Social Scientist. v 15, no. 167-68 (April-May 1987) p. 122.


Graphics file for this page
Book Review

Lenin and Imperialism

PRABHAT PATNAIK (ed)—Lenm and Imperialism: An Appraisal of Theories and Contemporary Reality, New Delhi, Orient Longman 1986, pp4l4.

'Imperialism is perhaps one of the most misused words in the literature on the political economy of development. Especially in recent years, it has been used to characterize a whole range of situations ranging from military expansions and the political manoeuvring of more powerful countries to instances of economic exploitation through so-called "unequal" market exchanges. Rarely is an attempt made to give the concept a more precise analytical content and to prevent it from being used for obfuscation. As a result the early and powerful contribution of Lenin has tended to be ignored or forgotten. Thus a book which is addressed specially to the tasks of assessing the relevance of Lenin's theory to recent international economic tendencies, and describing the nature of present-day imperialism, is to be welcomed.

This important volume brings together papers presented at a conference on "Lenin and Contemporary Imperialism" held in Delhi in late 1981. The contributions are from academic economists, political scientists as well as political activists " thus making for a wide range in approach and concern. In spite of the delay in publication, most of the articles are still relevant as they deal with essentially theoretical issues.

The editor's perceptive introduction makes a number of useful points. Two common misconceptions about Lenin's theory of imperialism are claiified : firstly the argument that capital exports by monopoly combines in advanced capitalist countries (which to Lenin was a major feature of imperialism), are in fact the sole basis of imperialism; and secondly, the view that Lenin's theory is an underconsumptionist one which sees capital exports as the result of domestic realization crises resulting from income distributional shifts. Patnaik points out that for Lenin imperialism is the direct outgrowth of monopoly capital, which takes the form of striving for "economic territory" not just for avenues of surplus investment but also for sources of raw materials, markets, etc. Further, there is a direct link between the emergence of monopoly and capital exports because monopo-



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page