Patrick Wolfe History and Imperialism - A Century of Theory, From Marx to Post Colonialism

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History and Imperialism: A Century of Theory, from Marx to Postcolonialism Author(s): Patrick Wolfe Source: The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 388-420 Published by: American Historical Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2170830 Accessed: 30/03/2009 10:58 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of
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  History and Imperialism: A Century of Theory, from Marx to PostcolonialismAuthor(s): Patrick WolfeSource: The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 388-420Published by: American Historical AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2170830 Accessed: 30/03/2009 10:58 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aha.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  American Historical Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The American Historical Review. http://www.jstor.org  ReviewEssay Historyand Imperialism: ACenturyof Theory,from Marx to PostcolonialismPATRICKWOLFE IMPERIALISMRESEMBLESDARWINISM, inthat manyuse the termbut fewcan saywhatitreallymeans.This imprecisionsencouragedby asurfeitofsynonyms.Two standout:imperialismstakento beinterchangeablewith colonialismand reducibleothe word empire. Add to thesethecompoundingffects ofelaborationsuchashegemony,dependency,or globalizationandthe definitional paceof imperialismbecomesavague,consensualgestalt.In its stricterMarxist-Leninistpplications,he word imperialism ates fromthe end ofthenineteenthcenturyandminimallyonnoteshe use ofstatepowertosecure(or,atleast,toattempttosecure)economicmonopoliesfor nationalcompanies.Onthisbasis, imperialismsnot necessarilyanextranationalroject,which would appearto distinguisht from colonialism.Moreover,hemonopolycriterionexcludesopen-doorpolicies, relegating U.S.imperialism nd culturalimperialism othe realm of rhetoricbutseemingto leave Soviet mperialism withatleastalegto standon.1Since the term imperialism as been socloselyassociatedwith Leftoppositiono U.S.foreignpolicy,t isapparenthat laterusageof theterm has not beentoorespectfulofMarxist echnicalities.In what follows,Ishall not presumeto dispensea received definitionofimperialism.Rather,the term willbeused heuristicallyogrouptogetherasomewhatdisparateset of theories ofWesternhegemony(includingMarxism,dependency,postcolonialism,globalization,etc.).2Althoughthese theorieshavemost oftenbeen discussedn relative solationfromeach other,takentogether,astheywill behere, theymakeupa multifaceteddebatethatcontinuedormostofthe For their advice andcriticism,IamverygratefultoTraceyBanivanuaMar, PhillipDarby,SimonDuring,LeelaGandhi,and StuartMacintyre.Iwould alsoliketo thankPrasenjitDuaraandthe AHRstaff for theirhelpfulcomments andMikeGrossbergfortheopportunity. 1 Forinformed andpointedcomments oncontemporaryuses oftheterm imperialism, ee twoofthecontributions to RadicalHistoryReview's(no. 57, 1993)forum, Imperialism-AUsefulCategoryof HistoricalAnalysis? :BruceCumings, GlobalRealm with NoLimit,GlobalRealmwith NoName, 46-59;and Carl P.Parrini, TheAgeofUltraimperialism, 7-20,esp.13-14and n. 16.For athoroughandsomewhatskepticalaccount oftheconceptof culturalimperialism,see JohnTomlinson,CulturalImperialism:ACriticalIntroduction(London,1991)-.For discourseanalysisofarangeofexamples,seeAmy Kaplanand DonaldPease, eds.,CulturesofUnited StatesImperialism (Durham,N.C., 1993). 