ABSTRACT

If one of the most spectacular events or series of events of the twentieth century was the dismantling of colonialism, in the shape of the European overseas empires, then one of the less immediately perceptible - but ultimately more far-reaching in its effects and implications - has been the continued globalising spread of imperialism. That such a differentiation between imperialism and colonialism might still be confusing to many people is not surprising, since in popular usage, but also in supposedly more specialist works, the two have frequently been employed interchangeably. J. A. Hobson's classic work Imperialism, published in 1902, seems to be at least partly responsible for an inability or disinclination to discriminate clearly between the two phenomena, which, though widespread among liberals, is not necessarily confmed to them, nor indeed to obviously 'colonial' situations:

In Britain, the term imperialism had never been a popular one - quite the reverse in fact, since it .:arried connotations of over-weening ambition and selfaggrandisement, the very antitheses of Britishness. The kind of confusion in political thinking outlined above was therefore compounded by a reluctance in certain quarters to think about imperialism. In academic circles it was, even relatively recently, quite acceptable for an historian (Ronald Hyam) to entitle his book Britain's Imperial Centurl and then specifically refuse either to use the term imperialism or to discuss the phenomenon. That the suggested motive force behind colonial expansion was the export of surplus sexual energy, rather than the export of surplus capital (Hobson's liberal view), indicates some of the problems facing this

type of analysis. Though the author's latest book offers merely the export of surplus energy, he still insists:

Quite so, though explanations of just where that 'imperious' confidence might originate, what combinations of power and ideology might legitimate it, indeed, in what sense, after the work of Michel Foucault (to whom even Hyam refers), we can any longer regard sex as simply 'there', are conspicuously absent.