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J. A. Hobson's critical treatise on the practice of imperialism - whereby countries acquire territories for economic gain - is a classic in its field. This edition includes all of the author's original charts and illustrations.
Published at the opening of the 20th century, while colonial imperialism still held decisive sway as a political and social practice, Hobson's treatise caused shockwaves in economics for its condemnation of a procedure long considered irreproachable.
While Hobson acknowledges that imperialism is often supported by a sense of nationalistic pride and achievement - as with the British Empire's colonial imperialism - he identifies capitalist oligarchy as the true motivation behind imperialistic ventures. Owners of productive capital, such as factories, generate a large surplus which they desire to reinvest in further factories; this prompts imperialist expansion into foreign lands.
The search for productive growth is prompted by the plateau or stagnation of profit in what Hobson terms the 'Mother Country'. By necessity, the flagging system of the market economy is spread to other nations, where it acts to prop up the social and cultural orthodoxy. Hobson posits that were income instead distributed more equally among a population, then the occupation of other nations in search of profit would be unnecessary as a greater number of citizens are able to produce and prosper in and of themselves.
In addition to economic arguments against imperialism, Hobson also identifies the moral failings of the practice. He notes the oppressive and often violent behavior that the imperialist country imposes upon the occupied population, and the rise of feelings of racial superiority through the nationalist ideas that accompany imperialist expansion.
Hobson's treatise would profoundly influence politicians in the UK seeking to reform the capitalist system, with the Liberal Party of the time particularly receptive to his critiques. Notably, Hobson's book also influenced socialist and communist thinkers such as Vladimir Lenin, who adopted many of the criticisms in the book ahead of gaining power in Russia after the First World War.