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Imperialism and Capitalism

For many world scholars, the form of slavery begun by the English in the seventeenth century and continued into the nineteenth century by the Americans is merely the most naked form of imperialism. It is the domination of an oppressed race for the benefit of the oppressor. But while this domination is often justified through references to racial and cultural superiority, it is, in fact, based almost entirely on economic benefits. Slavery, therefore, was at once imperialism and capitalism. This paper explores the relationship between imperialism and capitalism from the time of the Spanish empire through today. It concludes that the relationship between the two forces has changed over time, but only in its sophistication and success.

Imperialism and capitalism would seem to be two contradictory concepts. Imperialism is based on the domination and monopolization of a subject peoples. Capitalism, on the other hand, is based on liberalization of the economy and free markets. Illustrative of the relationship between these two forces, however, is Vladimir Lenin's definition of imperialism in his essay "Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism." There, Lenin stated that "[i]f it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."

Western imperialism, therefore, which seeks to subjugate other peoples and cultures to a dominating force, sought to impose its structures on these cultures and economies. For this reason, capitalism - or rather the mercantilist economy that led to capitalism as we recognize it today - predated imperialism. In fact, one could argue, as Lenin in fact does, that Western imperialism is merely one form of capitalism. In recent decades, the term "imperialism" has often been used as a critique of globalization, particularly a critique of the economic forces that govern the relationships between the countries...

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Imperialism and Capitalism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:13, February 22, 2017, from