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Imperialism is the political theory of the acquisition and maintenance of empires. The term is used to describe the policy of a country in maintaining colonies and dominance over distant lands, regardless of whether the country calls itself an empire.

Imperialists normally hold the belief that the acquisition and maintenance of empires is a positive good, combined with an assumption of cultural or other such superiority inherent to the imperial power. Subjects of imperial and post-imperial governments and those sympathetic to them have often considered imperialism to be an exploitive evil. This view has even been held by the subjects or citizens of the state which holds an imperial sway over other nations or peoples.

Origins of the word "Imperialism" The term imperialism was a new word in the mid-19th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it was first recorded in 1858, to describe Pax Britannica. At this time, imperialism was regarded as a new phenomenon deserving of a new word to describe it.

According to the OED, in 19th Century England, imperialism, was generally used only to describe English policies. However, soon after the invention of the term, imperialism was used in reference to policies of the Roman Empire. In the 20th century, the term has been used to describe the policies of both the Soviet Union and the United States although analytically these differed greatly from each other and from 19th-century imperialism. Furthermore, the term has been expanded to apply, in general, to any historical instance of the aggrandizement of a greater power at the expense of a lesser power.

Theories of Imperialism J.A. Hobson, a British liberal writing at the time of the fierce debate on imperialism during the Boer War, observed the spectacle of the 'Scramble for Africa' (see colonialism in Africa[?]) and emphasized changes in European social structures and attitudes as well as capital flow, though his emphasis on the latter seems to have been the most influential and provocative. His so-called accumulation theory suggested that that capitalism suffered from under-consumption due the rise of monopoly capitalism and the resulting concentration of wealth in fewer hands, which apparently gave rise to a misdistribution of purchasing power. Logically, this argument is sound, given the huge impoverished industrial working class then often far too poor to consume the goods produced by an industrialized economy.

Hobson's analysis of capital flight[?] and the rise of mammoth cartels[?] later influenced Lenin in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, which has become a basis for the modern neo-Marxist and Leninist analysis of imperialism. According to this theory, Capitalism becomes unable to sustain itself from its inevitable collapse in countries where it was long established, and so the Capitalist masters must seek domination over other lands in order to plunder their resources and give them new markets.

Related topics:

See also: Mercantilism, colonialism, Cultural imperialism, Colonization of Africa, Imperialism in Asia, superpowers, client states, Pax Americana, New Imperialism, Media Imperialism

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