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John Atkinson Hobson

John Atkinson Hobson (1858 - 1940) was a British economist, sociologist and social theorist who wrote many influential works, with various conceptual language developed by him (under-consumption, the unemployed, marginal productivity) passing into common parlance. His work on the causes of the South African War and regarding the theorization of imperialism are particularly notable, with the latter an influence on Lenin’s theory of imperialism. Both bear more than the traces of him being influenced by Olive Schreiner, with his The War in South Africa containing an interview with her; and they shared an analytical emphasis on the role of external international finance organizations in underpinning the particularly ruthless style of ‘local’ southern African capitalism in its imperialist phase.

During the South African War, Schreiner and Hobson met up when he was the Manchester Guardian’s representative in South Africa, although on his arrival she wrote about him to Isie Smuts as someone who was a ‘great friend from England’, so they are likely to have met around the publication of Schreiner’s anti-Rhodes Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland in London in 1897. Certainly he was the main contact point for Cronwright-Schreiner’s anti-war speaking tour of Britain in 1900 (devolved to him because Schreiner was too unwell), and Schreiner passed on his name to others in her political circles, including the Smutses. It is very likely that there was a correspondence between Schreiner and Hobson, although no extant letters have been traced.

For further information see:
P.J. Cain (2002) Hobson and Imperialism Oxford: Oxford University Press
Michael Freeden (2004) ‘Hobson, John Atkinson (1858-1940)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33909
Jules Townsend (1990) J. A. Hobson Manchester: Manchester University Press
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