The Non-Economic Consequences Of Colonialism

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The non-economic consequences of colonialism are just as damaging as the economic consequences. The asymmetric developments in the global economy during industrial epoch I–roughly the two hundred years ending in the 1950s–were a result not of unequal markets, but these dual asymmetries were shaped by two others, ‘unequal races’ and ‘unequal states’, whose dominant and enduring impact on the evolution of the global economy has not received the attention it deserves. The evolution of the global economy during industrial epoch I was defined by four schematic facts:

  • persistent polarization,
  • international integration,
  • spatial concentration of manufactures,
  • centralization of power.

Once stated, these facts are a commonplace, and in one form or another they have formed the premises of every liberation movement over the past century. Yet conventional theories of the global economy, as well as opposing explanations, fail to account for one or more of these stylized facts. Orthodox theories admit only the second and third facts; their prediction that integration will lead to all round growth being at variance with the first. Their narrative shows that growing disparities in the global economy were caused by international integration. They analyze the power of markets, but not the powers that shaped these markets. This vision of an integrated global economy is no doubt suggestive; but what it conceals is vital. It leaves out the states, both powerful and weak, without whom, for instance, the failure of integration in labor markets would be hard to explain. Once these political actors enter upon the world stage, the plot thickens.

A collision between the advanced and lagging countries now becomes inevitable. The advanced countries seek to integrate the lagging countries, monopolize their markets, and appropriate their resources. In order to prevent these outcomes, the lagging countries seek to structure their integration into the world economy, to distance themselves from the advanced countries. The advanced countries have the upper hand in this contest, but their imperialism is not without limits. Many lagging countries were converted into colonies but quite a few also preserved their sovereignty. These sovereign lagging countries structured their integration and developed indigenous manufactures, capital, enterprises and technology.

They grew, some of them rapidly, and a few even caught up with the advanced countries. Those that lost their sovereignty, often, also lost a lot more, including manufactures, indigenous enterprises and a chance to expand their capital and technology. Very few of them knew any growth at all.We sometimes like it when someone takes over and guides us through the hard times in life. But what happens when they leave us? You realize you might have compromised yourself to be shaped by them. Not many of us will like the change we have made to ourselves, but we become so dependent that we lose ourselves in the midst of being ‘guided’ by external forces.

The economic consequences of colonialism left gaping holes in its victims, some of which even to this day have not been healed. The economic consequences of these foreign powers were many, but was it only economic factors that changed in these countries or were there non-economic consequences of colonialism? I will be discussing some of these non-economic consequences of colonialism using examples of two countries; one being Sri Lanka which I will be using personal examples and references, and the other being New Zealand using some information I stumbled upon during my recent travels. The following examples will demonstrate certain aspects related to varying time periods in Sri Lanka, compare eras prior to colonization and effects of post colonialism.

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Post colonialism, according to Ashcroft “Deals with the effects of colonization on cultures and societies”. Found in the ruins of the Pollonnaruwa kingdom during the rule of King Nissankamalla, is the ‘Nissanka Latha Mandapaya’ built between the years 1187-1196. This was a meeting place for the king and his men, do decide on matters regarding the kingdom and its rule. This suggests a parliamentary system of governing the land even before the colonizers introduced a so called ‘parliament’ to Sri Lanka. Politically, before colonialism such a method of governing during the times of the various kingdoms was very effective and peaceful. Sri Lanka being a predominant Buddhist country means that during any time of decision making, the king would always seek advice from the religious clergy, further supporting the incredibly peaceful method of resolving conflicts.

During the time when Sri Lanka was colonized by the Portuguese, then Dutch and finally the British, there were multiple changes to the system of governing the land which slowly led to the absence of the presence of religious mentoring in the government. Furthermore, with three different colonizers, the government and political systems kept changing making it harder for the general public to keep up with changing times as Sri Lankans were used to a more religious way of life. For example, only considering the British rule in Sri Lanka, there were four different government changes during the periods of four different governors namely, Coulebrook and Cameron, Crewe and Macallum, Donomore, and Soulbury. It was made even harder for farmers, fishermen to keep up with these changing policies which as a result led to the people with power exploit the innocent. Exploit the hard work of farmers, planters with the hopes of leading and helping them but in reality, just capitalizing on their hard work. Similar to the pre-existing government systems, there were changes to the education systems as well.

Buddhism was a very important way of life to all Sri Lankans and in the same way, European countries were shaped by the Church, Sri Lanka in the past was shaped by the principles of Buddhism. Education was freely available, teachers were wise pundits; but post-colonial times saw a change. With European influence, foreign concepts were introduced. The current system of education is one that is an agent of the neo liberal agenda that has been spreading across and dominating every aspect of the world. The true purpose of education should be humanistic and philosophical one helping students become the best versions of themselves, inculcating good virtues and molding competent citizens to live in this challenging society. However, now education has become economized. Students are not viewed as individual beings learning in different ways, instead they are a way to measure human capital of a country.

Colonialism had a similar impact on New Zealand and its native population with respect to non-economic aspects. Before Captain James Cook visited New Zealand in the 18th century there were 100,000 Maoris in existence. But by the end of the 19h century the population saw a drastic decrease and the population of Maoris was at 42,000. Life expectancy decreased from 30 in the 18th century to 25 at the end of the 19th century. This was due to the impact of the introduced diseases in the Maori population. Diseases that were commonplace in Europe such as measles, mumps and whooping cough took a toll among the Maori, who had no immunity to them. In Europe these diseases were prevalent mostly among children, but these diseases along with respiratory diseases killed large numbers of Maori, both children and adults. Furthermore, the influx of European settlers led to a demand for land. The loss of Maori land together with deforestation at mass extents resulted in a major decrease in native land and natural forests. Here again, this exemplifies the loss of culture and tradition due to colonialism. With the loss of native land came the loss of native species of flora and fauna.

Specifically, one of the species of birds native to New Zealand faced extinction due to colonial influence. Although this is only one example among the many species that faced extinction during these times, this specific species is very important as it reflects two perspectives of how these birds were treated. The ‘Huia’ were hunted by the Maori for its tail feathers, which were used to show an individual’s high status. But among the Maori bird hunting was strictly controlled. When the species were scarce in an area, a restriction was put on hunting by the chief until numbers recovered. But when the Europeans arrived, during to mass forest clearing, the numbers of these birds fell. Also, these birds were used as stuffed ornaments in English drawing rooms, and jewelry. This example reveals how colonialism led to demise of culture, tradition and its indigenous features. Owing to all the above examples, it is clear that no matter how strongly colonialism affected its captor’s economy and economic factors, it had equally dramatic consequences on non-economic factors.

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