Is Imperialism a Stage of Capitalism? An Analysis of the Relationship between Capitalism and Imperialism in the British Empire
The British Empire began in the early seventeenth century and continued into the twentieth century. There have been many different answers to the question of what caused imperialism. One solution, proposed most famously by Vladimir Lenin, was that imperialism was a stage of capitalism, and as such developed from it. In this theory monopoly and finance play essential roles in controlling imperialism and are part of the developmental stages of capitalism which led to imperialism. Lenin’s work drew upon that of British economist John A. Hobson, who argued that sectional capitalist interests and under-consumption were what caused imperialism. These theories focus on new imperialism as an abrupt shift in the nature of imperialism. The goal of this thesis is to evaluate the accuracy of this theory of imperialism based on evidence from the British Empire. This thesis presents the details of Lenin’s and Hobson’s arguments to gain an understanding of the foundational ideas of the theory of imperialism as a stage of capitalism. Case studies of areas of the British Empire were done to find if there was evidence that expansion was directed by finance capital and if both political and social forces were controlled by economics in forwarding imperialism. From the data gathered, it was concluded that imperialism was not solely a consequence of capitalism, and imperialism was not a stage of capitalism.