What is Imperialism?

There is a course at my university called Imperialism, Ancient and Modern. This seems like an interesting class offered by the history department and I do not think it has been offered yet. The first assignment is to look over definitions of what imperialism is? The Economist in me came up with this definition:

“Imperialism is the use of coercion instead of trade to acquire goods and resources.”

Which made me think, is Imperialism a smart economic decision? Was there something different about the times of major colonies that caused Europe to be more Imperialistic?

I would imagine that people did it because they were rational but it could have been a major error and that is why we do not see colonies as much as we did. Each country could have gotten into prisoners dilemma of well if we trade with country A, country B will take it and use it all for itself. So let’s take it!

I would imagine moving and paying people to live in colonies costs a lot more than allowing managers of home countries manage themselves.

Here is some other definitions of imperialism:

“If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.” ~ Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916).

“Imperialism is the object-less disposition of state to expansion by force without assigned limits.” ~ Joseph A. Schumpeter, The Sociology of Imperialism (1918 )

“Imperialism and imperialistic are indiscriminately applied to any foreign policy, regardless of its actual character, to which the user happens to be opposed.” ~ Hans J. Morgenthaus, Politics Among Nations, 3rd ed. (New York 1960) p.45

This can be somewhat worrisome for Anarcho-Capitalist because the world is in anarchy. This just means that there is no world government. It functions well until there are wars. Wars are what Anarcho-Capitalism has to convince those who have lived under government and cannot see a world without it that war will not happen.

Well, I am very much looking forward to the class.


Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 12:47 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. The class sounds very interesting. While not directly related to your post, you may want to read:

    Stanley Lebergott, “The Returns to U.S. Imperialism, 1890-1929,” Journal of Economic History, Vol. 40, No. 2. (June 1980), pp. 229-252.

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