Last Updated 14 Sep 2020

Globalisation Is a Euphamism for Neo-Colonialism

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Globalisation is a complex and multifaceted issue (Bayliss 2008:252). However, this essay will on the imbalance between western powers and the developing world and consequential exploitation, which, rather than being condemned as neo-colonialism, is justified as globalization. The end of colonial rule did not mark the end of the trend of economic control and exploitation of the developing world (Manzo 2009:267).

The cultural, political and economic effects of globalization upon the developing world resemble that of neo-colonial power – an inequality that is defended by the benevolence of neo-liberalism and egalitarianism of the free market. This essay will focus on the cultural and political international dominance of the west and economic partiality of globalized institutions, referring to IR theories of globalization defending it as beneficial (Bayliss 2008:248, Pasha 2009:330) and condemning it as capitalist imperialism.

Colonialism describes a period of expansion and exploitation by European powers pning the 15th to 20th Century, the ‘political control, physical occupation, and domination of people… and their land’ (Crawford 2002:131). Between 1946 and 1976 European powers granted independence to all their colonies. However, Horvath writing in 1972 argues that neo-colonialism swiftly followed its predecessor (Horvath 1972:46).

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Neo-colonialism implies that whilst post-colonial states attained nominal sovereignty within the international system, they remain dependent upon western powers and are subsequently politically controlled, culturally conditioned and economically exploited (Nkrumah 1968:x-xii). States with the ‘…outward trappings of international sovereignty’ but in reality have their ‘economic system and thus its political policy… directed from outside. ’ (Nkrumah 1968:xi)

Globalization can be defined as the expansion of ‘worldwide interconnectedness’; where states integrate and supranational institutions are formed. Whilst stronger states control their involvement, weaker states are forced to integrate, being influenced rather than influencing (Bayliss 2008:255). Neo-liberalism argues integration is beneficial (Bayliss 2008:249, Sorenson 1997:10) globalization will ‘restructure the world economy without the need for interventionist policies’ creating equality within a competitive free market (Hirst 1999:134).

World-system theory, however, describes monopoly capitalism where rich ‘core’ states exploit ‘peripheral’ poorer states, essentially an international class system (Bayliss 2008:147, Wallerstein: 1989). Realist thought, would argue that powerful states merely use the globalized system for their own benefit (Waltz 1979). Globalization could therefore be seen as an ‘instrument for imperialism’ favoring strong capitalist states (Bayliss 2008:153) essentially a euphemism for neo-colonialism. Democracy is promoted through globalization based upon neoliberal ideals of humanity's right to ‘libertarian happiness’ (Morgenthau 1960:100).

The political weight of Western thought and the professed moral legitimacy of its international promotion highlights a neo-colonial dominance (Nkrumah 1968:ix), The Western world believes international co-operation can only safely occur between liberal democratic states (Owen 1994:96). ‘Separate peace’ (Doyle 1986:1151), co-operation solely between liberal democracies, can be seen through EU accession criteria (Europa 2010:Copenhagen Criteria) and ENP policy (DeBardeleben 2008:21) and IMF and World Bank loan policy (Cogan 2009:211). Imposing Western political principles using economic incentives.

Here, humanitarian aid is a gift of neo-colonialism; foreign capital used for the exploitation rather than the development of the third world (Nkrumah 1968:x) For Western powers force is often a necessary option against illiberal states (Hoffman 1995:31) Owen 1994:97). US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has been motivated by the desire to spread democracy and ensure security (Owen 1994:125-127). These power politics contradict the equality of neo-liberal co-operation in globalization suggesting political homogeneity imposed by an imperialist force.

Realists argue that states espouse humanitarian motives as a pretext to cover the pursuit of national self-interest (Franck and Rodley 1973). Nato selectivity of response in Kosovo (1999) failing to act in Sudan (Bayliss 2008:527) and the illegitimate intervention of France in Rwanda (1994) exposes a flawed international justice, where Western powers act without restraint. In 2005 the UN adopted the ‘responsibility to protect’, giving itself a legitimate right act upon human rights breaches. This is one of many examples of international institutions imposing Western political and moral ethics justified by an international responsibility (Morgan 1972:33-34); a practice widely accepted in Western public opinion (Reisman 1985:279-80). Globalization is essentially creating an international superpower that transcends state borders possessing hegemony on moral and political principles with a self-legitimized right to enforce them. Defenders of globalization suggest the international community is one of shared and defended values.

However, these values are presented by the West, who misuse this influence to intervene without justification. Globalization has allowed for an increased flow of culture and traditions internationally. However, this flow has not been evenhanded, media dominance of Western powers dwarfing smaller states. The advanced nature of US media and the sheer weight of capital has created ‘Media Imperialism’ (Sklair 2002:167) where the developed world is flooded by broadcasting promoting Western products, creating an externally dictated popular culture.

