CHAPTER II
THE MARXIAN THEORY OF IMPERIALISM

1 The Economic Interpretation of War

BELIEF that war may be due to economic causes is not of modern origin. The desire for gain has so often played a role in the generation of group conflict that it would be remarkable if its operation in this respect had not frequently been recognized. In fact, of course, this has often happened. From very early times historians have explained particular wars in terms of an economic motive; and, when the causes of war in general have come under discussion, the desire for wealth and material betterment has received at least its due share of recognition. It is indeed arguable that many of the confusions relating to the economic causes of war in modern times derive from the naive application to present-day conditions of modes of explanation chiefly applicable to conditions of the past. But whether this is so or not, the belief that it is only in our own times that we have begun to perceive the working of the economic factor can only rest upon ignorance. The idea that thinkers of earlier epochs explained wars only in terms of disputes involving religion, love, honour and lust for power and suchlike categories, and that it was left to the sophisticated minds of our own age to understand the importance of economic motives, may be fashionable but it is false.1

Nevertheless, there is a difference between earlier and

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1
In Book II of the Republic, for instance, Plato gives an explanation of the origins of war which is couched entirely in terms of economic causes.

-19-

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