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Capitalist Imperialism in Contemporary Theoretical Frameworks

New Theories


Filip Ilkowski

This book analyzes the controversy surrounding imperialism associated with capitalist development. The last dozen years passed under the shadow of two momentous events: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted in the framework of the broader «war on terror», and the economic crisis. They occurred against the backdrop of global economic integration, but also against the contradictions in its development. Those events and processes are explained in the theory of contemporary capitalist imperialism that the author attempts to reconstruct.

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Let us begin by briefly elaborating the definition of the term “capitalist imperialism” as it is understood by the author of this book1. The question of imperialism in its broadest sense is identical with the issue of state expansionism, itself manifested in various ways. The very concept of imperium (the Latin word for “rule”, in English: empire) comes from ancient Rome and initially addressed the territorial scope of authority wielded by Roman civil servants. With time it acquired the meaning of the expansive, hierarchical, and universal whole of the Roman Empire intended to keep the peace. The Imperium thus existed in the singular. This was, in a certain sense, the elaboration of the Greek concept of hegemony, indicating leadership exercised by one state over others, voluntarily submitting to this arrangement for their own good. In contrast, imperialism – a concept which appeared in the context of the competition among expansionist states at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – is associated with the multiplicity of states adopting an imperial disposition understood as the expansion of their authority, as well as in the coercion that exists and results to some degree from the presence of subordination. It therefore concerns the activities of states whose relations with one another are characterized by conflict; more broadly speaking, and considering what was of particular importance during the period of colonial conquest, those states’ activities directed towards countries which did not necessarily constitute independent nation-states. In this sense, imperialism encompasses all actions of...

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