I recently attended an excellent lecture at Cabrillo College, located in central California, by an International Relations scholar who focused on the effects of colonialism. We took a solid look at the ‘World Systems Theory’ of why the developing world is, well, developing, and it was great to go over this school of thought’s main arguments.
For those of you who don’t know, World Systems Theory is a Marxian analysis that basically states that poor countries are poor because of the effects of colonialism, and the evidence supporting their claims is pretty damn solid. Basically, the World Systems theorists argue that when the various European powers gained outright control of non-European lands (this process in itself took centuries, by the way, and I deplore the historical narrative that argues Europeans set out to conquer foreign lands and divide up the spoils of war for reasons outlined in the link provided), the European powers set up states that were designed specifically to export raw agricultural materials to European factories, to be produced by European workers, and to be consumed by European (and elite non-European) consumers.
This is pretty much what happened, and explains why most of the developing world is dependent upon raw commodity exports (that are shipped to European markets) for most of their well-being. Unfortunately, the very solutions that the World Systems theorists propose to dismantle the structural inequalities that exist in this world will (and have) actually led to more of the same structural inequality.
Allow me to explain. Continue reading