|Colonization In Perspective|
An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Colonization And Its Relation To The Mode Of Production
|Publisher||The House Publishers|
|Publication date||2010 (Lovia)|
|Genre||Non-fiction > History; Political essay|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Rating(s)|| La Quotidienne|
The Lovian News
|Preceded by||Lovian Dialogues (with Y.A. Donia)|
|Followed by||Communism in the Third World|
Colonization In Perspective, fully entitled Colonization In Perspective: An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Colonization And Its Relation To The Mode Of Production, is a 2010 political essay by Lovian Prime Minister Yuri Medvedev. It deals with the phenomenon of the 19th century colonization and tries to explain the driving forces behind processes of globalization. The theories in the essay are heavily inspired by Marxist theory of modernization and a Leninist view of imperialism as a byproduct of capitalism. Besides its main focus on the general process of colonization, the essay also devotes some attention to the question why Lovia was never subjected to a foreign power. The work was distributed by The House Publishers and well-accepted by the Lovian intellectual community.
Chapter One: The Nature Of Colonization Edit
In the first chapter, the goal of Colonization In Perspective is explained. The author gives us his mission statement which focusses on three questions: (1) what where the driving forces behind the colonization, (2) why were the key actors countries of the western world and (3) what was the impact of the colonization? Medvedev also refers to the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin as sources of inspiration for his theories. He does however criticize the classical interpretations of Marxist theory for their material determinism and their belief in a linear process of modernization.
Early in the first chapter, Medvedev tries to capture the nature of colonization. He stresses the fact that the first steps were not planned. The author approaches history as a relatively open process with lots of internal contradictions. On the nature of colonialism Medvedev writes the following:
- Colonialism is an historic form of appearance of globalization and a form of expression of the capitalist mode of production. As I will show later on, colonialism was a tool driven by and leading to the expansion of the western capitalist model. Colonialism is in more general terms a transient phase in the shaping of a political-economic reality, a global culture. Though this might sound negative, I would like to use a more nuanced view. The relation between colony and motherland were without doubt very uneven, but the colonization did also have some good (side-)effects.
The book continues by explaining why it were the countries of Western Europe that conquered the rest of the world. The author contradicts some widely-accepted views. He for example criticizes the popular belief that the West was significantly advanced compared to the rest of the world. Medvedev does not say the countries of Western Europe weren't different but, he argues, they weren't that different either. There was according to the author only a little difference that developed itself as its grip over the world became more and more extended:
- The countries of Western Europe were culturally united under the banner of Christianity but politically splintered. It is the latter that caused pluralism and competition as opposed to other empires which knew a high social rigidity. Though Europe was governed by a system of absolutism, there was a high rate of autonomy of different aspects of society: religion, politics and trade could develop relatively free from each other. The mode of production thus was changing, and it is this internal altering that will bring about external transformation as the industrial capitalism seeks expansion. Europe's competition of elites, increasing privatization of societal sectors and the structural dynamism made it possible to gradually integrate the world into a new system that further develops as its global extend grows.
The chapter concludes by showing the gradual formation of the world system, starting with the Spanish and Portuguese conquering of Latin-America. The initial conquests still followed a pre-capitalist logic and were driven by the desire to empire. It would take time to develop the later phase of colonialism in which plundering was changed by full political submission and economic exploitation. Medvedev focusses on how the political independence of Latin-America was replaced by an economic colonization by the United Kingdom at first and the United States later on. The system could thus evolve to trade capitalism. The essay then moves to Asia, which was ruled mostly indirect, just to quickly continue with Africa:
- As a result of the growing demand in the west, slave labor resurfaced. Slavery existed up to then as a marginal phenomenon and only in the form of house slavery. The industrializing countries imported labor and resources from their Latin-American and Asian 'trade partners' and from the local authorities in Africa. The surplus of created wealth stayed of course in the west while they enforced their finished products onto the colonial/African markets. The colonization of the last free continent became hard to evade once the Ottoman Empire in the north collapsed. Colonialism is a contradictory process: on the one hand it united the world into one dominant culture but it also brought forth new forms of contradiction, most notably the division between north and south which didn't exist before.
Chapter Two: The Impact Of Colonization Edit
The opening of the second chapter consists of an attack on the theories that defended colonization as part of 'a natural process of modernization'. Medvedev rejects the idea that the so called third world can be described as one equal whole. He blames those who study the colonization from a eurocentrist point of view. The essay suggests we take a quick look at the past sixty years in order to learn us that the colonies did not magically transformed into western states. The belief that traditionalism would automatically disappear to make place for modernity is according to the author utter nonsense. He takes Africa as an example for his argumentation against an equalization of the colonized world:
- Not only were there different mechanisms at work at different stages and continents; even on the same moment and in the same region colonization took different faces. Take for instance Africa. In the central areas private companies exploited the local population in a way that reminds of slavery. But in the mining areas of the south, the farmers were driven from their land and turned into proletariat. Even another situation we have in French Western Africa, where the old relations of trade capitalism were more or less maintained. The colonization did not occur as one single movement but rather adapted itself to local circumstances. The impact this has on the process will of course also alter the impact of colonization on the region. The colonized world should not be viewed as a single unity.
