Has imperialism done more to intensify difference or to enable interconnectedness?


Imperialism and the way that it was handled by imperial powers has been interpreted in a diversity of ways. It has continued to be a controversial issue in the contemporary world because it involved a situation where it brought about mixed results. Furthermore, the results of imperialism and the effects of the globalization that followed are still being felt in the contemporary world. Under such circumstances, it has become essential to ensure that there is a deeper understanding of imperialism and its ramifications in the world today. In this paper, the effects of imperialism will be analysed, and this will be based on the assumption that imperialism has had more negative effects on a majority of the world than positive ones.

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One of the most significant results of imperialism is that it has led to the development of some parts of the world. This is because most of the developed countries were once imperial powers which gained considerable wealth from their colonies. Countries such as France, Britain, and Belgium were able to utilize the wealth from their colonies to further their development while at the same time leaving a majority of their colonies essentially underdeveloped (O’brien, 2000). The latter were mainly a source of raw materials and markets for the goods of the colonizing powers. Under such circumstances, the colonizers ended up becoming quite wealthy to such an extent that they were able to not only increase the standards of living of their people, but also have an economic advantage over their former colonies even after the latter gained independence. Most of the largest multinational companies in the world today are based in the developed world and these have been able to exert their influence over the policies of their governments while at the same time being the main drivers of globalization, which has ensured that there is greater interconnectedness in the world (Brondoni, 2014). However, while interconnectedness can be considered a positive development, it has also led to a situation where there is a considerable reduction of diversity of products because multinational companies, with the ability to produce goods more cheaply, have forced companies that produce similar products in developing countries to end their operations because they cannot outcompete their larger counterparts. A consequence has been that there has been an increase in cases where it has become difficult for developing countries to also become producers of the goods that they consume, and have instead become more reliant on products from the developed world.

Furthermore, the globalization of the economy has led to an increase in global trade. It has ensured that countries that would otherwise not have been trading partners have become more connected through trade deals or by being a part of trading blocks. However, while this can be considered a positive development, global trade has for the most part been one sided because it has come to involve a situation where it has become difficult for developing countries to advance from the position that they are currently in to one where they are more developed (Decreuse & Maarek, 2015). This is because global trade has essentially become a new form of imperialism, with the former imperial powers controlling a majority of the global economy. Furthermore, the former colonizers have for the most part retained economic control over their former colonies through the use of trade. They have supported corrupt governments that promote their own interests rather than seeking to ensure that the will of the people in the former colonized nations are respected. Western-backed corrupt governments have sought to ensure that there is the advancement of the interests of their former colonizers through making cheap raw materials and labour available (Chalcraft, 2014). In return, the western governments have not only recognized them as legitimate, despite the opposition of their own people, but also provided military backing whenever people in the developing countries have sought to overthrow corrupt and despotic regimes. A result has been that there has been an intensification of differences between the individuals in developing countries that are in power and those that feel that they are oppressed by the minority that rule them. Such circumstances have at times led to civil wars that have not only led to the loss of life, but also left some of these countries poorer than they were before the conflict begun.

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Moreover, because of the economic dominance by the west through economic imperialism, there has been a significant increase in global inequality and poverty. This is a situation that has become even more persistent since the advent of globalization because developing countries have sought to follow the path followed by their more developed counterparts towards development (Dasandi, 2014). They have often failed to consider that development cannot necessarily be achieved through following the same path, especially considering their different political, social, and economic histories, but should rather be tailored to the prevailing circumstances in the developing countries themselves. Despite this, countries in the developing world have sought to follow their path of their western counterparts, which has often led to disastrous results. Rather than achieving development, it has led to the promotion of poverty and inequality in their societies. This is because only a few individuals in developing countries actually benefit either from globalization or from the development initiatives that are implemented by governments. Instead, it is the elite, who are responsible for the formulation of policies, and those close to them, that benefit the most (Majhanovich, 2014). The rest of society, which because of globalization, have essentially become consumers, have ended up languishing in poverty or very close to it, and this has been to such an extent that it has become a vicious cycle. The belief that there are greater economic opportunities in urban areas has also encouraged migration to these areas, but rather than finding work and having a better life, a majority of those who migrate end up being forced to live in poverty with little income and sanitation. Instead, they end up contributing to the development of slums, which house the poorest individuals in society (Ullah, 2014). Slums are the ultimate symbol of the global poverty and inequality that has become prevalent, especially in the developing world, where very few economic opportunities are available.

