Why should we still study J. A. Hobson’s Imperialism?

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

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john_atkinson_hobsonIn preparation for our upcoming free course on The Controversies of Empire I’ve been thinking hard about the legacy of J.A. Hobson (1858–1940), one of England’s most famous critics of imperialism.

A clue to Hobson’s thinking can be found in the title of his 1938 autobiography, Confessions of an Economic Heretic. His core idea was that capitalism’s boom-and-bust cycles were caused by over-saving by the richer classes, or, to put it another way, by the forced ‘under-consumption’ of the poorer ones; their lack of spending power, a consequence of the unequal distribution of income, led to the repeated pattern of depression and unemployment.

What, though, did this have to do with Empire? Continue reading “Why should we still study J. A. Hobson’s Imperialism?”