The Lenin-Hobson capitalist imperialism theory
The imperialism theory was first developed by John Atkinson Hobson, a Briton, in 1902, and it was later adopted by Vladimir Lenin. This theory argues that capitalism results from the concentration of ownership of property. By the close of the 19th century, there was in place bank controls and giant monopolies by the various core states. As such capitalism is seen to have come about as a result of there being industrial societies, and these were responsible for the production of manufactured goods (Fieldhouse 1967).
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Lenin has depicted imperialist as “the highest stage of capitalism” capitalism nature, coupled with profit maximization doctrine, implies that imperialism is a process through which capitalists are coerced, for purposes of searching for elevated capital gains against a backdrop of unstable and shrinking markets. In this regard, the imperialism ides, at least from the context of Hobson/Lenin, entails three major categories: finance capital, monopolies, and capitalism (Hunt 2002).
Following this development of capitalism, and the consequent rapid increase in the number of manufacturing industries, there was bound to be, at one time, a scarcity with regard to the raw materials for the various industries (Brewer 1980). In turn, this would mean that the domestic markets would have to be impoverished, seeing that with no more raw materials, they would not be in a position to ‘absorb industrial production’.
In light of this then, the core states deem it appropriate to seek ways and means through which they can be able to get hold of new war material sources, as well as a market for the manufactured goods. This then, is what leads to imperialism, and a resultant competition amongst the various core states, evidently culminating in war (Etherrington 1984).
Differences of the Lenin-Hobson capitalist imperialism theory
The primary difference between on one hand Hobson and Lenin’s imperialism was that whereas held the idea that imperialist capitalism could be transformed into a socialists state by way of a proletarian revolution, Hobson meanwhile, opined that imperialist capitalism could be peacefully changed into a socialist state via both the government and trade unions actions of lessening the impacts of monopolization. In addition, Lenin did not also believe in the decay of capitalism (Hunt 2002).
On his part, Hobson was of the opinion that the evident crises in capitalistic states could get a cure once there was in place equality in terms of the income distribution. The analysis by Lenin appears to have emphasized more on class conflict, the enhanced state of fiancé and state monopoly, as well as the ensuing divisions in the various territories
(Brewer 1980). In comparison, Hobson was more of a pacifist, who tended to focus more on the chronological process which began with nationalism, followed by colonialism, and then finally, imperialism. Nevertheless, both concurred with the fact that imperialism emanated from a state of capital having over-accumulated within the home market, as well as there is a need to see to it that extra influence and outlets were affected, from the perspective of non-capitalists regions.
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Based on a premise that the states are often under the political control of the capitalist class, Lenin hypothesized that finance-capita (evidently the most dominant type of capital) utilized the machinery of the state in a bid to colonize the regions in the periphery of the state. It is here then that the capitalist would exploit the peripheral laborers who were often oppressed for purposes of producing raw materials and commodities, obviously at a cheaper price.
Secondly, they would seek to establish an affluent class, while at the same time also undermining the local industries, thereby ensuring that the colonies would be dependent on ‘core investment’. What this then meant was that the core would help in the pumping of wealth ‘out of the periphery’. This form of wealth that was flowing towards the economies of the core domestic market subdued a reduction in profit rates. It is this set for circumstances that Lenin referred to as “imperialism”.
Weaknesses of the Lenin-Hobson capitalist imperialism theory
The theory of capitalist imperialism as held by both Lenin and Hobson has not been without criticism. To start with, this theory appears to neglect the “fundamental exploitative capitalist relations between core and periphery”, and which were in existed for countless decades, way before the phase of “imperialism” has come about. In effect, this leads to one posing the question; could Lenin here be talking of something that is beyond doubt unique?
The view held by Lenin about a wave of colonization, leading on to imperialism and war, may in actual fact be more of an intensified colonialism. It thus becomes apparent, conversely to Lenin’s view that “imperialism” could be regarded as more of an advancement of the similar basic system of colonial power, as opposed to a novel stage of the development of capitalism (Hunt 2002). Secondly, in as much as several of Lenin’s predictions came into being, nevertheless, capitalism did not become undermined in this phase which in every way intimately averages the condition that Lenin asserted would lead to an emergence of the ‘core socialist revolution’.