Imperialism has created a tradition where powerful nations are able to exploit weaker ones in pursuit of their own interests. This has essentially become the tradition in the world since the beginning of the age of imperialism where European powers brought a majority of the world under their control. A result has been that it has become possible for these countries to make sure that they obtain the raw materials that they need at much cheaper prices than they should and manufacture products which they sell back to the countries where the raw materials originated at much higher prices (Kang’ethe, 2014). This process has led to a cycle where the producing countries, which are mostly developing ones, have ended up remaining immersed in poverty, while their more powerful counterparts in the developed world have become wealthier. It has also become common for developing countries to become highly dependent on aid from the developing countries and this has been to such an extent that it has essentially evolved into a very exploitative relationship where these countries have essentially lost their freedom of action on the global stage. Instead, they have become the willing pawns of more powerful nations in international relations, especially in such institutions as the United Nations, where they blindly enforce the will of powerful nations in a bid to keep the aid flowing. This form of exploitation has become more prevalent with the advent of globalization, as seen in the manner through which weaker countries have adopted policies that are detrimental to their own development while favouring their developed counterparts. It has also become common for countries in the developed world to promote regime change in those countries that seek an independent developmental and political course from what they dictate, as seen in Syria, and Libya, where western interference has led to the instability of nations that were once very stable and prosperous.

Imperialism is responsible for some of the political and religious instability that is prevalent in some countries. Colonial powers tended to create borders not considering the people that lived within them, but rather as a means of promoting their own interests. A consequence was that following independence, which led to the emergence of new states based on the colonial borders, the fissures within the societies in these states begun to emerge. An example of such a case is that of Iraq, where the British created the current borders of the country when they colonized it following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War (Saleh, 2013). The colonial borders ended up encompassing the Kurds, the Sunni Muslims, and the Shia Muslims in one state. There was a failure to consider the ramifications of this decision because at the time, it is the British that ruled rather than the local population itself. However, following independence, the differences between these groups begun to emerge and they did so based not only on ethnicity, but also on religious differences. The result was that there was the advancement of a situation where each group sought to promote its own agenda within the state. These differences emerged fully following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 by the United States, which led to considerable sectarian violence in the country which has brought about the deaths of thousands since (Flibbert, 2013). Furthermore, the divisions, which can be traced back to the imperial policies of the British, have essentially made Iraq to become a state of three major nationalities, while at the same time creating a situation where there is unlikely to be peace because of the bitter historic injustices that each of the communities have suffered.

Imperialism has resulted in the development of greater interconnectedness between the peoples of the world. However, this interconnectedness cannot be considered a positive development because it has for the most part promoted western culture across the world as the most ideal (Xu, 2013). A consequence has been that in order for individuals to achieve success and to take advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization, it has become essential for them to discard their own cultures in favour of a more westernized type of lifestyle. Such developments have led to the advancement of a situation where it has become difficult for individuals to live according to their own cultures. Furthermore, there has been a mass movement towards discarding long established cultures in favour of the western one because of the belief that the latter is equivalent to development. Increasingly, because of globalization, it has become a common occurrence for some languages and cultures to become extinct while others are nearing this point (Rahman, 2014). Therefore, while interconnectedness has promoted greater interactions between individuals across the world, it has also led to the development of a situation where there is very little social and cultural diversity. Instead, globalization, as a form of imperialism, has ended up further advancing the western social and economic dominance of the world and this trend is still moving forward despite the negative ramifications that are being faced by communities all over the world; especially those in the developing countries.

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The above discussion has argued that the various forms of imperialism, especially colonialism and globalization, have ended up leading to very negative consequences for a majority of the world. Imperialism has led to the intensification of differences in some parts of the world, as seen in the case of Iraq, while at the same time promoting a situation where there is an increase in the extinction of languages and culture because of interconnectedness. The political borders that were drawn during the colonial period, and the continued dominance of these states by the former colonizers has led to considerable divisions within them as the populations fight against the western-backed elite while at the same time encountering the consequences of enforced borders. Finally, the prevalence of poverty and inequality are both consequences of imperialism, which promotes the interests of the west over those of developing countries.

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