Dependency Theory – Revision Notes

Dependency Theory claims that Colonialism had a negative impact on the satellite territories in Africa, Asia and Latin America; that neocolonialism keeps the ex colonial master rich and the ex colonies poor, and that in order to develop the ex colonies need to isolate themselves from the capitalist system, protect themselves from the ‘free market’ and develop internally, through socialism for example.

Colonialism made rich countries rich and poor countries poor

  1. Stealing land and resources which decimated local populations through slavery, disease and displacement of local populations.
  2. Increasing ethnic conflict by selecting one ‘pro-European group’ to govern over all other ethnic groups in the territories.
  3. Turning the colonies into mono-crop plantation systems, dependent on low value agricultural exports, which hampered their development post-independence.
  4. MOST IMPORTANTLY (and most difficult to understand and evaluate) – colonialism established a world capitalist system which locked poorer countries into unequal power relations with richer countries – if poor countries wished to develop within the system, they required expensive imports from the industrialised European powers. For this reason, poor countries will always remain poor within this system.

Neo-Colonalism keeps poor countries poor because:

  1. Unfair terms of Trade and unfair trade rules lock poor countries into unequal relationships with the west
  2. Transnational Corporations play a major role in exploiting countries today, not just rich countries
  3. Aid through the World Bank is used by rich countries to promote ‘neoliberal’ policies which make rich countries easier to exploit.

To develop, developing countries need to isolate themselves from the capitalist system (protectionism)

Dependency Theory argued  that developing countries should seek to break away from the world capitalist system and find their own path way to development – mainly through socialism – development through socialism means countries focus on their own development, seeking to produce everything for themselves rather than integrating into a global trade system.

 

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Is China’s Involvement in Africa a new form of Colonialism (i.e. neocolonialism)?

China’s development over the last three decades has depended heavily on its investment in Africa: it relies on a number of natural resources extracted from Africa, and is also one of the major leasers of land in Africa (which it uses to export crops back to China). In order to facilitate the extraction of natural resources, return, thousands of Chinese workers now live and work in Africa, and the Chinese have developed infrastructure (roads for example) in many African countries.

The Chinese claim that most partnerships between Chinese businesses in Africa are mutually beneficial, a win-win arrangement between the Chinese and the ‘host nation’ – China gets resources, Africans get jobs and development.

Critics, however say that what the Chinese are doing in Africa is just a continuation of colonialism, and another form of neo-colonialism: it is basically a wealthier nation extracting resources as cheaply as possible from desperately poor countries and giving them as little as possible in return.

The three articles below are well worth a read to get an idea about the range of opinion on this matter:

  1. This Global Policy article: ‘The New Colonialism in Africa’ makes the case (as you can tell by the title) that China are basically neo-colonists
  2. This Guardian Article is more neutral.
  3. This Harvard Political Review article seems to take a more sympathetic view towards China, focusing more on the benefits of development for African nations.

Students might like to read through them, compile a list of arguments and evidence for and against the view that China’s involvement in Africa benefits Africa, rather than just China.