John A. Hobson
John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) grew up during an economic depression in England that ultimately shifted his intellectual interests from literature to economics. One of his major contributions is the theory of under-consumption, which argues that low consumer demand and high supply of goods will lead to a sluggish economy. Hobson also held that imperialism could be stripped down to economic interests by the mother country: it was no more than a search for new capitalist markets. This selection explores Hobson’s observed relationships among economy, international struggle, imperialism, and nationalism.
From John A. Hobson, Imperialism and the Lower Races. New York: James Pott and Co., 1902, part II, chapter IV.
The Egyptian scholar Rifa’a al-Tahtawi (1801–1873) sought to harmonize Islamic and Christian cultures by pushing mutual understanding and helping Egypt modernize. Al-Tahtawi spent five years (1826–1831) living in Paris; while immersed in the stimulating European capital city, he absorbed the Enlightenment theories that he then brought back to his homeland. Yet this work also expresses the tumult of being plunged into a foreign culture and the accompanying misconceptions about the “Other” that emerge from firsthand experiences abroad. Consider how Al-Tahtawi permits the reader to witness Paris “for the first time” through his eyes.
From Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in Paris by an Egyptian Cleric. Trans. Daniel L. Newman. London: Saqi Books, 2012, pp. 154–7, 173–5, 177–9, 188–9, 278–9.
With a change of Ottoman sultans in 1839, the government issued the Rose Garden Edict, the first of three reform edicts which are collectively known as the Tanzimat (reorganizations). With this edict, the government bound itself to basic principles with respect to relations between it and its subjects, and it carefully avoided a definition of the position of religious minorities in the empire. The document also enumerates basic human rights, drawing on ideas from the American and French revolutionary declarations of the eighteenth century. Accordingly, it reflects the adaptability of the Ottoman Empire to Western ideas, at least in the general context of the Tanzimat reforms.
Herbert J. Liebesny, The Law of the Near and Middle East: Readings, Cases, and Materials (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1975), 46–49.
A Jewish Austrian writer, Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) is the father of the ideology of Zionism, which sought to create a state of Israel (achieved in 1948) that would be a center of Jewish nationalism and security for persecuted Jewish populations. Though he was disinterested in his Jewish identity as a young man, Herzl was horrified by the reality of anti-Semitic outbursts connected to the Dreyfus Affair (in which a French Jew was wrongly accused of treason). Accordingly, Herzl became convinced that only a truly Jewish state would protect Jews from pervasive anti-Semitism; his work The Jewish State provides reasons and methods for potential émigrés, as well as describing the ideal of a communal Jewish identity.
From Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State. New York: Dover, 1968, pp. 85–96
In 1844 a young merchant from Shiraz in Persia began to teach a new faith, and he was given the title of the Báb (“the Gate”). Preaching against the hypocrisy of Muslim religious leaders, he proclaimed the beginning of a new spiritual era. When he was arrested and executed in 1850, his work was continued by Mirza Husayn Ali, who was given the title Bahá’u’lláh (“the glory of God”). Despite arrest, exile, and other forms of persecution from governmental authorities, Bahá’u’lláh composed a series of revelations and meditations. He sent letters of proclamation (generally following the same template) to a host of Western leaders, including Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX, and even American presidents. The Bahá’í faith that resulted from his teachings was organized around the central principle that the human race is one and whole, and should be united in brotherhood. Needless to say, this message did not appeal to everyone in the nineteenth century.
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, trans. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1952), 73–76, 79.