In Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin argued that the maturation of capitalism by the eve of World War I created a new set of social dynamics within the developed world. Moreover, he believed these developments within the advanced capitalist world altered the relationship between the advanced capitalist powers and the developing world. What five features did Lenin believe characterized this latest stage of capitalist development? Why was he convinced that this latest stage of capitalist development might lead to wars, depressions, and revolutions? What parts of Lenin’s analysis do you think Keynes would reject?
Lenin wrote Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, in 1916. In his book, he noted five aspects of later stages of capitalism:
- the development of capitalism has led to monopolies
- banks and cartels have merged to form "finance capital" to export capital to developing countries
- exporting capital has become of vital importance (rather than exporting goods, as in the older form of capitalism)
- international monopolies have developed
- the world is divided among great capitalist powers.
During this phase of capitalism, capitalist countries try to exploit developing countries, which results in political and social conflict. It also leads to wars, such as World War I. He refers to this war as "imperialistic" and believes it was caused by imperialism. In addition, business leaders accumulate such great profits from this exploitation that they have the power to defeat labor revolts in their home countries.
Lenin believes that this phase of capitalism will lead to depressions. He writes, "the depression was no longer regarded as something to be taken for granted: it was regarded as nothing more than a pause before another boom." In other words, economic depressions have become part of the cycle of capitalism. Keynes would agree with Lenin on this point, as Keynes thought that states needed to intervene in the economy to regulate the boom and depression cycles of capitalism. He supported the use of governmental fiscal and monetary policies to ameliorate the harsh conditions caused by economic depressions and recessions. However, Keynes would disagree with Lenin's call for revolution of the colonized people against capitalism. Keynes, unlike Lenin, was still a capitalist but believed in government intervention to ameliorate the cycles of capitalism.
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