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Lineages of EmpireThe Historical Roots of British Imperial Thought$
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Duncan Kelly

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264393

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264393.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

Harold Laski on the Habits of Imperialism

Harold Laski on the Habits of Imperialism

(p.213) 9 Harold Laski on the Habits of Imperialism
Lineages of Empire

Jeanne Morefield

British Academy

Since his death in the 1950s, most of the narratives of Harold Laski’s anti-imperialism have been mostly biographical rather than scholarly. Chroniclers and historians alike often found his genius and contribution amongst his protégés such as Krishna Menon, H.O. Davies, and other post-colonial leaders. In addition, explorations of his political theories paid little attention to his contributions to critiques on imperialism; in fact, his critics often interpreted Laski’s stand on imperialism as unoriginal. This chapter analyses two of Laski’s works on imperialism: a 1932 chapter entitled ‘Nationalism and the Future of Civilisation’ and a 1933 chapter called ‘The Economic Foundations of Peace’. The first section of the chapter analyses his theory of sovereignty and his critique of the ideological ‘habits’ that condition liberal society. The second section contends that Laski’s theory of sovereignty resulted in his framing of imperialism within Leninist terms as a dialectical relationship between the habits of sovereignty and the habits of imperialism. The chapter suggests that Laski’s thinking on imperialism resembles less a truncated Leninism than it does a critical analysis of the way ideology can obscure domination and disciple subjects. It also reveals Laski’s contradictions due to his political activism and commitment to democracy.

Keywords:   Harold Laski, anti-imperialism, political theories, Laski’s works, theory of sovereignty, ideological habits, Leninism

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