Imperialism is the natural expansion of capitalism. When capital, ruled by its growth imperative, inevitably reaches limits to the accumulation of surplus value within a territory (nation, or social formation) it already controls, it must expand beyond its borders to conquer other areas. It uses the state(s) of its home base(s) to wage politics (up to and including war, the most extreme form of politics) on other social formations—to subjugate the ones it can, as well as to compete with others over how to carve up the world.
Though empires have existed before capitalism, imperialism is a specific stage of capitalism. Colonialism developed into imperialism with the internationalization of monopoly capital. More than simply an aggregate of national economies, imperialism is an integrated world system that is linked to a qualitatively increased socialization of production, and the complete partition and control of the world by the capitalist class.
We must understand the global relations of imperialism. It’s what moves the entire world around us, from the clothing on our backs, the food on our plates, to the ideas we have about the world.
We cannot affect this arrangement with our consumption choices. There are no guilt-free products, made outside of this global arrangement. Instead, those of us living inside the U.S.—the most violent and destructive imperialist power in the world—must take a stand against imperialist domination, and build organizations that work in solidarity with people’s and workers’ struggles internationally.