A lot of negative effects caused by Western colonialism and capitalism in the third world countries that have contributed to their current political and economic crises have been discussed; however, the main objective of this presentation is to discuss the progressive role played by Western colonialism and capitalism in the third world countries when contrasted with pre-colonial period and where they were left by their colonial masters to present date. Colonialism
Colonialism refers to as a system whereby a state holds sovereignty over territory and people who are outside its own boundaries. It assumes the right of one people to impose their will to others. Between nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most rich and powerful states in the European countries such as Britain did own third world colonies. Up-to-date, the legitimacy of colonialism by European countries to these third world countries has elicited a heated debate in political arena and among the moral philosophers all over the world. Colonialism is not a new phenomenon. In the past society used to expand to immediate territories and settling it own natives on the newly conquered land. Such example includes the ancient Greeks, Romans and Ottomans to mention but a few.
But it is evident that colonialism was not static but evolving due to technological advancements particularly in navigation that enabled connecting to the remotest parts of the world. Invention of the fast sailing ships facilitated reaching the distant ports in other side of the world while managing to maintain closer ties between the mother land of the master colonialism and their colonial territories. Therefore, the modern European colonialism materialized when it was possible to move large number of people across the ocean and maintain political sovereignty regardless of geographical scatteredness.
Many political theorists have troubled themselves in attempt to reconcile ideas about the justice and law with the practice with which European ruled over the third world countries. In nineteenth century, conflict emerged that made tension to build up between the proponents of liberal thought and colonial practice. Many of political philosophers stood to defend the principles of attainments of universalism and equity while on the other hand they were antagonistic in bid to legitimize colonialism and imperialism. They reconciled this controversy with idea that, there was a need for ‘civilization mission’ which was to be for temporal period of what they called political dependence that was vital so that to make ‘uncivilized’ societies to advance in a state of achieving sustainable liberal institutions and self government.
Capitalism refers to European practices that not only include social practices that are easily practiced over geographical and historical distances but also encompass the ‘way of thinking’. The term capitalist has been widely used in the Marxist theory which refers to means of production that are on the hands of a few and operated for making profit and that the benefits realized from the production belong to the owners of the means of production.
Mercantilism was the earliest form of capitalist in the olden days that originated in the Middle East, Rome and also existed during early Middle Age. It involved distribution of goods in the transactions in such way that there is profit making. In this situation, goods were bought from one place and move to another site to be sold at relatively higher prices. Beside Romans, Arabic cultures were also known of mercantilism. They had a long history on their trade routes in their major empires. Medieval Europeans learnt learned about this type of economy from their Islamic neighbors as it has been noticed in large number of economic terms found in European languages some which are derivatives from Arabic.
Gradually, mercantilism in Europe evolved into economic practices that were eventually referred to as capitalism. Capitalism employs the same principle as mercantilism that involves large scale profit realization by acquisition of goods at lower price than selling them at a profit. Capitalism is characterized by several features. First, there is accumulation of means of the production such as materials, land and tools by minority of people. This property accumulation is referred to as capital and the owners of these means of production are known as capitalists.
The second characteristic of capitalism is productive labor. Human work is of great importance because it facilitates the production of goods and their distribution. This happens in form of the wage labor. The striking aspects of wage labor here is that it is not invested in the product and it is considered to be efficient in terms of productivity. Capitalism boosts individual productivity by means of division of labor whereby productive labor is divided into smallest components possible. In capitalism, the means of production and labor is manipulated by the capitalist by use of rational circulation to gain profit.
On the other hand, capitalism as a way of thinking is basically individualistic. This is true because it focuses on capitalist endeavor. This bring out the Enlightenment concepts of individuality in that all the individuals are not the same; the society is composed of individual in pursuit of their own interest and that they should be free to peruse their own interests, that is ,economic freedom. Also, this concept advocates for democratic sense in that individuals perusing their own interests can guarantee the interests of the whole society. Therefore, Enlightenment idea of progress is grounded on the fact that the large-scale social goal of unregulated capitalism can produce wealth and make the national economy wealthier and more affluent than it would otherwise have not been. So, essentially, capitalism as a way of thinking is built on the concept of economic growth (Friedman & Friedman, pp5).
