This essay will investigate two ways of looking at globalization and post-colonialism and conclude with the relationship between the two based on and understanding, that while globalization is a post-national phenomenon, post-colonialism is linked to the epoch of the nation state. This view clearly sets globalization and post-colonialism at odds with one another, each belonging to a separate epoch. Post-colonialism is connected with the use of the nation state, i.e. a full range of colonialism from absolute complicity to violent rebellions as well as society continuously responding to the experience of colonial contact.
Globalization however, is connected with the rise of transnational corporations and the proliferation of markets that regularly cross nation-state boundaries.
The second view is that globalization was first developed in connection with the expansion of the nation-state. History suggests that nation states have always seeked to expand in to other territory, seeking new avenues for resources and markets. However, due to the power of multinational corporations which increasingly operate outside the interest and boundaries of the state, the current form of globalization instead challenges the power and autonomy of some nation states.
It is this paradox that has caused some social scientist to increasingly examine the relationship between globalization and post-colonialism, thus the same reason as to why I am going to discuss the relationship between the two. The history of post-colonialism and the building of the nation-state are part of a long history of globalization. There is no historical break separating the two.
There is considerable agreement among economic historians that capitalism as a mode of organizing social and economic, began in the sixteenth century with outward expansion, creating a network of material exchanges. This network developed over time in to a world market for goods and services; also known as international division of labor. By the end of the nineteenth century the project of a single capitalist world economy had been completed in the sense that the grid of exchange relationship now covered practically all the geographical areas of the world.
From 1500-1800 (known as the mercantile phase) was focused on the transfer of economic surplus through looting and plundering disguised as trade. During this phase, European merchants scoured the coasts of Africa and Asia and lands of South America in search of gold, spices, slaves and conquest of existing trade routes. Europeans were able to transfer economic sap his back to Europe where it helped to pay for the Industrial Revolution. A mercantile imperialism, began to emerge in the early Renaissance, the ‘Age of Discoveries’; it was honed by the Enlightenment emphasis on individual development through empiricism, reason, and training. (Lawson, Tiffin 1994)
After 1800’s, Europe embarked on mass industrialization and it was looking for market outlets as well as supplies of raw materials and food. Territorial annexation was forced on statesmen and public opinion by the ever more frantic economic rivalry between European nations.
During this period, colonialism witnessed an extraordinary internationalization of capital. A handful of countries in Europe together with the USA were responsible for 85% of all international lending. About half of this, some $44 billion, went to the continents of Asia, Africa, and South America. There it found its way in to the building of railways, port installation, mines and factories. Not only was the need for such colonies argued in economic terms, indeed it was often expressed as a vital national interest. As Ceeil Rihected indicated, Great Britain’s position depended upon its trade and if its people did not take over and open up those areas of world trade that were in the grip of barbarianism, they would be shut out of world trade and other nations would do the job for them.
The policy of territorial annexation or colonialism, this was justified to tax payers in Europe because it would create jobs for them and make the nation strong with its rivalry with other nations. With this concept of imperialism as an economic necessity, colonies were regarded as national property; as estates that must be developed using the most up to date method. This brought with it zeal to civilize the colonized people and to bring their way in to the twentieth century so that they would be able to participate in modern commerce and industry. This civilization and commercialization went hand in hand and were generally seen as positive benefits for the colonized people. The imperialist thus saw it as part of their mission to impose law, order, justice, education, peace and prosperity on the colonized people. They hoped to ‘suppress such vicious and barbaric customs as cannibalism, and open the country to missionaries, to trade, and to European civilization’. (Harris 1914)
The inevitability of the expansion of capital was one of the key points of the Marxist critics of capitalist imperialism. The purpose of investments in colonies was in order to produce more goods in the future, with Britain making one tenth of her national income from interest on foreign investments. Colonization had not only become and economic necessity but was often expressed as a vital national interest.
Post-colonialism implies a movement beyond anti-colonial nationalist struggles as well as a movement beyond a specific point in history. It covers post-independent neocolonial period stabilized under the American led Bretton-wood post-war order. Stagnation and negative growth in all but a few countries in Africa as earlier forms of incorporation in to the international division of labor, were rendered obsolete when the world economic system globalized. Since the mid 70’s, Africa’s primary commodities trade has collapsed, from just over 7% of world trade to less that 0.5% in the 1990’s. It’s share of manufacturing trade never really got a chance to lift off and went down from 1.2% in the 1970’s to 0.4% in the 1990’s. Growth in debt and poor debt management is the prime reason why, for all the apparent progress towards of debt forgiveness, nations tend to accept their policies to be dictated by the international community.
Economic crisis has bred political crisis as country after country have tumbled in to endemic instability, conflict or outright civil war. The features of postcolonial Africa’s political policy stem from structural constraints of external dependency and the imposition of foreign political models. Nation-statism was a colonial legacy with shallow foundations in Africa’s own history. These policies were further strengthened by the international community led by the IMF and World Bank. They imposed privatization and liberalization with new forms of political governance in which the state was marginalized in favor of a strengthening civil society. Democratic and economic reforms and NGO’s were introduced to assist with adjustments in the region. In East Asia, the 80’s and 90’s saw this region sustain a fast pace of growth.
