Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


a.k.a. Neo-Imperialism

thanks to

A policy whereby a major power uses economic and political means to perpetuate or extend its influence over underdeveloped nations or areas: "Strong elements of neocolonialism persist in the economic relations of the rich and poor countries" (Scientific American). (

Kwame Nkrumah (first president of independent Ghana),  Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965): "The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed."

Dr. White on Americans' attitude toward Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism:

Because Americans dislike government, the USA's experimentation with traditional colonialism—directly governing another nation—is largely limited to the late 1800s-early 1900s and territories gained in the Spanish-American War, e.g., the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and to a lesser extent the Caribbean and Central America generally and the Panama Canal particularly.

Further, several of the USA's recent efforts to impose governments on foreign nations have gone badly—e.g., Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq (though more limited interventions like Bosnia and Libya are more promising).

Because Americans love business and the way the free market (liberal economics) appears to transcend or leave aside issues of morality (while representative government constantly raises and frustrates such issues), neo-colonialism and its variants (e.g., economic imperialism with cultural imperialism attendant) conforms better to American domestic and foreign policies.

The economic practices implicated by Neo-Colonialism are usually characterized as Neoconservatism or Neoliberalism. (The terms mean the same thing, but Neoconservatism is the term used in the USA, while the rest of the world refers to these practices as Neoliberalism.)

Other possible manifestations of Neo-Colonialism

World Trade Organization

World Bank, est. 1944 along with International Monetary Fund, to promote international development and capital investment.

NGOs or Non-Government Organizations (a.k.a. Private Voluntary Organizations or PVOs) are widely regarded by the West as enlightened philanthropy or charity, but postcolonial studies and resistance-activists sometimes criticize NGOs and PVOs as First-World interventions in Third-World societies and as enablers of neoliberal or market-driven approaches to economic and social policy. In this regard NGOs' roles may resemble those of missionaries in earlier phases of colonialism. (Wikipedia: "'neoliberalism' has also come into wide use in cultural studies to describe an internationally prevailing ideological paradigm that leads to social, cultural, and political practices and policies that use the language of
markets, efficiency, consumer choice, transactional thinking and individual autonomy.")

International conservation movements are often criticized by host countries for valuing threatened indigenous wildlife over expanding indigenous human life.

Feminism: Modern First-World gender roles are often disturbing to Third-World cultures.

Extraction industries (oil, lumber, minerals as later version of mercantilism), entailing "The Curse of Oil" a.k.a. "the resource curse": the more natural resources developing countries have, the less likely they may be to develop democratic institutions.

An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later

By Elizabeth Malkin, New York Times 20 Oct 2011

MEXICO CITY — More than a half-century after Guatemala's elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown in a coup planned by the C.I.A. and forced into a wandering exile, President Alvaro Colom apologized on Thursday for what he called a “great crime.”

In a muted ceremony at the National Palace in Guatemala City, Mr. Colom turned to Mr. Arbenz’s son Juan Jacobo and asked for forgiveness on behalf of the state.

“That day changed Guatemala and we have not recuperated from it yet,” he said. “It was a crime to Guatemalan society and it was an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.”

The overthrow in 1954 of Mr. Arbenz, a former army colonel whose policies attempted to narrow the chasm betwen the country’s tiny elite and its impoverished peasants, squashed a 10-year effort to build a democratic state.

Under a succession of military rulers who took power after the coup, Guatemala descended into three decades of a brutal civil war in which as many as 200,000 people died, many of them peasants killed by security forces.

The Eisenhower Administration painted the coup as an uprising that rid the hemisphere of a Communist government backed by Moscow. But Mr. Arbenz’s real offense was to confiscate unused land owned by the United Fruit Company to redistribute under a land reform plan and to pay compensation for the vastly understated value the company had claimed for its tax payments.

Mr. Arbenz “was not a dictator, he was was not a crypto-communist,” said Stephen Schlesinger, an adjunct fellow at the Century Foundation and co-author of “Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.”

“He was simply trying to create a middle class in a country riven by extremes of wealth and poverty and racism,” Mr. Schlesinger said.

Under Mr. Colom, Guatemala has taken steps to address its legacy of repression. Prosecutors have won long sentences for soldiers convicted of one of the civil war’s worst massacres, and police files have been opened for families to trace the last moments of relatives who disappeared during the conflict.

The president’s apology was one of a number of steps that the government agreed to take to restore Mr. Arbenz’s name and his role in the nation’s history after five years of negotiations overseen by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington.

“It has taken a lot of courage for the government to do what it is doing,” Dr. Erick Arbenz, the former president’s grandson, said in an interview. Noting that young Guatemalans do not even know who his grandfather was, he said: “We want to become the missing link of this new generation.”

The Arbenz family is seeking an apology from the United States for its role in the coup, he said.

The government is also revising the school curriculum and has renamed a main highway and a museum wing after Mr. Arbenz. At Thursday’s ceremony, Ruth del Valle, the president of the presidential human rights commission, presented a copy of a memoir written by Mr. Arbenz’s widow, Maria Cristina Vilanova, to their son Juan Jacobo Arbenz Vilanova.

The agreement with the family is “an example of how these processes — the search for justice and reparations for victims of the armed conflict or violations of human rights” are irreversible, Ms. Del Valle said in an interview.

Kara Andrade contributed reporting from Guatemala City, Guatemala.