that imperialism is a pre-capitalist phenomena and it is based on the simple desire for conquest. Because of his tangential view on imperialism, this paper will highlight the divergence and congruence of Schumpeter’s ideology, once studied against Marx, Lenin, and Hobson. Additionally, the political realm continuously seeks the theory most adherent to Marx’s original intentions; the paper will continue to elaborate on how Lenin’s ideas are more on target with orthodox Marxism than that Hobson.

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Karl Marx, one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers in modern time, impacted and continues to impact millions of people around the globe in combating the oppression set forth by an overpowering bourgeoisie on a suffering proletariat. In identifying that capitalism leads to more surplus labor than value, he took matters upon himself to empower the working class and abolish all means of class separation. Marx believed that the power of capital rests on the ideological and organizational degree of unity among workers (Prof. Stephen Bronner, personal communication). In the Communist Manifesto, Marx stated that, “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.” (Tucker 477) Marx is ensuing that the developed world has taken complete control over the world market and in doing so they can over produce their products at a cheap prices and force their consumption upon the underdeveloped world. This means of exploitation “batters down all Chinese walls” because all nations seeking to improve upon their economic problems are willing to compel any nation to abide by its own mode of production, thus taking on the bourgeois stance (Tucker 477). Marx believed this bourgeois nation “creates a world after its own image.” (Tucker 477) The underdeveloped world sees in the developed world the image of its own future. Hence, the bourgeois becomes an international class, in contradiction with the current view of globalization. Under the Marxist view, imperialism is embedded within capitalism having an omnivorous character that is engaged in an assault on traditional society. Hence, Marx suggested a non political position in which a society would “take on basic structures of productions or die.” (Prof. Stephen Bronner, personal communication) Any anti-imperialistic revolts that emerged were seen as anti-capitalistic, once more resulting that each are essential for the other and are not established separately.

Schumpeter, an Austro-Marxist, dealt with universal nationalism and was embraced by the main stream. Schumpeter argues that the conquest for expansion is pre-capitalistic yet it no way is it subordinate. Imperialism, under Schumpeter is viewed as “the objectless disposition on the part of a state to unlimited forcible expansion.” (Schumpeter 7) Thus meaning that it is human nature for a state to seek expansion while capitalism in an indigenous phenomena of the West. Capitalism will inevitably eliminate imperialism and result in the diminishing of ideological concerns. Unaddressed under Schumpeter, capitalism may be a post-imperialistic thought but it does not ensure stability. Additionally, a dominant economic power is an essential base for an imperial power thus proving that most economically advanced nations are those who are engaged in capitalism. (Prof. Stephen Bronner, personal communication) Schumpeter believed that as capitalism develops the quest for imperialism slowly disintegrates.

In a style of dichotomy, the differences between Schumpeter and Marx showed a clear divide in the theory of class domination, oppression, and struggle as the mainspring of history. Schumpeter believed that the ambitions of many people are minimal because they compromise a larger majority of the world populace but those in the upper class sect of society are thrust with greatness because they are the minority. This, Schumpeter emphasized, is natural and has nothing to do with the Marxian idea of class struggles. Yet the main thing he did share with Marx was the economic interpretation of history, without the Marxian supplements of class struggles. The economic interpretation of history included the ideas that the countries would attain wealth based on productivity and profit. One of Marx’s fundamental mistakes to Schumpeter’s, was to take that “power” and “will to power” of the captains and generals of industry of the early and middle nineteenth century to be outstanding in the character of the entire, much larger class, the bourgeois as a whole and sure to continue to characterize it in undiminished degree as long as the class should exist. [1] For Schumpeter on the contrary, the forceful or potent character was always confined to the group of leading entrepreneurs. [2] 

Schumpeter had a more unorthodox view on imperialism then other thinkers. Lenin and Hobson both shaped the framework for the clarification on how imperialism has made an imprint on the world and its people. Hobson defines imperialism as “the endeavor of the great controller of industry to broaden the channel for the flow of surplus wealth by seeking foreign markets and foreign investments to take off the goods and capital they cannot sell or use at home.” (1) This denotation projected by Hobson illustrates a strictly productive and profit seeking state. Hobson, a classical Fabian, focused his criticism of imperialism on the industrial aspects and neglected the older quests for imperialism based on expansion. While Marx stated that capitalism does generate imperialism, Hobson believed they were connected but one must take into account the parasitic sectors involved in imperialism. Hobson had a strong belief that capitalism can be reformed but there must be the existence of both capitalism and imperialism or the country allows the two to run rampant. Hobson viewed imperialism as an “economic taproot” and it served as the parasitical sector of capitalism. In order for capital to move the conquest of territories are essential and all great powers engaged in the imperial enterprise are colonial.

Imperialism, Hobson writes, is the natural product of economic pressures of a sudden advance of capitalism which cannot find occupation at home and needs foreign markets for goods and investments. (65) As the nations become more industrialized, the growth of productions exceeds the growth in consumption; more goods are produced than can be sold at a profit; more capital exists that can find remunerative investment. [3] Since it becomes more difficult for manufacturers, merchants, and financiers to dispose of their economic resources, they bring pressure to bear on the government to secure for their particular use some distant, underdeveloped country by annexation and protection. It is these economic conditions which form the “taproot of Imperialism” (85-86). Thus being, Hobson’s view projects that the next and final stage in the imperialism process is capitalism.