Modernization theory advocated the pursuit of open door policies towards trade and investment, emphasizing the growth related benefits of receiving technology and capital inputs from the advanced countries of Europe. The arguments that because of the structural compatibility between economic institutions and practices on the one hand, and political, social and cultural institutions on the other hand, former colonies should model their social and political structures after the example of the west. The idea was these policies will make these countries rich but as seen in the recent African States, this idea of globalization kept the rich countries of the west richer and the developing countries poorer. The actual number of people living in poverty has increased by almost 100 million at the same time that the total world income increased by an average 2.5% annually. (Stiglitz 2002)
Globalization has developed by continually rethinking the relationship between economies, cultures, commodities and social behavior and by focusing carefully on how systems of commodity exchange are also systems of cultural exchange. This system supports the phase in which the nation state harness colonization with capital development in the interest of its own expansion and that in which multi-national corporations in the age of mass media begin to outpace the power of the nation state.
Though the formerly colonized state intended to achieve a measure of power and autonomy, the forces of globalization represent something of an ironic moment for the post-colonial state. One irony, as stated by Benedict Andersin, is that the nation state is based on a European political and economic history. The country that seeks to colonize becomes the structure that seeks to liberate. This concept of globalization offers a reminder of its imperialist origins. It is here that the concepts of globalization involve questions about the nature and survival of social and cultural identities. The colonizers shape the identity of the colonized.
Worries about cultural imperialism, especially understood as the global diffusion of Western cultural products and values, constitute the fact that perhaps the earliest development of the idea of globalization. The threat most commonly associated with the idea of global culture is that it will eventually result in a homogenous world culture, raising existing differences between local cultures and leaving in its wake an impoverished, soul-less western culture of commodity consumption.
While it is important to recognize that the spread of global commodity culture is motivated by political and economic concerns, it is essential to see this relationship as one which predates current understanding of globalization. In other words, globalization started in the mercantile phase, with Europe looking for market outlets as well as supplies of raw materials. A great deal of globalization is also centered in its political implications focusing on the threats globalization poses to the power and sovereignty of nation-states, on the emergence of new sites of transnational politics centered in global cities, international organizations such as NGO’s and the United Nations, and transnational corporations.
Given these complexities, it is hardly surprising that globalization has taken on a widely different historical specificity, its geographic reach and its primary causes and effects. Though many tend to look at globalization as a current phenomenon, it has also been suggested that it is a long term, on going process that originates in the very earliest of human cross-cultural contact, accelerating with Columbines discovery of America over five hundred years ago.
This indicates that though globalization refers to the present, it is hardly new; for example, there have long been discussions about the possibility of a global economic system and a world culture. In Wealth of Nation (1776), Adam Smith identified the global character of western capitalism from its outset, foreseeing the mutual interest in knowledge and an extensive commerce from countries to all countries that would be of benefit to all parts of the globe. Smith, Marx and Engel’s viewed the process of economic and cultural globalization as one leading toward a genuine universalism rather that the ‘false’ identity and culture produced in the era of nation-states.
The relationship between globalization and characteristics concerns of post-colonialism is extremely complicated. Though there is clearly a distinction between these concepts, globalization remains used mainly to describe Western experience while post-colonialism is rooted in humanities, focusing on Western culture, economic and political domination. There is nevertheless a sense in which these concepts occupy roughly the same conceptual grounds. Part of the hesitation why post-colonial theorist are reluctant to address the issues raised by globalization seems to stem from the challenge it possesses. The characteristic concerns of post-colonials have been defined in relation to the complicated legacies of the 19th and 20th century imperialism and colonialism.
While globalization also has its roots in the European projects of imperialism and colonialism, it has certain transformations that have undermined some concepts of post-colonialism like place, identity, the nation and modes of resistance associated with these concepts. Many critics have been careful to point out that the world has been globalized unequally, with both the benefits and pitfalls of globalization being realized to different degrees in different parts of the world. For instance, while the internet has become an important medium of commerce, entertainment and communication in the west, making communication possible globally, for many people, there are still places in the world where there is limited or no access to even basic phone service, or, worse still water! For some though in the developing world, it has been a force that has brought much good, leaving people less isolated, and has given people in the developing countries access to knowledge well beyond the reach of even the wealthiest in any country a century ago. (Stiglitz 2002)
In the earlier phase of globalization, the nation-state linked colonization and capitalism together in the interest of its own expansion while in a more recent phase, multinational corporations and the mass media have begun to challenge the power of the nation state. Such distinctions does not undermine the basic argument that post colonialism and globalization are historically linked. Once we recognize this link, we are left with the fact that the forces of economic and cultural globalization are mainly a form of imperialism.
It seems a sound theory and practicable to insist on the fact that cultures have always traveled and changed, that the effects of globalization only represent and accelerated from something that has always taken place; the change that occurs through inter-cultural contact, as uneven as the form it takes maybe. Sometimes it is lamentable although the result is conquest and force: sometimes it comes in the more benign contexts of trade and commodity exchange. This has always happened and it will be hard to find a place on the globe where we can celebrate as a local or indigenous culture.
Alan Lawson, Chris Tiffin; Routledge (1994) De-Scribing Empire: Post-Colonialism and Textuality
Norman Dwight Harris; Houghton Miffin Company (1914) Intervention and Colonization in Africa
Adam Smith (1776) Wealth of Nation
Joseph Stiglitz (2002) Globalization and its Discontents
Benedict Anderson; Verso Books (1991) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
Ankie Hoogvelt (1997) Globalization and the Postcolonial World
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