While this may be true, capitalism has been having a close link with adverse effects of human inequality and valorization that has characterized exploitation of one or more groups by others. It has been argued that capitalist relations evoke alienation of workers from the products they make. This makes both commodities and the workers circulating commodities that circulate in the expanding market. When the laborers are considered to be interchangeable, it becomes the interest of the capitalist to give workers low wage or no wage at all. By doing this, capitalists are able to create surplus of money from their capital invested meanwhile their commodities circulate in the market. Because human beings were one of the vital commodities for success in early capitalism, enslaved workers could be shipped between the colonial territories to the help in monocropping on the large plantations.
Presently, capitalist is usually understood to be a mean of system whereby the allocation of resources is by dictates of mechanism of the markets that are driven by profit motive. The advantages of the capitalism are that the government does not interfere with the business because there is limited control over it and that people have choice on what they want to do and where. Also, people are at liberty to do what they want with their money. However, this mode of economy has negative outcomes. Because the government is required to liberalize the market it has limited control over it and this can make few businesses to take monopoly which may lead to inefficiencies. In addition to this, capitalism only reward those who are fortunate to have natural scare abilities and not necessarily as result of hard work and this lead to huge inequities in income and wealth.
The Progressive role of Western colonialism and capitalism in Third world
Even though colonialism and capitalism had its own shortcomings, nevertheless, there is also a positive effect on balance we can talk about. Before colonialism, Africa only knew of socialism which was widely practiced among different communities. Socialism is a system that advocates for collective ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods. It is the opposite of capitalism which is a system hereby economy is based on private ownership of the means of production and personal profit can be realized through capital investment and employment of labor.
Colonialism brought a new idea to Africa that the material progress and prosperity were possible for the masses of people. Africans in pre-colonial period did not imagine that could ever happen. They assumed that the material possessions they had were fixed. They believed in such things like plenty of the harvest could result to increase of food in the basket but the idea that living conditions could be changed was strange to them. They did not have a clue of the prospect that instead of trekking for miles in search of water it was possible to have piped water homes. Colonialism brought idea of progress in humanity. They enabled them to realize that people have capability to improve their condition of existence and that tomorrow could be much better that today (Ondeng, pp 26).
Development of Infrastructure
When colonialism stepped into sub-Saharan Africa three main objectives were the driving force. First objective was to meet the increasing demand of the raw materials for their industries. Second objective was to be able to secure areas and their territories that could form the market for their industrial goods produced by the capitalisms as it was are of industrial evolution. The last objective was that, they wanted to identify and dominate certain strategic areas that would be their future potential region for their investments. Therefore, as it can be seen, the main aim of capitalism expansion through colonialism was purely economic.
But it was first necessary through political process of colonialism to create colonial territories to be able to achieve economic goals. Establishment of colonial territories was immediately followed by setting out diversified changes that included both social and economic among subdued societies in order to fulfill economic targets. This called for breaking down the already existed social and political system which resulted in replacement of traditional chiefdoms and kingdoms by Western European political system and consolidation of colonial state.
Greater portions of fertile lands were given to settler farmers who produced non-agricultural raw materials for western industries. In order to make this kind of economy efficient, there was a dire need to establish communication infrastructure such roads, railway lines and ports so that there can be a linkage between hinterland and coastal to facilitate securing resources and human labor. In such regions only footpaths did exist that were used by human porters and animal. Most of the roads and railway network seen today in many parts of African countries speaks of a positive legacy from Western colonialism and capitalist in Africa and other third world countries.
A good example of such country is Nigeria. In pre-colonial period, transport systems were limited to porterage over the land that was only utilized by animal and humans and small boats in waterways that are in southern and central Nigeria. In states of Nigeria, there were extensive trade routes in its territories which also facilitated movement of goods across the deserts to trade with North Africa and extended to the coast that involved trade with European. The roads were maintained by local leaders using hired labor or conscripted locals on the basis of the age. During this period the basic means of transport were pack animals and human porters.
When British claimed Nigeria to be its colony, is started building transport network that would make efficient its ruling over this territory and make easier utilization of the resources in the region. It started with construction of the roads which was later followed by railway lines construction. This facilitated movement of good and people from one place to another as the need demanded which was critical as it helped to maintain strong economic and political ties within its territory.