2 For reasonsofspace, Japaneseimperialismwill not bediscussed. Agoodaccountthat concludeswith WorldWarIIisW.G.Beasley, JapaneseImperialism1894-1945(Oxford,1987). Though publishedin1973,JonHallidayand Gavan McCormack'sremarkson 224-31 of theirJapaneseImperialismToday: Co-Prosperityn GreaterEast Asia (NewYork)remainsuggestive. 388  Historyand Imperialism389 twentiethcentury.I shallattempt to characterizeand criticizesome of themoreinfluential contributionsto this debate.Togive a sense of the theoreticalcontextsto which authorshave been responding,the accountwillgenerally proceedinchronologicalorder. This shouldnot betaken tosuggesta teleology in whichtheoriesof imperialismhave progressivelyimproved(or,evenworse, approximatedmorecloselyto reality).Asshouldbecome clear,these theories havevariedsowidely in termsof emphases andproblematics thatthey arenot necessarilyevencommensurable.Moreover,they have beenenunciated underdifferenthistoricalconditions.This notwithstanding,a reasonabledegreeof coherencecanbe achievedby organizingdiscussion aroundtwo oppositionsthat, thoughmisleading,havedemonstrablystructureddebates about imperialism.The first of theseisbetweentheinternal and the external,variously manifestingas European versuscolonial,coreversusperiphery,developedversus developing,etc.Althoughthisoppositionis falsebecause its twoterms co-produceeach other,accountsof imperialismarecomparable onthe basis of theways inwhichthey havedistributed emphasisbetween thetwo.Thesecond oppositionis between the idealand thematerial,whosealternativesincludeideological versuspractical, culturalversuseconomic,discursive versusinstrumental,etc.Eventhoughthis oppositionoverlookstheobvious factthatconsciousnessis inseparable from practicalactivity, themajorityofthetheories that wewill consider stress oneat theexpense ofthe other.Thesetwooppositionsare meant as implicitguides andshould notbe imposed too rigidlyonthematerial.Iintendto showthat,at differenttimes,in differentpoliticalsituations,and with differentstrategic intentions, theyhavebeendifferentlyemphasizedand configured. Theinterplaybetweentheories ofimperialism andthevaried contexts within whichtheyhavebeen framed will,Ihope,be moreinformativethan an attemptto rank themon their merits. Tothisend,we willstartwith Marx. ALTHOUGHARLMARX PRECEDEDHEDEBATEON IMPERIALISMnd did notusethe term,themajorityof theoristsof imperialismhaveclaimedtobefurtheringhisideas. While Marxsawcapitalism'sneedfor endless expansionasproducingaMalthusianstruggleforsurvivalbetween anever-dwindling groupofmonopolies,itisimportant torecognizethat thisvision was thoroughly positive,inthe nineteenth-centurysense.Rather than simply decryingcapitalism,Marxadmiredits achieve-ments,which werehistorically prerequisiteto the transition tosocialism.Moreover,the dialectical processensured that,beforeagivenmodeofproductionwastranscended,the class strugglewould have scouredoutits fullhistoricalpotential.Historicaldevelopmentwas,inshort,as muchqualitativeasquantitative.Althoughthe internal dialectic ofclassconflictlargelyaccounted forthehistoricalpreeminenceofEurope,other'societieswereadifferentmatter,forthesimplereason that,unliketheEuropeancase,their historicaldevelopmentwasnotunprecedented.Rather,Europewasalready there,a coexistentfuturewhoseimpactwas boundto be transformative.3HenceMarx's famousassertion-which 3 Inthe case oftheUnited States,thissituationwas reversed, since,unlikeEurope,it lackeda AMERICANHI5STORICALEVIEWAPRIL 1997  390PatrickWolfewastoproveso embarrassingto Marxist liberationmovementsinthe followingcentury-thatEnglandhad a doublemission in India.While colonial intrusionandthe reorganizationof nativesocietyto servetherequirementsof European capitalhad certainlyoccasioneduntold destruction,the corollarywas thatcapitalismitself-withits