Capitalist Development and Theories of Imperialism

  • Richard Westra
Part of the Palgrave Insights into Apocalypse Economics book series (PIAE)


In distinguishing between formal and real subsumption of the labor and production process of society by capital Marx provides a formative periodizing of capitalism. Yet, losing sight of Marx’s subtle distinctions, it would be the writings of Karl Kautsky, in whose hands the very term Marxism originates, that most influenced generations of Marx’s followers. Kautsky maintained that Marxism is a theory of historical directionality. He argued that Marx’s study of capitalism constituted a subtheory of historical materialism and confirmed socialism as the historical telos. A combination of theoretical problems deriving from Kautsky’s reconstruction of Marxism plus the fact that capitalism would survive its first major economic crisis at the close of the nineteenth century to emerge reloaded in its imperialist stage by the early twentieth century animated the important work of Rudolf Hilferding, V.I. Lenin, and Nicolai Bukharin. Theorizing of imperialism provides the foundation for studies of the corporate form of business enterprise and what is referred to today as financialization.


Formal and real subsumption Joint-stock company Finance capital Monopoly Imperialism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Westra
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Macau StudiesUniversity of MacauMacauChina

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