Theories of Imperialism

  • Stephen Burman


It would take us far beyond the scope of this book to present a comprehensive survey of the theories of imperialism,1 and it is not the purpose of this chapter to investigate these theories for their own sake. However, much discussion of foreign policy is too narrow in scope because it focuses unduly on the policy-making process itself.2 While this provides information of value, it also identifies the study of foreign policy too much with the practice of it. The benefits of detail then become outweighed by the costs of lacking a broad analytical framework which can increase our understanding of the forces impinging on policymakers, forces of which they are often unaware. The theory of imperialism offers such a framework, and its application to a particular period and country can, equally, enhance its validity and help rescue it from the arid abstraction to which it is prone. Our primary focus is on the role of America in the modern world and not just its foreign policy in a conventional sense, and we will achieve a deeper understanding of that role if we begin by drawing out those aspects of the theory of imperialism that are relevant to it.


Foreign Policy Free Trade Comparative Advantage Modern World Capitalist System 
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Copyright information

© Stephen Burman 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Burman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SussexUK

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