Globalization is a form of Colonialism

Essay 2011 7 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Globalization, Political Economics



This paper analyzes the historical phenomenon of colonialism and globalization and the similarities in their ideologies. In addition, using examples of nations and multinational corporations, this paper tries to find economic and social connections between colonialism and globalization in the behavior of suppressor and oppressor. Furthermore, the term neo-colonialism is going to be researched and some recent examples of expansion and discrimination in different countries are shown.

Globalization is a form of colonialism that prevents the development of third world countries. Both historical phenomenons share some similarities that I will further investigate in this paper. During the 17th century, powerful countries invented the basic framework of colonialism, which is free trade as I will further investigate. Oppressed countries were forced to consume goods that were brought by their colonialists; in return they gave up their own productivity, this lead to high revenues for the colonialists and exploitation for their colonies.

Today, globalization is criticized for preventing local development in poor countries. This topic relates to the neo-mercantilist strategy, that we considered in chapter 4, to make some statements about the relation between my topic and Global Political Economy. The second part of research in this paper consists of two examples.

Firstly Monsanto has been a good example in explaining how globalization prevents local farmers´ productivity through genetically modified seeds. The Monsanto Company is a controversial multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as "Roundup". Monsanto is also the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed; it provides the technology in 90% of the world's genetically engineered seeds.[1] Secondly, Wal-Mart is one of the unethical global businesses that violate human rights during their manufacturing process. The strategy, to give jobs to employees, warranty low prices to consumers and increase shareholders revenues has high costs and needs aggressive practices by the CEO, such as violating a vast array of human rights and exploiting labor.

Colonialism refers to a historical phenomenon in which people conquer people from another territory in order to expand. In this process of sovereignty over the colony, the colonialists changed the social structure, government and the economy. As a result, colonialism generated an unequal relationship between the homeland and the colony. The sovereignty is mostly referred to as an expansion of political influence and control over colonies which are located in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. This expansion took place between the 16th and middle of the 20th century. The beginning was marked by Crusaders, such as Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci who first discovered new territories. At the second stage, the conquistadores Pizarro and Cortes had forced the local community to slavery. This military relation evolved into economic and military control of these regions by the colonialists.

The similar phenomenon nowadays is called neo-colonialism; it represents imperialism in its final stage. Today it isn’t possible to turn a country into a colony by imposing colonialist rules. Most of the colonialist countries attained their independence after WWII. Only a few regions, such as Puerto Rico, Gibraltar or The Falkland Islands are still considered colonial. The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.[2]

On the other hand, we have another historical phenomenon called Globalization. Globalization describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade.[3] This integration of regional economies into the international economy is reached by trade, foreign capital investment, and technology. Globalization is also related to economy, technology, socio-cultural factors and politics. The term can also be integrated as the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or popular culture through cultural diffusion. An aspect of the world which has gone through the process can be said to be globalized. Globalization has various aspects that affect the world in several different ways. The most important dimensions that have been influenced are: industry, finance and the global economy. We can define globalization as an advance towards the “end state” of a fully integrated world market, the creation of a borderless world.

Although there are benefits, a lot of negative consequences occur as a result of globalization. Countries have to reduce their company’s taxes to entice multinational companies to do business in their country. A reduction of tax revenues is followed by a reduction of welfare and public services. Furthermore, most of the developed countries don’t take the environmental costs into consideration. The boom of the oil industry and the demand of cheap energy make countries like Canada dependent on oil revenues to provide a high standard of living for their population. Issues of global warming are getting more and more important in today’s society and the agreements between countries, such as the Kyoto Protocol, are not taken seriously and are proving to be ineffective. Another cost of globalization is ever rising wage inequalities. The gap between skilled and unskilled workers is increasing and the fear of an extinction of the middle class is growing. The strategy of Western governments is to push for more trade, more connectivity, more markets and more openness, because they benefit from globalization more than other countries. Essentially they don’t consider the dark sides of globalization and the negative aspects that don’t impact them directly.

As seen in the definitions, we notice that colonialism and globalization have some very similar ideologies, specifically how the rich countries are trying to expand their power and to exploit other countries in order to get major benefits. But isn’t globalization using structuralism to reach colonialism? For mercantilists, the international economy is an arena of conflict involving opposing national interests, rather than an area of cooperation and mutual gain. The economic competition between states is thus regarded as a ‘zero sum game’; one state’s gain is another’s loss. Additionally, states are wary of other state’s relative economic gain as the material wealth accumulated could be used for establishing military-political power to defend other states. Even if we consider the large amount of advantages which the globalization has brought to all of us, the negative aspects of this phenomenon have resembled aspects of colonialism, which we observed during the 16th-19th century.

Countries such as Great Britain wanted to give wealth to their inhabitants; free trade was one of the means they used to reach that goal. “The end justifies the means”, this Machiavellian quote reflects the imperialist policy of most European countries during the 19th century. Colonialists tried to globalize the world on a unipolar way, taking all the gain of this zero-sum game, exploiting and suppressing their colonies with their military and political power. Nowadays, we can observe a similar incident in African and Asian countries. These countries, mostly governed by dictatorships and indirectly by big western multinationals, exploit recourses and cheap labor of the poorer countries to gain wealth through low production costs.


[1] The World According to Monsanto, 11 March 2008, "New movie damns Monsanto's deadly sins"

[2] http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/nkrumah/neo-colonialism/introduction.htm

[3] Bhagwati, Jagdish (2004). In Defense of Globalization. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.


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Title: Globalization is a form of Colonialism