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MA History: Imperialism and Culture Theories Of

MA History: Imperialism and Culture Theories Of

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MA History: Imperialism and CultureTheories of ImperialismModule Leader: Professor Peter CainAssignment 2 of 2
“What do Lenin's theory of imperialism and Hilferding's have incommon and in what ways do they diverge?”
Victoria Allen
Submission Date: 25/01/10Word Count: 3,307
 
Theories of Imperialism Assignment 2
1 Anthony Brewer argues that for classical Marxists imperialism meant rivalry between advancedcapitalist counties
1
. Control by one nation is not simply achieved by militarism but by theimplementation of economic structures that reinforce oligarchy over competition and work toreinforce class divisions. In this sense, Brewer suggests that such ideas of 'imperialism' wereintroduced into Marxist theory between 1900 and 1920
2
; it was during this time that Marxist writerson the continent began offer interpretations of imperialism that discussed the increasing power of banks and financiers to explain the increasing trend of monopoly growth in the early part of thetwentieth century. In these interpretations it was outlined that inter-dependency between largefinancial institutions and the concentration of power in the hands of the few was securing thesurvival of capitalism. The increase in economic and political power of capitalist agents, and theinfluence such agents were thought to carry over state agenda, was offered as a direct link inexplaining the continued annexation and exploitation of underdeveloped countries (this latter'hallmark' now being the most widely accepted definition of the word imperialism as perdependency theory
3
).Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin's famous pamphlet
 Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism
certainly interprets imperialism as inextricably linked with the monopolistic stage of capitalism
4
and was to become, as Bernard Semmel suggests, the standard Marxist theory of imperialism for at least half a century.
5
Both Brewer and Norman Etherington argue, however, thatmuch of Lenin's work is actually based on earlier work, primarily Austrian Marxist Rudolf Hilferding, and it is claimed that Lenin therefore simply popularised theories that were already inexistence.
6
Hilferding's extensive work on the rise of monopoly, the move towards protectionistpolicy and capital export as a final phase of capitalism do indeed form the basis of Lenin's work,particularly his treatment of the importance of the export of capital as central to imperialism.
7
 However, the fact that much of the debate details a 'Marxist-Leninist' critique of imperialism
 
Theories of Imperialism Assignment 2
2denotes that Lenin did expand, contribute to or, in fact, deviate from, Marxist ideology in hiswriting. Indeed Lenin's rationale, as Bill Warren explicitly argues, was to over turn any previousideas of Karl Marx and Joseph Engels of capitalism as a means to social progress, and his method tothis end was to use the phenomenon of imperialism to explain the origins of the First World Warand the vast support it received from the proletariat.
8
Even Brewer argues that amid the obvioussimilarities with Hilferding, it was Lenin that declared imperialism as the final stage in capitalism,as opposed to monopoly capitalism, and the stage that would inevitably lead to war beforerevolution in both old and new capitalist states.
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 What is also interesting about Lenin's work is the substantial commentary it has received on thesimilarities between his ideas and J.A. Hobson's, of whom it is widely known that Lenin read andadmired.
10
Again, Lenin's concentration on the export of capital as being a direct result of an 'overripe' domestic market links directly to Hobson's theory of under-consumption. Yet the similarityalso requires further investigation not simply because Hobson was not a socialist but because it isalso argued that Hobson's and socialist leader Karl Kautsky's work bore some similarity in terms of their basic liberal ideas providing a starting point for Marxist commentary in general,
11
and it iswidely thought that Lenin wrote his pamphlet to directly contend Kautsky's ideas of 'ultra-imperialism
12
amid the disarray of the Second International.In this essay it is therefore intended to argue that Hilferding's discussion in his 1910 publication
Finance Capital
formed the core of Marxist-Leninist theories of imperialism. It is also intended,however, to discuss the extent to which Lenin's extension arguments on these ideas distance Leninfrom Hilferding to a further extent than opponents such as Brewer afford.Although John Kautsky suggests that Karl Kautsky was the first Marxist to attempt to explainimperialism after the deaths of Marx and Engels,
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Brewer argues that Hilferding is the 'real father'of a classical Marxist theory of imperialism,
14
with Wolfgang Mommsen similarly claiming that

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