Neocolonialism is a term used to describe certain economic operations at the international level which have alleged similarities to the traditional colonialism of the 16th to the 19th centuries. The contention is that governments have aimed to control other nations through indirect means; that in lieu of direct military-political control, neocolonialist powers employ economic, financial, and trade policies to dominate less powerful countries. Those who subscribe to the concept maintain this amounts to a de facto control over targeted nations (see Immanuel Wallerstein's Dependency theory).
Previous colonizing states, and other powerful economic states, contain a continuing presence in the economies, especially where it concerns raw materials, of former colonies. After a hastened decolonization process of the Belgian Congo, Belgium continued to control, through The Société Générale de Belgique, roughly 70% of the Congolese economy following the decolonization process. The most contested part was in the province of Katanga where the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, part of the Société, had control over the mineral and resource rich province. After a failed attempt to nationalize the mining industry in the 1960s, it was reopened to foreign investment.
|Critics of neo- colonialism portray the choice to grant or to refuse granting loans (particularly those financing otherwise unpayable Third World debt), especially by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, as a decisive form of control. They argue that in order to qualify for these loans (as well as other forms of economic aid), weaker nations are forced to take steps (structural adjustments) favourable to the financial interests of the IMF/WB, but detrimental to their own economies and often safety, increasing rather than alleviating their poverty.
|Some critics emphasize that neocolonialism allows certain cartels of states, such as the World Bank, to control and exploit (usually) lesser developed countries (LDCs) by fostering debt. In effect, third world rulers give concessions and monopolies to foreign corporations in return for consolidation of power and monetary bribes. In most cases, much of the money loaned to these LDCs is returned to the favored foreign corporations. Thus, these foreign loans are, in effect, subsidies to crony corporations of the loaning state's rulers. This collusion is sometimes referred to as "the corporatocracy." Organizations accused of participating in neo-imperialism include the World Bank, World Trade Organization and Group of Eight, and the World Economic Forum. Various "first world" states, notably the United States, are said to be involved. An insider's first-hand description of the corporatocracy is described in the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins.
Critics of neo-colonialism also attempt to demonstrate that investment by multinational corporations enriches few in underdeveloped countries, and causes humanitarian (as well as environmental and ecological) devastation to the populations which inhabit 'neo-colonies.' This, it is argued, results in unsustainable development and perpetual underdevelopment; a dependency which cultivates those countries as reservoirs of cheap labour and raw materials, while restricting their access to advanced production techniques to develop their own economies.
By contrast, supporters of the concept of neo-colonialism argue that, while the First World does profit from cheap labour and raw materials in underdeveloped nations, ultimately, it does serve as a positive modernizing force for development in the Third World.
- 1 Neocolonialism: origins in decolonization
- 2 Africa: Neocolonialist allegations against the IMF
- 3 Other approaches to the concept of neocolonialism
Neocolonialism: origins in decolonization
FRELIMO and the MPLA opposed neo-colonialism while still fighting an anti-colonial war.
The term neo-colonialism first saw widespread use, particularly in reference to Africa, soon after the post-WWII process of decolonization which followed a struggle by many national independence movements in the colonies. Upon gaining independence, some national leaders and opposition groups argued that their countries were being subjected to a new form of colonialism, waged by the former colonial powers and other developed nations. In Africa, the French played a prominent role in charges of conducting a neo-colonialist policy, and that French troops in Africa were (and it is argued, still are) often involved in coups resulting in a regime acting in the interests of France but against its country's own interests.
Denunciations of neo-colonialism also became popular with some national independence movements while they were still waging anti-colonial armed struggle. During the 1970s, in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, for example, the rhetoric espoused by the Marxist movements FRELIMO and MPLA (respectively), which were to eventually assume power upon those nations' independence, rejected both old colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Africa: Neo-colonialist allegations against the IMF
Those who argue that neo-colonialism historically supplanted or supplemented colonialism, point to the fact that Africa today pays more money every year (in loan interest payments) to the IMF/WB than it receives in loans from them, thereby often depriving the inhabitants of those countries from actual necessities. This dependency, they maintain, allows the IMF/WB to impose Structural Adjustment Plans upon these nations. Adjustments largely consisting of privatization programmes which they say result in deteriorating health, education, an inability to develop infrastructure, and in general, lower living standards.
They also point to recent statements made by United Nations Secretary-General's Special Economic Adviser, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, who heatedly demanded that the entire African debt (~$200 billion) be forgiven outright and recommended that African nations simply stop paying if the WB/IMF do not reciprocate:
The time has come to end this charade. The debts are unaffordable. If they won't cancel the debts I would suggest obstruction; you do it yourselves. Africa should say: 'thank you very much but we need this money to meet the needs of children who are dying right now so we will put the debt servicing payments into urgent social investment in health, education, drinking water, control of AIDS and other needs.' (Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Economic Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan).
Critics of the IMF have conducted studies as to the effects of its policy which demands currency devaluations. They pose the argument that the IMF requires these devaluations as a condition for refinancing loans, while simultaneously insisting that the loan be repaid in dollars or other First World currencies against which the underdeveloped country's currency had been devalued — this, they say, increases the respective debt by the same percentage of the currency being devalued, therefore amounting to a scheme for keeping Third World nations in perpetual indebtedness, impoverishment and neo-colonial dependence.
Other approaches to the concept of neo-colonialism
Although the concept of neo-colonialism was developed by Marxists and is generally employed by the political Left, the rhetoric of neo-colonialism is now also employed by some promoters of conspiracy theories, specifically one world government, regardless of political views. One variant of the neo-colonialist view suggests the existence of "cultural colonialism," the alleged desire of wealthy nations to control other nations' values and perceptions through cultural means, such as media, language, education and religion, purportedly ultimately for economic reasons.