Late Modernity: The High Tide of Imperialism Essays

Late Modernity: The High Tide of Imperialism Essays

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Beginning in the 1850’s, European states engaged in an intense scramble for overseas territories. This “new imperialism” led Europeans to carve up parts of Asia and nearly all of Africa and create colonial empires. Within these empires, European states exercised complete political control over the indigenous societies and regularly redrew political boundaries to meet their needs. During the scramble for new markets and territories, the indigenous peoples were often subjugated, dominated and marginalized. In return, countries in Africa and Asia gained the technology and capital that, over a period of time and development, improved their quality of life. Justifying imperialistic actions often caused tensions in political, economic, and social spheres of influence during late modernity.
By the end of the nineteenth century, those who desired to validate imperialism and the colonial regimes it fostered in Africa and Asia found pseudoscientific validity from the concept of Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism maintained that only societies that moved aggressively to adapt to changing circumstances would survive and prosper in a world governed by the Darwinian law of “survival of the fittest” (SAY, 1105) Some people, however, were uncomfortable with such a brutal view of the law of nature and sought a moral justification that appeared to benefit the victim. Here again, the concept of social Darwinism pointed the way. By bringing the benefits of Western democracy, capitalism and Christianity to what they considered the “tradition-ridden societies” of Africa and Asia, the colonial powers were enabling primitive peoples to adapt to the challenges of the modern world. (SAY, 1107) Buttressed by such comforting theories, sensitive West...


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...n economic one. As the case of Lenin and the Bolsheviks showed, economic concerns were inevitably tinged with political overtones and questions of national grandeur and moral purposes as well. In terms of British rule in India was concerned, economic wealth, national status, and political power went hand in hand with the possession of a colonial empire. In the years leading up to the First World War, the Western imprint on Asia and African societies, for better or for worse, appeared to be a permanent feature of the political and cultural landscape. Ultimately, the fundamental weakness of imperialism was that it was ultimately based on the self-interests of the citizens of the colonial powers, not the colonizers. The ultimate result was to deprive the colonial peoples of their intrinsic value and the right to make their own choices about their own destiny.





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