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In his famous study of imperialism in 1902, John Hobson argued that British foreign policy had been oriented toward securing markets for British manufactured goods. This had taken on a new urgency, he argued, with the increasingly imperialistic policies of the United States and Germany, who had elbowed their way into markets even within the British Empire itself.
It was this sudden demand for foreign markets for manufactures and for investments which was avowedly responsible for the adoption of Imperialism as a political policy.... They needed Imperialism because they desired to use the public resources of their country to find profitable employment for their capital which otherwise would be superfluous....
The crucial point is that Hobson, arguing along lines that Lenin would later echo, believed that imperialism advanced hand-in-hand with industrial capitalism. Moreover, it was only going to get worse, because there were more industrialized countries springing up and also looking for markets. Hobson believed that the competition that this obviously engendered would lead to armed conflicts, driven by the interests of a class of industrialists and financiers. He proposed instead that nations manufacturers fearful of surpluses could avoid them by raising wages, thus creating more domestic demand and improving national standards of living. Comparing the process to "extensive" agriculture which encouraged farmers to secure new lands instead of improving the ones they already occupied, Hobson argued that it was short-sighted and destructive, but not inevitable.
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