I have heard people say, and I quote, “Imperialism is a thing of the past now.” Newsflash, you’re wrong. Imperialism is as alive and kicking as that one raucous neighbor that is always throwing house parties and fighting with their girlfriend at 3AM. Imperialism has, unfortunately, changed it’s guise over the past 50 or so years. An ideology once hinged upon colonization and exploitation of resources, the new face of imperialism is neocolonialism and exploitation. I know what you’re thinking, “hardly a new face,” and you’re right, it’s more like a dodgy backstreet nose job conducted behind your local Sainsbury’s Local. However, even this minute change has vast ramifications, ramifications I hope to inform you of.
So, what is neocolonialism? As the name suggests, it’s the new colonialism, the latest designer range in worker exploitation and wealth imbalance, and arm-twisting economic deals between former colonies and the global superpowers. Formally described as, “the use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence other countries, especially former dependencies” by the curators of the Oxford Dictionary; simply put, neocolonialism is when a powerful country -i.e. The USA- utilises a concoction of its ever-expanding influence and the use of some arguably dodgy deals, to coerce a significantly less powerful country -i.e. The Democratic Republic of Congo- to give them anything of specific interest. These items oft range from precious stones such as diamonds, rare-earth metals such as gold and cobalt and cassiterite, as well as tungsten, and tantalum, minerals crucial to the technology industry, and (and this is the big one) oil. As you can imagine, the way in which larger nations are controlling the market for the goods mentioned prior can yield rather disastrous effects on these less powerful nations.
Firstly, as mentioned beforehand, neocolonialism breeds conflicts faster than the rat colony in your garage spawns other, smaller, uglier rats. Thanks to our dear friend neo-colonialism, we have to deal with conflicts across the globe, most notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a region rich in highly sought after natural resources. These conflicts have spanned generations and caused a notable regression in the development of many nations. African nations in particular have suffered at the hand of neocolonialism, a region rich in resources, a region stripped of any wealth it could have potentially gained through producing goods from these resources, instead having to sell these off as primary goods, significantly cheaper than any goods that could be produced using them, only fueling the imbalance of wealth. However, worker exploitation is also another devastating factor widely caused by neocolonialism.
What’s that? You’ve already sat through enough geography class videos about sweatshops to last you a lifetime? Well too bad, sweatshops aren’t named for the fact that, much like body odor, they’re shoved in your face every day in an inescapable cloud. They’re named for the fact that the conditions inside them are awful. Sweatshops are cramped, poorly equipped, and suffer through abysmally low safety regulations. As you can imagine, not the kind of place you really want to work in. All of this can, as is the motif in this piece, be linked back to our star of the show: neocolonialism. Sweatshops and these cases of extremely poor working conditions can be linked back to major corporations such as GAP and Nike, TNCs hell-bent on minimising costs, made possible by the global superpowers that allow for the blatant evasion of health and safety laws, and allow for events such as the 2012 Dhaka Fire, a fire in the Tazreen Fashion factory, a factory making clothes for companies such as Walmart.
To conclude, it’s pretty damn clear that neocolonialism is bad, right? Unless you’re into worker exploitation and the perpetual cycle of poverty in the 3rd that it enforces that is. You’re probably asking, “Well okay but now what, what’s the next step, when do we march on UN?” To be frankly honest, I don’t know, put your torches and pitchforks down. Neocolonialism and imperialism are ingrained into our society, fueled by the global steam train of capitalism. There’s virtually nothing that can be done. All we can do is sit and wait and see what happens.