Finance Capital and Imperialism: Karl Kautsky and Rudolf Hilferding

  • M. C. Howard
  • J. E. King
Part of the Radical Economics book series (RAE)


The final quarter of the nineteenth century saw a number of important changes in the world capitalist economy and in the political relations between the Great Powers. Whereas the late 1860s witnessed the closest ever approximation to universal free trade, the trend thereafter was towards increased protectionism, together with growing monopolisation primarily through the establishment of trusts and cartels. World trade continued to grow more rapidly than industrial output, and between 1870 and 1914 there was a massive migration of people from Europe to the newly-settled areas of North and South America, Australia and South Africa. This was accompanied by the exportation of capital on a gigantic scale, increasing the overseas assets of the European countries from $6.5 billion in 1874 to $44.0 billion in 1913, and by the frantic acquisition of colonies in the ‘Scramble for Africa’ and elsewhere. How far this amounted to a distinct new stage of capitalist development remains controversial, for there had always been elements of monopoly in capitalist economies and the fastest growth in both commodity and capital exports came before rather than after 1875, while the ‘imperialism of free trade’ had allowed Britain (especially) to expand its formal and informal empire throughout the nineteenth century.1


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Copyright information

© M. C. Howard and J. E. King 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. Howard
    • 1
  • J. E. King
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WaterlooUK
  2. 2.La Trobe UniversityAustralia

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