Krishan Kumar

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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Imperialism relates to the theory and practice of the European empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There were European empires before that, many of which had a continuous history from those earlier times well into the twentieth century. These include some of the best known: the Ottoman; Portuguese; Spanish; Austrian; Russian; Dutch; British; and French empires, all of which had their origins in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Running alongside these was the even longer-lasting though sometimes ineffectual Holy Roman Empire, whose important role in keeping the imperial idea alive in the Middle Ages and beyond has unfairly been slighted owing to the popularity of Voltaire's quip that it was “neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.” For some students of empire, empire represents an ever-present possibility, because imperialism is a drive that is inherent in the very nature of human society and politics. The most influential theory of modern imperialism was penned not by a Marxist or even a socialist but by a self-professed English liberal, J. A. Hobson.

Keywords: J. A. Hobson; empire; imperialism; society; politics

Article.  6356 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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