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About this book

Imperialism has become a key focus of debate about world politics in the post-9/11 world. This major new text provides a systematic reappraisal of the evolution of the phenomenon and the concept from the 19th century as the basis for a reassessment of Globalization and US hegemony in the world today.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction — Imperialism: What’s in a Name?

Abstract
Talk of imperialism and empire came back into fashion in a big way in the first decade of the twenty-first century, to some extent displacing globalization as the keynote term of social and political analysis. In large part this was the result of the belligerent foreign policy of the Bush administration from 2001–8 in the US which some saw as a revival of more overt power relations at the expense of a more liberal and ethical multilateral international agenda (Held 2004; Habermas 2006). I will take issue with both sides of this equation in the course of this book, but its central purpose is to stand back from the specifics of the Bush presidency to provide a much broader ‘rethink’ of the meaning and nature of imperialism both in its earlier evolution and, more particularly, during and since the Cold War.
Ray Kiely

2. Early Capitalism and Mercantile Imperialism

Abstract
This chapter examines imperialism in the context of the early development of capitalism, up to the period of the mid-nineteenth century. This is done by focusing on a number of closely related theoretical approaches — under-development and world systems theory, and the ‘new global history’ — which suggest that British take off in the early nineteenth century was closely linked to, or even caused by, the contribution of the colonies, particularly in the New World and India. Although these theories are concerned with a long history of relations between the developed core and under-developed periphery, and we will return to their claims in later chapters, they deserve some initial treatment as they have a particular conception of capitalism and its origins. Their argument is that imperialism largely caused the take off of capitalist development in what came to be the advanced countries, and Britain in particular. This chapter therefore focuses on the claims made by this theory in the period of mercantilism.
Ray Kiely

3. Liberal Imperialism and Capitalist Expansion

Abstract
The previous chapter examined the relationship between early capitalist development and empire with particular reference to mercantilism. By the late eighteenth century onwards, a number of important and influential figures began to make a strong case against empire, and the burdens that were said to be placed on Britain. As part of a wider campaign against colonialism, slavery and mercantilism, many classical political economists made the liberal case for free trade, which culminated in the ‘cosmopolitan’ thinking of Richard Cobden, and the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846. This suggests that liberalism is incompatible with colonialism and empire, and early imperialism came to an end with the eventual defeat of mercantilism, although it was revived in the late nineteenth century (see next chapter).
Ray Kiely

4. Classical Imperialism, 1882–1945

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the period that is usually described as the era of classical imperialism, from the 1880s to 1945. It is often described as the classical period because it was associated with imperialist world war, and a new wave of colonial annexation, as the European powers, Japan and the US formally colonized territories. Between 1876 and 1915, about a quarter of the globe was distributed or redistributed as colonies, mainly by Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Japan and the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent Portugal (Hobsbawm 1987: 57–9). The chapter focuses on those theories and theorists — usually, but not always Marxist — which attempted to link these new developments to a new phase of capitalist expansion. The, sometimes conflicting, claims of Hobson, Lenin, Bukharin, Hilferding, Luxemburg, Trotsky and Kautsky will first be outlined. The chapter will then move on to re-examine the case for liberal imperialism, with specific reference to British imperialism, which, it will be suggested again, was different from other imperialisms at the time. The third section of the chapter will examine the claims of both the liberal advocates, and classical Marxist critics, of imperialism. Some specific arguments will be made concerning the two conflicting approaches, and it will be suggested that classical Marxist theories are more convincing than liberal apologies for imperialism.
Ray Kiely

5. The Cold War, Post-War Boom and New Theories of Imperialism

Abstract
This chapter examines post-war capitalism in the context of the end of empires and the Cold War. The focus is on the question of imperialism in the context of the universalization of the nation-state system, and what Rosenberg (1994; see also Stedman Jones 1970) has called the ‘empire of civil society’. The chapter argues that the post-1945 international order was very different from that which existed from 1882 to 1945, and that this was not only because of the Cold War, important though this was. As important, or maybe even more important, was the role of the United States in promoting a genuinely global capitalism. This was not one that transcended the nation-state, but rather one that was promoted through sovereign states, including in the colonial world. This coincided with a commitment to an open door policy, which championed the cause of the free movement of capital across national borders. In practice however, this commitment was compromised by both geo-political and economic realities — the existence of the Cold War and fear of communist expansion, the need for reconstruction in Europe, and the promotion of development, with some degree of protectionism, in the former colonies. At the same time, the restrictions on the movement of capital occurred in the context of a deepening internationalization, which was supported by the US state.
Ray Kiely

