As is well known , J .A . Hobson's theory of economic imperialism was formed by the fusion of two important ideas : first , there was the attack on the conventional view that full employment of resources was the norm in capitalist society ; secondly , there was the claim that the driving force behind British imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was financial need , centred on the export of surplus capital . When these two ideas were brought together for the first time in 1898, the argument ran thus :1 starting from the evidence of a great inequality in the distribution of property in Britain , Hobson went on to infer a maldistribu tion of income which resulted in under-consumption by the many , over saving by the few, and a chronic tendency to domestic over-investment. To avoid the consequences of this, those who controlled surplus savings tried to find outlets for them overseas . The search for profitable opportu nities abroad and the need to protect them when found was the primary motive force behind imperialism .