1-5 April 2021
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Understanding imperialism: do Lenin's and Bukharin's theories still hold up?


About this session

Lenin and Bukharin wrote their contributions to the Marxist theory of imperialism on the eve of World War 1. They were attempting to grapple with the economic and political underpinnings of imperialism that would lead to the barbarity of the trenches, including why social democracy supported the bloody slaughter, and why economic integration between the warring parties did not stop conflict. They also argued that the inhuman contradictions of capitalism, the wars that it produced, could lead to revolution across Europe. 

As tensions rise between the established hegemon the US and emerging economic superpower China, do their theories still help us understand the dynamics of capitalist competition, militarism and war? What relevance do their arguments have today? What aspects of the theory need to be updated? And how are the debates on imperialism of last century recreated today?

Recommended Reading

Imperialism and Global Political Economyby Alex Callinicos
Marxist theories of Imperialismby Anthony Brewer
Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalismby Lenin
Imperialism and World Economyby Bukharin
Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisisby John Smith
Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialismby Intan Suwandi
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