6. Neo-Liberalism, Globalization and Geo-Politics in the Post-Cold War World

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the transition from the Bretton Woods era and the Cold War to one dominated by neo-liberalism and a revived US hegemony. This examination takes in the breakdown of Bretton Woods, the neo-liberal turn from 1982, the relationship between this shift and the ‘transnationalization’ of capital, and the changing strategies of the US state in the context of the global crisis of capitalism in the 1970s. It then moves on to assess this transition, through an examination of theories of the state and restructuring, and the wider geopolitical implications that follow, particularly in the context of the end of the Cold War.
Ray Kiely

7. The Political Economy of Neo-Liberal Imperialism

Abstract
This chapter follows the discussion of restructuring in the previous chapter to discuss the relationship between neo-liberalism and the political economy of imperialism. It does so by returning us to the question of free-trade imperialism, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, and the post-war radical accounts of dependency discussed in Chapter 5. The central argument of this chapter is that neo-liberalism is a form of free-trade imperialism that reinforces the division of the world into cores and peripheries of global capitalism.
Ray Kiely

8. Liberalism and ‘Humanitarian Imperialism’

Abstract
This chapter examines the other main feature of contemporary (liberal) imperialism, that of humanitarian intervention. The rise of this doctrine is traced to the end of the Cold War, and the resurgence of the cosmopolitan idea that the rights of individuals are more important than the sovereignty of nation-states, an argument also heard to justify military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq after 2001. The chapter therefore starts by outlining the case for liberal imperialism and specifically, humanitarian intervention. It then critically examines these arguments, both generally and in relation to the debates over the Iraq war of 2003, to demonstrate the problems of the case for liberal imperialism. This section suggests that, notwithstanding important differences, (some versions of) contemporary cosmopolitanism and neo-conservatism share a commitment to liberal imperialism. The basic argument made in this section, and in the chapter as a whole, is that the case for a so-called cosmopolitan imperialism is unconvincing, undemocratic and self-contradictory. Indeed, it will be argued that exposing neo-conservatism’s contradictions can be broadened to show that these same problems lie at the heart of the case for a benign liberal imperialism.
Ray Kiely

9. The End of US Hegemony? Contemporary Hegemonic Challenge and World Economic Crisis

Abstract
The previous three chapters provided detailed discussion of the reality of contemporary imperialism, focusing on continued cooperation between advanced capitalist states in the post-Cold War world (Chapter 6), the political economy of neo-liberal imperialism (Chapter 7), and the geo-politics of neo-liberalism and humanitarian imperialism (Chapter 8). This final substantive chapter addresses the question of the future of imperialism, with particular reference to the question of US hegemony. It does so by focusing on the rise of China and, to a lesser extent, the European Union, and the potential for heightened economic and/or geo-political competition, or even the rise of new hegemonic challengers to US imperialism. The first section sets out the debate in general terms, and this is followed by a second section that examines the argument with specific attention paid to the world economic crisis that started in 2007–8.
Ray Kiely

10. Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism Today

Abstract
This extended concluding chapter summarizes the argument made throughout the book and then tries to draw out some wider political implications. It does so by focusing on the reality of liberal and US imperialism today, how this relates to wider questions of liberalism and America, and how these in turn relate to the question of anti-imperialism. The first section develops further a theme briefly alluded to in the first section of Chapter 6, namely the utility of a critical focus on constructivist approaches to international relations. It does so by examining the questions of ‘America’ and ‘empire’, less as social realities, and more as political, or hegemonic projects. The second section then moves on to broadly summarize the nature of imperialism today, and provide some critical reflection on the nature of anti-imperialism. While suggesting that imperialism should indeed be rejected, the discussion suggests that anti-imperialism per se is not an intrinsically progressive alternative. This point leads to a much wider discussion, which draws on current debates concerning the crisis of ideological politics, the end of utopia, the utility of cosmopolitanism, and the question of solidarity.
Ray Kiely
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