railroads, industrialinfrastructure,andcommunicationsystems-hadintroduced a dynamichistoricalgermthat wouldrouse Indian societyfrom thetimeless stagnationoftheAsiaticmodeofproductionand set it on itsown courseofhistoricaldevelopment,a coursethat would eventually lead throughcapitalismtoanIndian transitiontosocialism.4In thedecadefollowingMarx's deathin 1883, capitalistmonopolizationdidindeed gainrapidmomentum, onlythe consequences werenot ashe hadforeseen.For, rather thancarvingup eachother,monopolies began tocarve up the market,with cooperativetrusts, oilcartels, and, ontheotherside oftheAtlantic,empire-wideclosedshopsbecomingtheorderof theday.5Giventheinconsistencybetweenthis trendandsome ofMarx's predictions,6it is not surprisingthat themost developedinitial responsestoitshouldhavecome notfrom within Marxismbut from the worldof liberal capitalismitself.Eventhough the Englishliberal J. A.Hobson's Imperialism:AStudy,whichappearedin1902,was toshapesubsequentdebatesabout imperialismas a resultofthe formativeinfluenceit had on thethinkingof V.I.Lenin,Hobson wasnot the firstin the field. As NormanEtheringtonhas shown,in-the United States,with the possibilitiesof frontierexpansionexhausted,the erathatsawJohnD.Rockefeller'sformationoftheStandard OilTrust,therecessionof the1890s,and the Spanish-AmericanWarproducedarangeof American proposals forexploitingthe opportunitiesthatimperialismheld out. Not forthe firsttime, descriptionlaggedbehindprescription, feudalpast ( acountrywherebourgeoissociety did not developonthe foundationof the feudal system,butdevelopedratherfromitself;wherethissocietyappearsnot as thesurvivingresult of a centuries-oldmovement,butratheras thestarting-pointofanew movement. KarlMarx,Grundrisse:FoundationsoftheCritiqueofPoliticalEconomy,MartinNicolaus,trans.[NewYork,1973], 884). 4 KarlMarx, The Future Resultsof the British RuleinIndia (1853), rpt.inMarxandFriedrichEngels,TheFirst Indian War of Independence,1857-1959 [sic](Moscow,1959),29-35. Forconcisediscussions of Marx'sviews on Asia(hisattitude to colonized Irelandwas different),seeAnthonyBrewer,MarxistTheoriesofImperialism:ACritical Survey,2d edn.(NewYork, 1990),48-56; HeleneCarrered'Encausseand Stuart R.Schram,MarxismandAsia(London,1969), 7-10;A. JamesGregorand M.H.Chang, Marxism,SunYat-senand theConceptofImperialism, PacificAffairs55(1982):58-61. 5 For U.S. trustsand the new economic thinkingassociatedwiththem,see Carl Parriniand M.J.Sklar, NewThinkingabout theMarket,1896-1904: SomeAmericanEconomists on InvestmentandtheTheoryof Surplus Capital, Journal of Economic History43(1983):559-78.ForChamberlain's socialimperialism, a radicaldeparturefrom Victorian Britain's commitmentto laissezfaire in favorof a combinationof tariffs andcolonial tradecompacts designedtostrengthentheempirewhileassuagingunrest athome,a formula that rendered thewearyimperialTitaningloriouslyreliantonthegoodwill of itsdominions,see PeterJ. Cain andAnthonyG.Hopkins,BritishImperialism:nnovationandExpansion1688-1914(NewYork,1993),204-13;BernardSemmel,Imperialismand SocialReform:EnglishSocial-ImperialThought,1895-1914(Lo'ndon,1966);JohnEddyandD.M.Schreuder,eds.,TheRiseofColonialNationalism:Australia,NewZealand,Canadaand SouthAfricaFirst AssertTheirNationalities,1880-1914(Sydney, 1988),19-20; compareRichardJebb, StudiesnColonialNationalism(London,1905),240. 6 Though,in acorpusastactically heterogeneousas that ofMarx,it is often possibletofindcountervailing possibilities,as H.GaylordWilshire didinreachingthe -conclusionthat Marxhadanticipatedtherise of trusts.SeeNormanEtherington,Theoriesof Imperialism:War, ConquestandCapital(London, 1984),27. AMERICANHISTORICAL REVIEWAPRIL 1997
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