Neocolonialist Theories

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Neocolonialist Theories


bourgeois and reformist theories that rationalize the need to keep the countries that have liberated themselves from colonial rule within the framework of the world capitalist system. Neocolonialist theories, which originated after the collapse of the colonial system of imperialism, deal with economics, politics, social relations, and ideology in the developing countries.

Under the slogan of “modernization,” neocolonialist theories preach capitalism and the Western social system as a model for the developing countries. Directed against the socialist orientation, these theories promote the formation of a new social basis for imperialism in the “third world.” Neocolonialist theories are the product of the strategic aims of imperialism. They are a conglomeration of ideas, concepts, theories, and doctrines that constitute an apology for imperialist “decolonization” and for the current policies of imperialism toward the developing countries.

Neocolonialist theories may be divided into two basic groups. The first includes versions of general bourgeois and reformist theories especially adapted to the developing countries—for example, the theory of the “transformation of capitalism,” the theory of the harmony of interests of opposing classes, and the mixed-economy theory. The second group includes concepts and theories such as “interdependence” and “partnership,” which are intended to defend neocolonialism directly.

Like neocolonialism, neocolonialist theories are constantly changing. The main factors influencing their evolution are the growing might and authority of the world socialist system, the transformation of the national liberation movement into a struggle against capitalist relations, the intensification of class battles in the imperialist centers, and the sharpening of interimperialist contradictions. For example, the concept of interdependence, which is designed to keep the liberated countries within the framework of the “transformed” colonial empires, has evolved into the theory of “partnership,” marking a shift from “isolated” to “collective” neocolonialism. The increase in the number of countries that have chosen a socialist orientation has also had a substantial effect on the evolution of neocolonialist theories. The choice of social orientation is the basic cause of the differentiation taking place among the developing countries in the present historical period. In addition, it is an important factor in the development of imperialism’s different strategies toward the two different groups of developing countries, as well as in the rise of different neocolonialist theories to support various strategies.

Among the neocolonialist theories that offer the former colonies and semicolonies blueprints for economic development are the concepts of “agricultural development,” “industrialization,” “combating unemployment,” and “development oriented toward external ties.” The collective term for all these concepts is “strategies of development.” The chief elements in these strategies are the policy of reform, which is intended to weaken the national liberation movements, and the methods of overcoming difficulties that arise in the developing countries within the framework of the capitalist system. The authors of these theories, trying to conceal their neocolonialist essence, often resort to demagoguery. When applied to countries with a socialist orientation, these theories are even more heavily camouflaged. Their authors attempt to show that all the differences in development among the young states can be reduced to different variants of capitalist development, which, supposedly, may be “linked” or “free,” “state-owned” or “mixed,” or “centralized” or “democratic.”

Neocolonialist theories have evolved away from direct opposition to the development of the former colonies and away from the aim of preserving backwardness toward a partial recognition in one form or another of an industrialization policy that encourages the development of local capitalism. Nevertheless, control over industrial development is kept in the hands of the neocolonialists. For example, the concept of industrialization provides for the transfer of certain branches of industry from the developed capitalist countries to the developing countries. The branches to be transferred, however, are primarily labor-intensive industries with a weak organic capital structure, low labor productivity, and little capacity to accumulate capital. This approach creates the illusion of industrialization in the “third world” countries while in fact serving the interests of the imperialist states. In particular, it gives the imperialist states the opportunity to reduce the costs of production by utilizing cheap labor. The imperialist countries can also concentrate their efforts on developing their own highly productive domestic industries, using the latest advances in science and technology. In addition, the neocolonialist concept of industrialization enables the imperialist powers to create a market for the sale of essentially outdated equipment. Above all, it gives them the opportunity to influence the social content of development in the liberated countries and to reproduce their dependence on imperialism in new forms.

Regarding social development, the neocolonialist theories preach the need to achieve “class peace” in the developing countries, to create a new “middle class” as a support for capitalism, and to disseminate reformist ideology among the rising middle class. For example, the theory of “conflict resolution in the developing countries” envisages the establishment of “special institutions” to localize internal conflicts and create a “national consensus.” Economic growth supposedly depends on the ability to establish such institutions, for all difficulties are said to arise from antagonisms within the societies of the developing countries. Thus, an attempt is made to prettify neocolonialism and the capitalist system as a whole.

Sociologically, the overall aim of neocolonialist theories is to create favorable conditions for capitalist development and to combat scientific socialism. The reformist and liberal reformist neocolonialist theories promote such ideas as “a society of universal well-being” and “the moral improvement of society.” Although they claim that neither capitalism nor communism is “appropriate” for the developing countries, the advocates of these ideas call for reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, thus revealing their true role as apologists for capitalism and defenders of neocolonialism.

Politically, the neocolonialist theorists urge the developing countries to abandon the idea of national sovereignty. In this way they hope to clear the way for neocolonialist intervention in the internal affairs and foreign policies of these countries. Neocolonialist theories are also heavily spiced with anticommunism, anti-Sovietism, reactionary nationalism, and similar ideas.

Maoist concepts such as “intermediate zones,” the “two superpowers,” “rich and poor nations,” and “self-reliance,” which provide a rationale for the developing countries to break from the world socialist system, are associated with neocolonialist theories. Indeed, the Maoists have borrowed most of these ideas from the bourgeois ideologists. Typical of Maoist theories, as of neocolonialist theories in general, is the tendency to replace the class approach to the analysis of international relations with an antiscientific geopolitical, subjective, idealist assessment of reality.

In general, neocolonialist theories have emerged as a result of the steady shrinking of the imperialist sphere of influence in the “third world,” the decisive impact of the world socialist system on the international situation, and the continuing development of the national liberation movements.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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