According to Hobson, the causes of imperialism would be eliminated if there were better distribution of wealth. (91-92) If the surplus wealth, that is over savings, were distributed either to the workers in the form of higher wages or to the community in the form of taxes, so that it were spent instead of being saved, serving in either of these ways to increase consumption, there would be no need to fight for foreign markets or foreign areas of investment. If incomes were distributed so as to enable all groups in the economy to increase their consumption, there could be no overproduction, no underemployment of capital and labor, and no necessity for the state to pursue a policy of imperialism.

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Lenin on the other hand had a three-fold objective: to save revolutionary Marxism; to annihilate the “opportunists,” namely, Kautsky, who is painted as the villain for his defilement of Marxism; and to provide a truly Russian or Eastern version of socialism which would be applicable to backward, agricultural, semi-colonial and colonial countries. [4] Stalin defined Leninism as, “Marxism in the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution.” [5] Imbedded in his goals and policies Lenin does not let go of the Marxist foundation that are essential to formulate a successful revolution. Lenin believed that the only way to combat the colonially imperialistic powers is through war and in doing so Marx should lie at the base. Lenin goes on to say that imperialism is the stage of development in which the domination of monopolies and finance capital has taken shape; in which the export of capital is important, in which the division of the world by the international trusts has begun, and in which the partition of all the territory of the earth by the greatest capitalist countries has been completed. (Lenin 88-89) The view illuminated here by Lenin does not address imperialism as an ends for a means but an essential stage of development that is undergone once capitalistic countries take control of the sphere.

According to Lenin, the economic persona of imperialism is monopoly capitalism. Monopolies grow out of the concentration of production into a conglomerate of businesses and trusts which play a very important role in modern economic life. These monopolies have “captured the most important sources of raw materials,” which fact in turn has enormously increased the power of “big capitalists” and have sharpened “the antagonism between cartelized and noncartelized industry.” (Lenin 123-127) In his discussion of cartelized and industries not cartelized, Lenin shows that because there is a cluster of business dominating the price margin of products the tension between them and uncartelized industries increase leading to an imperialistic nature. The growth of these powerful monopolies and oligarchies, with their striving for domination, annexation, and ruinous exploitation of backward area, has given rise to imperialism, which, as Lenin puts it, is parasitic or decaying capitalism. Thus capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of financial control of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world, by a handful of large capitalist countries, which involves “the whole world in their war over the sharing of their booty.” (Lenin 10) Because imperialism is placed by Lenin as one in the same, the establishment of a powerful capitalist country inevitably leads to an imperialistic nature. Under capitalism, Lenin wrote, the only way to remove or set an end to the problems caused by highly productive and capitalistic forces leading to the division of colonies and spheres of influences for finance capital on the other, is through war. [6] In terms of imperialism, Lenin’s theory does not contradict Marx’s analysis of capitalism. Both men believed in and witnessed the formation of monopolies. Yet Lenin’s theory contradicts Marx’s doctrine of the lumpen proletariat because he believes that capitalism will not generate the adequate amount of money needed to employ all those not working. (Marx Communist Manifesto) Lenin fails to acknowledge to Hobson approach that entails that excess capital causes capitalistic countries to invest overseas and in doing so sustained full employment is not a factor. In comparison to Marx they both addressed that in adherence to capitalism state will search for new markets that can increase profit. Since the bottom line for monopolies is to increase profit, Lenin was right insofar as imperialism is caused by the search for new markets. [7] 

While Hobson and Lenin looked to the basic causes of imperialism in the market place, Schumpeter disputed their views greatly and felt that imperialism was built on a negative connotation. Schumpeter presents a theory which exonerates capitalism from the charge of being inherently imperialistic. He discards the attempts of Hobson and Lenin to ascribe a purely economic interpretation to the phenomenon of imperialism. Such an interpretation is incomplete, as non-economic factors must also be considered. Wars, conquests, annexations are not necessarily a result of imperialism. The desire for power for its own sake, the actions of rulers, the desire to subject a people to a specific though, the fight for freedom, all have been causes of war.

Furthermore, in analyzing the writings of Lenin, Hobson, and Schumpeter the congruence in thought are stronger between Hobson and Schumpeter than that with Lenin. Even though Hobson still traces the causes of imperialism to economic problems causing a capitalistic country to seek foreign markets, he believes that in tackling this issue the bond between imperialism and capitalism is broken. This would ensue that capitalism is apart from imperialism rather than a reason to be imperialistic. In Lenin’s philosophy capitalism is in the same cesspool as imperialism and an attack on imperialism is an attack on capitalism. For this reason Lenin’s model proved to be crucial for anti-imperialistic movements. Schumpeter’s ideas, though abstract, are based stronger on sociological and psychological paths, two details that Lenin and Hobson did not mention in either of their writings. Moreover, imperialism is a complex topic that is understood differently by different scholars and in contradiction Schumpeter, without capitalism a state would not seek to expand and alter the lives of underdeveloped states seeking their own sustainable lives.


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