After this explanation, the book goes on to a description of the impact of the colonization on the local modes of production. Medvedev stipulates that we should not narrow down capitalism to the sphere of circulation. In other words, capitalism should have a broader definition than just the production of goods for the market with the eye on maximizing profit. He in stead proposes to interpret capitalism in its specific sphere of production, hence the focus on modes of production throughout the essay. In an attempt to pin down capitalism and its position in the late 19th century society he writes the following:
- Capitalism is a mode of production in which the means of production are private property and in which the wealth surplus is skimmed from a proletariat by a system of wage labor. We must however be careful when determining whether a system is capitalist or not; any mode of production is after all an abstraction of a more complex reality. In practice we will always find series of modes of productions of which several are combined and articulated. It is better to regard the capitalist world system as a social formation in which the capitalist mode of production is dominant, but not alone. Capitalism can use other modes of production to reproduce itself.
Medvedev gives an example of how in several African colonies religious inspired feudality was integrated in the capitalist system. The religious leaders made a deal with the occupying power: the feudal farming communities could stay intact if they produced those goods the west demanded. For the people who worked the lands, only the product they groomed changed. The ones on top became mediating factors between the local mode of production and the worldwide capitalist one. The latter one is dominant since it dictates to the former what should be produced. The essay then continues by stressing the great flexibility of local factors:
- The pre-capitalist structures and values were not replaced by modernity but remained present in one form or another. Traditionalism was given a place in the capitalist world system. A good example could be Buddhism, which became in several South-Asian countries the backbone of authoritarian regimes. But there is a better and more tragic use of the assimilation process: In many colonies, people of different ethnicities where put up against each other. Where the colonizers couldn't find enough differences they created them, like in Uganda where entirely new identities where invented for 'administrative purposes'. When independence came the tensions sparked bloody civil wars of which some continue up till today.
Chapter Three: Why Lovia Was Never Colonized Edit
In the third and final chapter, Medvedev spends some time reflecting on the position of Lovia. The absence of an indigenous population, the private - almost personal - occupation of the isles and the lack of interest from the big empires make Lovia an interesting case. The chapter begins with a description of the great value the Lovian isles have. First there is their strategic position in front of the Californian coast. Second, the essay explains which natural resources and economic potential there is. After this short and pretty evident overview, Medvedev discusses two periods should be taken into account when discussing the Lovian non-colonization. In regard to the presence of the Spanish in the region, he says the following:
- When the Spanish colonized Latin-America they didn't occupy the Lovian isles. The accepted account of history is that they simply didn't know they where there. I find that very hard to belief and think some must have known of the isles their existence. They might however have 'escaped' occupation due to a misconception of their value: the Spanish and Portuguese had occupied regions with crops already growing on them, with populations that had gold and silver. Why would the crown want to invest in such little isles with a benefit thought to be too small for the costs? Because plundering was the goal, Lovia simply wasn't the place to be.
The following part in the analysis accounts of the American presence and why Lovia is not part of the United States:
- When the American imperialism developed, it seems to have left Lovia alone. Two main reasons can be brought up for this (non-)development. The first one is economic in nature: Lovia had a free-trade policy and thus didn't form an obstacle for the economically driven expansion of the United States. The importance of Lovia to the American economy, which suffered from over-production at the time, gave us a minimal form of protection. A second argument is that our political elite had a good relation with the American leaders. Our overall neutrality, American-friendly policy and our acceptation of American values are all crucial factors in explaining the durability of our nation's independence.
Critical reception Edit
Colonization In Perspective has been criticized from many sides. Nationalist and liberal movements have problems with the tendency of explaining things at a global level with little attention for local variety. Medvedev responded to this by stating that he did take local tendencies into account for example when he argued how different parts of the world were colonized in different stages and with different mechanisms. The author has stated he never tried to fit the entire world into a single linear model, but on the contrary tried to reveal the interaction between local developments. That a series of local transformations lead towards a single dominant but not one-dimensional or unitary system, was according to Medvedev the core essence of his publication.
Even more answers came on the third chapter in which the non-colonization of Lovia is described. Many historians claim that Medvedev's theory lacks consistency. Especially the incompatibility between a 'tolerance from the United States' and the Monroe doctrine, which protested against European dynasties in America, is a key argument of opposers. Defenders of the theory have argued that opposers don't consider the evolution from the States who had turned imperialist themselves. They also think the influence of the United States might have been bigger than most people think. Critics of Medvedev's theory are indeed mostly liberal and America-oriented.