Chapter

Harold Laski on the Habits of Imperialism

Jeanne Morefield

in Lineages of Empire

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780197264393
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734571 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264393.003.0009

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Harold Laski on the Habits of Imperialism

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Since his death in the 1950s, most of the narratives of Harold Laski’s anti-imperialism have been mostly biographical rather than scholarly. Chroniclers and historians alike often found his genius and contribution amongst his protégés such as Krishna Menon, H.O. Davies, and other post-colonial leaders. In addition, explorations of his political theories paid little attention to his contributions to critiques on imperialism; in fact, his critics often interpreted Laski’s stand on imperialism as unoriginal. This chapter analyses two of Laski’s works on imperialism: a 1932 chapter entitled ‘Nationalism and the Future of Civilisation’ and a 1933 chapter called ‘The Economic Foundations of Peace’. The first section of the chapter analyses his theory of sovereignty and his critique of the ideological ‘habits’ that condition liberal society. The second section contends that Laski’s theory of sovereignty resulted in his framing of imperialism within Leninist terms as a dialectical relationship between the habits of sovereignty and the habits of imperialism. The chapter suggests that Laski’s thinking on imperialism resembles less a truncated Leninism than it does a critical analysis of the way ideology can obscure domination and disciple subjects. It also reveals Laski’s contradictions due to his political activism and commitment to democracy.

Keywords: Harold Laski; anti-imperialism; political theories; Laski’s works; theory of sovereignty; ideological habits; Leninism

Chapter.  10515 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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