What is imperialism?

We explain what imperialism is and what were the causes of this political doctrine. In addition, its relationship with colonialism and capitalism.

  1. What is imperialism?

When we talk about imperialism, we refer to a political doctrine that establishes the relationship between nations in terms of superiority and submission , in which one dominates and exercises authority over another. Such domination can occur through colonization techniques (settlement, economic exploitation, military presence) or through cultural subordination (also called acculturation).

Empires have existed since the beginning of humanity, and their dynamics of conquest have always been more or less the same. However, by imperialism  we usually refer to the period of European expansion throughout the world , which begins in the fifteenth century and lasts until the Contemporary Age, when after the Second World War there is a complex process of de-colonization in Africa and Asia, mainly, because the American colonies did it through wars of independence in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During this stage of world colonization, the great European kingdoms established political, economic and military centers of control and collection of resources in different latitudes: the newly discovered American continent, the African continent looted to feed the slave industry, and the Asian continent, of the that exotic and valuable commercial inputs were extracted. The most intense period of this process of imperial expansion  was the decades between 1880 and 1914, in which the so-called  distribution of Africa was given .

The relationship between the Empire and its colonies is, essentially, of political and economic domination , either through brute force (military conquest) or the introduction of laws that favor the metropolis, imposing restrictions, taxes or colony on the colony. unfair trade terms, but according to imperial logic would be the cost of being part of “a more advanced society.” But the truth is that it is a way to gain a monopoly of goods and resources.

  1. Causes of imperialism

European imperialism was due to the following causes:

  • The need for raw materials . Recall that the Europe of the moment was waking up to early capitalism, so it needed to maintain a stable flow of raw material to process and convert into refined or processed products. The colonial system, which extracted raw materials from less developed countries at an economic price and with slave or semi-slave labor, was suitable for this.
  • The imperial competition . The various kingdoms (now empires) of Europe competed with each other to see who developed first and who could exercise dominance over others, maximizing their territory on other continents. In the same way they competed for the control of the commercial maritime routes, which were the commercial heart of the world of the time.
  • The exploration of the world and science . The rise of rationalism and the ability of the human being to transform reality around him (science and technology) required new materials to know and process, in order to accumulate an industrial potential that would give him an advantage over other empires. The world, for the first time in history, was not infinite and unknown, but cognizable, explorable.
  • Ethnocentrism . The ideology prevailing in the Europe of the time saw as racially inferior to the inhabitants of the rest of the world, which allowed the occupation of their territories and their almost slave exploitation, considering that they were “taking progress” to peoples who otherwise They would never know him.
  1. Imperialism and colonialism

Colonialism subjects a population to servitude and slavery.

Imperialism should not be confused with colonialism, even if they are processes that usually go hand in hand. Colonialism is an extractivist political-economic system , in which a powerful state dominates a weaker state to extract its material goods and resources, actively usurping its land and resources, subjecting its population to conditions of servitude or slavery, and imposing laws and systems of government that are best suited to the invader.

The difference between imperialism and colonialism has to do with the first of these terms can be without the second, just as a relationship of inequality or abuse in relations between two states sovereign, while colonialism basically suppresses the existence of the State bound , or allows its existence only as a colonial state or a political satellite (protectorate).

  1. Imperialism and capitalism

Imperialism gave rise to the development of industrial capitalism.

Imperialism laid in Europe the energy, technological and material bases for the development of industrial capitalism, that is, that everything expelled to other nations allowed them to invest in their own systems and grow , developing first and delaying the development of the former colonies , since they were made economically, financially and politically dependent on the metropolis.

This inequality, according to some theories, is reflected in the present times in the role assumed by the Third World of mass producer of raw material, a role that forces it to depend on the First World economies. In return, the First World countries serve them as lenders, sell them technology and still see them with a certain political paternalism.

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