The Influence of American Imperialism on Our Economy and American Society since the End of the 19th Century Essay

September 7, 2022 by Essay Writer


In the 18th and 19th century, European countries especially the British and the French were scrambling and partitioning the Asia and Africa continents in order to access cheap source of labor and raw materials. This was accomplished by use of military power and also by establishing investments there.

The United States of America was not involved in the scramble, the American imperialism only started later in 1898 during the Spanish American war where the United States of America saw the opportunity to gain colonies by conquering them from Spain in the Spanish-American war. At that time, many powers thought that they could be super powers only by gaining colonies. However, later, countries (USA included) discovered that colonies were not the only way for a country to gain power.

While the United States of American did not use policy of acquiring extra territories, the country has been using its might to control political and economic decisions almost everywhere in the world through the spread of capitalism (Weber, 1978).

To confirm its might, in the recent past, America has engaged in the gulf war, the NATO forces attacks on Yugoslavia, the invasion of Iraq and the continuous attacks on the Taliban as it tries to spread its imperialistic policies. Several years later especially after the Iraq attacks where the US forces were aiming at removing Saddam Hussein from power, the American soldiers are still there and the casualties from these wars have been increasing.

As a result, many people have started experiencing the negative effects of American imperialism especially the American themselves since the unemployment levels has been rising and the country is still recovering from the 2007-2008 financial crisis which led to many US companies being bailed out or collapsing with many arguing that the army in foreign lands need to be recalled (Karl, 2005).

Imperialism Theories

There exist several theories that either support or criticize imperialism. According to the supporters of the Marxist theory, the trends towards expansion are not necessarily through conquering and alienation of foreign lands as most people especially political scientists like to define it but imperialism rather explains the changes which have been occurring in the political economic and also social activities as they try to advance their capitalist notions everywhere.

These sentiments support the US spread of imperialism where it has been using policies and laws which countries that need to be assisted by the country have to follow. A country which needs aid from the United States of America but does not follow the laid policies is never assisted by the US.

In another theory by Kautsky, a capitalist country such as the United States of America cannot sell all the products within their country and thus they have to look for other countries where they can sell their products especially in the less developed economies. Kautsky observed this as the reason behind colonial expansions and spreading of imperialistic policies.

He claims this was the reason for colonial expansions and spreading of their imperialistic policies. In the case of United States, rather than expanding colonies they use they imperialistic policies to access what ever they need. For example, a country cannot expect America to assist it if it has trade barriers against it even if the intention is to protect home industries.

Conservative theories supports imperialism by indicating that imperialism exists in order to preserve the social orders among the developed economies. The theory further maintains that it is usually necessary for a country to secure trade and also maintain employment levels. The United States of America has achieved this by introducing legislations which protects internal industries from effects of trade liberalization.

Finally, in political theory, imperialism helps a country by decreasing the strategic and political vulnerability of a country and the United States of America has achieved by ensuring there is manifestation of power thereby maintaining its status quo.

Influence of American imperialism on your economy

Social and political self determination from other countries has been challenging the American hegemony in different parts of the world. Other than the challenges above, as the United States of America increase its military supremacy and increase its capability of the army, the country has been accruing large debts especially due to the huge budgets which are allocated for its enormous military expenses.

In return, this has increased America dependence on foreign creditors especially from the oil producing countries. As a result, the disparity or the differences between the American army and its own weak economy has just been increasing (Knauft, 2007).

American imperialism has also affected the economy negatively. For example, the attacks on Iraq an oil producing country led to oil world volumes to decline and as a result the price of oil went up affecting the economy negatively since the high prices reduced the market basket for people all over the world (Americans included).

Positive impact of the US imperialistic policies has been in the increased trade. The US control land over seas where external production takes place, through this, it is able to engage more in international trade exporting more than it is importing thereby being able to earn more through the foreign direct investment as a result improving the economy as a whole (Cunningham, 2010).

American society since the end of the 19th century

Since the end of 19th century, American imperialism has led to most Americans living in fear of terrorist attacks. The critics of American imperialistic policies in the Arab world especially the Muslim extremists feel that Americans have been interfering with their governments when their soldiers inhabit their land.

As a result, there has been the emergence of terrorist groups targeting both the Americans and their interests in the world. As the US imperialistic policies continue, most people have lost their lives especially most of the US soldiers who went to fight in Iraq. With loss of lives, families have been left widowed and as a result this continues to increase the emotional problems which the Americans go on with suffering.

After September 11 attacks, America has seen the introduction of new regional command for defense which maintains that all the foreign acquisitions of the federal buildings to undergo security reviews in ascertaining their safety.

As the United States of America tries to protect her interests, traffic along international borders has become difficult and the exchange of students and scientific visitors has been hampered and where in the past information was viewed as the cutting edge for profitability and democratization process with the state secrets reaching historic high levels as a result it remains to be observed whether the imperatives of restrictiveness and openness will be modified and remade in a way that will allow the accumulation of capital and other resources (Steinmetz, 2005): No one is no longer safe in what used to be the Promised Land.

The impact of imperialism on people in foreign countries as well as in the US

Changes have been witnessed in the political economic and also social activities as countries try to advance their capitalist notions everywhere. Nations that needs aid from the United States of America but do not follow the laid policies are never assisted by the US.

For example, the Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh requested US president Truman for humanitarian assistance after floods swept harvests in his country but was denied help. Vietnam was viewed as communist and US wanted to control the country due to availability of resources like iron ore, rice and oil (Zinn, 2010). Thus the people of Vietnam were left to starve.

Perkins (2007), argues that US government uses hit men and jackals to control foreign governments and their action determines who gains economically or military power. He cites nations like Egypt that became friendly to US and has since been receiving development aid.

The United States of America (capitalist country) cannot sell all the merchandises within their country and thus they have to look for other nations where they can sell their products especially in the less developed economies. Rather than mounting colonies the US employ imperialistic policies to access whatever they need.

Those countries facing trade barriers are never assisted by the US even if their main aim is shielding home industries. The US has been introducing legislations that insulate internal ventures from the consequences of trade liberalization.

Imperialism has also been assisting nations by curtailing the strategic and political susceptibility of a country; the United States of America has attained this by making sure there is manifestation of power thus maintaining its status quo.


The American imperialism has faced many challenges especially in the last century where many people have been against the advancement of its imperialistic polices. These imperialistic policies have affected the economy both positively and negatively.

Among the positive effects has been the improved economy of the country through Foreign Direct Investments gained from the excess exports while on the other side, the negative impacts have included the rise in unemployment as most of the budget concentrates on military. Socially which might affect their economic performance; Americans live in fear of terrorist attacks from people who are against their country’s policies.

Reference List

Cunningham, D. (2010). Modern Imperialism and its Impact. Web.

Karl, B. (2005). The US, Iraq and the Future of Empire. Historical Materialism. Vol.13. Iss.3, pp163-192.

Knauft, B.M. (2007). Provinicializing America: Imperialism, Capitalism and Counter Hegemony In The 21st Century. Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 6, pp 781-805.

Perkins, J. (2007). The secret history of the American empire: economic hit men, jackals, and the truth about global corruption. New York, Penguin.

Steinmetz, G. (2005). Return to Empire: The New U.S. Imperialism in Comparative Historical Perspective. Web.

Weber, M. (1978). Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Volume 2. California: University of California Press. Reprint.

Zinn, H. (2010). A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins.

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