Thursday, May 19, 2011

More on Colonialism

Like most of my opinions, my belief that colonialism refers primarily to a system of political domination rather than economic exploitation of less prosperous nations by more prosperous ones appears to be a minority in the scholarly world. To me it seems that there are four distinguishing features of colonialism and not all of them have to be present for a colonial relationship to exist. For instance point four was largely absent in the Gold Coast during colonial rule. The features of colonialism are listed below.

1. Political control of an ethnically distinct territory by a state dominated by a different ethnicity.

2. Widespread articulated and often violent resistance to that political control by the dominated people.

3. Economic exploitation of the the dominated territory by the dominating power resulting in a net economic loss for the controlled territory and a net economic gain for the controlling power.

4. The settlement of the ethnically dominant group from the controlling power into the controlled territory.

For some reason it appears most people emphasize point number three as being most important. This was the Soviet regime's argument for why Central Asia was not under colonial rule even though points one and four did apply. It is an argument that a lot of non-communists seem to support as well. But, it should be noted that this does not get the USSR off the hook for being an empire. All four of these points applied to the Baltic States and Ukraine, especially western Ukraine. The situation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in the years after World War II until the restoration of independence fit the classical colonial model in all aspects.

Today there are not too many cases that fit all four points. Tibet and East Turkestan seem to fit points one, two, and four, but not point three. Since for some reason most scholars think point three is the most important feature of colonialism this makes the status of China as a colonial power ambiguous. Israel's control over the West Bank meets all four criteria, but it may be the only such case left. However, there are a number of cases such as Tibet where points one and four and even two are all met. If these cases are not colonialism, then what term should be used to describe them?

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