Lenin, having advanced the capitalist imperialism theory that was developed by Hobson before him, was a believer in a theory that is often plagued by several weaknesses. For instance, Lenin depicts an image of the imperialist heartlands turning into increasingly ‘more parasitic’ with regard to global production, with the result that entire nations and continents alike lack in terms of productive industries, and as Hobson has opined, “The staple food and manufactures flowing in as tribute from Asia and Africa” (Brewer 1980).
Moreover, Lenin greatly called attention to capital export in preference to commodities export to the colonial nations.
Lenin focused this based on a predictable economic development disproportion in the colonial nations with a prediction that in its wake, imperialism would leave most of the ‘third world, in an underdeveloped state and thus backward, thereby turning these into the perfect sites for elevated capital returns, relative to the imperialist heartlands (Etherrington 1984). In reality, the imperialist heartlands never really turned into parasitic consumption centers, quite the opposite of the production-dominated third world.
Equally, most of the exports by the states were, as they still are today, exported amongst the various imperialist nations, as opposed to from the imperialist country and onto the third world nations (Wolfgang 1982). In addition, Lenin intimately recognized a colonial takeover of the nations that were less developed, with a general inclination for capital export.
The analysis by Hobson as regards the under-consumption and over-accumulation have been met by criticism, with arguments being fronted to the effect that it fails to explain as to why the under-developed nations who capital is less surplus, for instance, Italy, got involved in colonial expansion, in the first place. In addition, the theory fails to wholly clarify the ‘expansionists’ of the greater powers of the next century’- Russia and the United States, which at the time, happened to have been net borrowers of foreign-based capital.
The critics of Hobson’s theory have also depicted occasions during which the foreign rulers requested and required capital from the Western. Seeing that the principal feature of imperialism happened to have been the “Scramble for Africa”, critics of the imperialism theory by Hobson have on occasion depicted instances during which bureaucratic and military costs have surpassed financial returns.
The theory of imperialism as advocated by Hobson was improved by Lenin, by way of convincingly indicating that the growth of trust, corporate giants, extreme disparities in resource distribution, and cartels were responsible for the advancement of a political economy and ultimately, imperialism and conflict. Eventually, this would evidently lead to conflict among the various capitalist states that were out to scrambles for the dwindling industrial raw materials.
The main difference that exists between the capitalist theories according to Hobson in relation to Lenin’s hypothesis is mainly one of the ideological differences. On the one hand, Hobson was a firm believer that imperialist capitalism could be peacefully changed into a socialist state via both the government and trade unions’ actions of lessening the impacts of monopolization. On the other hand, Lenin maintained that imperialist capitalism could be transformed into a socialist state by way of a proletarian revolution.
Even then, this theory is plagued by a number of weaknesses. To start with, this theory appears to neglect the “fundamental exploitative capitalist relations between core and periphery”, and which were in existed for countless decades, way before the phase of “imperialism” has come about. Secondly, in as much as several of Lenin’s predictions came into being, nevertheless, capitalism did not become undermined in this phase which in every way intimately averages the condition that Lenin asserted would lead to an emergence of the ‘core socialist revolution’. In addition, the theory fails to wholly clarify the ‘expansionists’ of the greater powers of the next century’- Russia and the United States, which at the time, happened to have been net borrowers of foreign-based capital.
Brewer, A, 1980, Marxist theories of imperialism: a critical survey. London: Routledge. (2009). Web.
Etherrington, N, 1984, Theories of imperialism: war, conquest and capital. New York: Taylor & Francis. (2009). Web.
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Fieldhouse, D. K, 1967, The theory of capitalist imperialism. New York: Barnes & Noble.
Hunt, E. K, 2002, History of economic thought. New York: M. E. Sharpe.
Wolfgang, J. M, 1982, Theories of imperialism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.