The consequence is a developed world dominated by Western products e. g. Coco cola; the best selling drink in the world (Coca Cola 2010). Under the theory of neo-colonialism, neo-colonial states are obliged to purchase manufactured products from imperial powers to the deficit of local products (Nkrumah 1968:ix). The culture and products of powerful societies are not imposed upon weak societies by force or occupation (Crawford 2002:131, Sklair 2002:168) but underhandedly via an internationally dominant media ‘limited to Anglo-American interests’ (Lee 1980:82).

Whilst globalization arguably encourages multiculturalism (Bayliss 2008:423), a disparate International system has created a dominant culture within the global community (Kymlicka 1991:182) that exploits its status to the demise of the developing world (Golding and Harris 1997). Colonialism saw a moral arrogance with missionaries striving to create ‘a replica of one's own country upon the natives’ (Emerson 1969:13-14) a ‘noble purpose of saving the wretched. ' (Horvath 1972:46) Colonial powers occupied weaker states, imposing a culture, religion and values based upon a superiority of power, policing and governing without legitimacy (Crawford 002:131-133). Similarly, neo-colonialism operates in ‘political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres’ where the powerful ‘transform “the other” into oneself’ (Toje 2008:83) based on moral conceit. Globalization has revealed conformity to Western democracy and culture, whether it has been received or enforced is the issue of debate. Globalization as ‘interconnectedness’ (Bayliss 2008:252) economically the ‘integration of national economies into global markets’ (Todaro 2000:713) is driven by economic growth.

The creation of the international free market intended to have a beneficial effect on developing countries (Hirst 1999:134) ‘shifting power away from developed countries to the rest of the world’ (Martin 1997:12). However, free-market competition creates losers, often the most vulnerable ‘feminized’ states (Peterson 2009:287). Whilst globalization did not create inequality, the solution for development was flawed, merely worsening the imbalance (Peterson 2009:287) - arguably, colonialism creating inequality, neo-colonialism maintaining it (Horvath 1972:46).

Realists believe states only benefit at other states' expense (Art, Waltz: 1988:67-68) suggesting neo-liberal ideas of development would harm the developed nations. Whilst international economic institutions such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank are intended to maintain free trade and assist developing countries, they have often been accused of actually maintaining inequality (Peterson 2009:291) for the benefit of elites (Gray 1998, Greider 1997). A free market is intended to be free, impartial and competitive (Bayliss 2008:249). However, the rules of world trade are created, and therefore weighted in favor of rich countries.

For example, trade-related aspects of international policy rights require international patent protection favor firms based in the Western World who hold 90% of patents forcing expensive products on the developed world who cannot produce their own low-cost versions, the worst example being that of patented medicine (Watkins 2002:78). The double standards of the free market are also apparent in trade tariffs (Anderson 2006:147-159). Northern governments promote free trade and use the IMF and World Bank to impose import liberalization on poor states (Romano 2004:1012).

Yet they refuse to open their own markets, south-north export trade tariffs cost developing countries $10 billion annually, twice the amount they receive from humanitarian aid (Watkins 2002:79). International economic institutions are essentially governed by Western powers – the World bank presidential post dominated by American citizens since its creation, not based on votes but informal agreements between the US and European stakeholders (Cogan 2009:209) Since the outset the US has shown dominance (Gowa 1983) creating the ‘Bretton Woods system’ in 1944 and causing its breakdown, in 1971 (Bayliss 2008:245).

The competition of the free market, handicapped against the third world by the dishonest steward of international economic institutions has allowed for economic hegemony – post-colonial states remaining dependant upon their ‘former masters’ (Young 2001:45). Marxist theories fit alarmingly with criticisms of globalization, World System Theory and Dependency. Theory shows resources flowing from the "periphery" of poor, underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states (Bayliss 2008:147). Poor states are ‘impoverished and rich ones enriched’ by the way poor states are forced into the globalized world system (Blomstrom 1984:8-45).

Lenin’s work Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism shows a ‘capitalist monopoly’, essentially neo-colonial ‘periphery’ at the bottom of a tiered international system, a system Marxists would argue is essentially globalization (Bayliss 2008:157). However, unlike colonialism globalization has arguably empowered ideas above states, giving the defenders of ‘neo-colonial’ states a louder voice. Social Constructivism argues that globalization is far deeper than the interaction between states (Snyder 2004:60).

Whilst colonialism remained acceptable for centuries, the exploitation and imbalance of the current world system do not go unnoticed, numerous NGOs pressuring government institutions and operating independently as aid organizations. Globalization has created an imbalanced world system retaining North-South divides that emerged during Colonialism (Horvath 1972:46). Whilst neoliberal free markets aimed to resolve the inequalities, Realism argues flaws and bias within the current international system were retained and created to ensure the Western powers remained economically powerful over the developing world (Emerson 1969:15).

Emerson claims it would be a ‘turning point in history’ for global systems not to bring forth ‘new imperialism and new colonialism’ (Emerson 1969:16). The cultural and moral dominance of Western powers and active promotion of values, for the ‘benefit’ of the developing world, however, is a far more malevolent sign that globalization is a euphemism for neo-colonialism (Nkrumah 1968:xi).


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