Since Nigeria gained independence there has been little in building new infrastructure network apart from what was established by their colonial master. This has been so because the Civilian governments had experiencing budgetary deficit and their priorities were to maintain regional divisions rather than improving transportation network and building better one in accordance modern world technology. However, while some few military governments were interested in development of better transport system, this turned to be a day dream. Therefore, post-colonial transport systems currently existing are just minimal maintenance of the infrastructure which their colonial master had set. This is a clear indication of the progressive role the Western colonialism and capitalism did play in Nigeria before they had left (Husher, para. 4-9).
Suppression of barbaric practices
Colonialism brought enlightenment in Africa. During pre-colonial period some African countries cannibalism and pagan worship was common practices. Practices such as cannibalism were usually restricted to specific regions particularly in West Africa. Such practices were not necessarily driven by craves for human flesh but were basically for rituals and sacrifices. The belief behind these practices of man eating were to receive imbibe magic strength that was considered to be transferred by through soul material. This soul material was particularly identified by certain body part of the victim particularly the head.
In the community that practiced such behavior they had a belief that if a young man ate the elder, such individual could get wisdom or if it was an elder who ate a young victim this could have added vigor. African had a strong attachment with the dead. In fact, cannibalism in Africa was part of religious act that consisted of complex rules that actually prescribed who should partake of the human flesh and who is supposed to be eaten and also clearly spelt out which part were to be eaten. It also described what parts of the victim’s body were to be kept as part of relics. There were other instances where medicines were made out of the human flesh. For instance, in Leopard societies in Sierra Leone, they used human entails to make certain kind of medicines.
When the Sierra Leone became a British colony, the first thing they did was to bring to an end this practice. First, the British investigated what was happening in the jungle. When it had a breakthrough in its investigations to address this extraordinary killing of human beings, it passed a bill which was called ‘The Leopard Ordonance’. This outlawed any possession of a leopard skin that were usually worn by these people who practiced these rituals, a three- pronged knife and a special native medicine called Borfina that constituted a concoction of human flesh such as fat and blood. It was potent in the hand of its owner as it was believed to help one to be powerful and rich .Through use of law and assimilation of European culture Africans experienced a transformation that played a great role in liberating them from such practices. This helped to uphold human dignity and universal human rights particularly right to life (Karoline, para. 7-14).
As many of colonial powers embarked on a political project to control much of the world, diseases were the major obstacles for their expansion particularly in African continent. Tropical diseases such as malaria among others posed great challenge because there was no efficient form of medical treatment that existed in African land before except traditional medicine. Many African had a belief that disease was as result of witchcraft or evil spirits as opposed to empirical approach in treatment and management of the disease by European countries .This necessitated them to have attachment of medical personnel to commercial marines and putting up of rudimentary hospital facilities at their colonial territories.
A good example is development of medical care in Tanzania. Christian missionaries were the first to introduce allopathic medicine in the territory. Eventually the colonial master in Tanzania assumed the responsibility of providing the health care to serve the army garrison that was stationed in the region partly to counter indigenous resistance and also to provide health care to European settlers. In British colonies they promoted establishment of the London and Liverpool schools of medicine where the study of tropical disease such as those found in the region was given the first priority.
After World War 1, Tanzania became a British colony and it assumed the control of colonial medical care where it provided medical care at provincial and district administration levels, voluntary services that involved missions and employer-based that catered for the medical needs at plantations, mines and factories. They also implemented preventative measures that were in form of public health programs. This greatly helped to address the health needs of African that never existed before. It is on the basis of these colonial efforts to address tropical diseases which were a threat to their lives helped to see African countries with improved health care and reduced mortality rate from fatal tropical diseases (Baer, Singer and Susser, pp 18-22).
Colonialism by the Europe countries was considered to be a mission of civilization to the ‘uncivilized societies’ to be able to advance in state of achieving sustainable liberalized institutions and self government. However the legitimacy of colonialism by these European nations has always staged unsettled debate both in political sphere and with moral philosophers all over the world. Colonialism proved to be the only way through which West Europe could peruse their capitalism motives in the third world countries.
Even though there have been shortcomings associated with colonial rule there has been an overall positive effect for Africa. Colonial rule brought enlightenment where ignorance did thrive. It helped to suppress barbaric practices such as pagan worship and cannibalism among others. It laid the seeds of the intellectual and material development as seen through infrastructure development, formal education and modern medicine that saved many Africans lives from deadly tropical diseases that were considered to be caused by witchcraft. Also it helped to reduce the economic gap whereby integration of colonies into international capitalist economy ushered in initial stages of globalization.