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(in the modern world) political control by an outside power of a country that is in theory sovereign and independent, esp through the domination of its economy


  1. the attempt by former colonial powers to retain political and economic dominance over former colonies which have achieved formal political independence.
  2. (more generally) the process whereby advanced industrial countries dominate THIRD WORLD countries regardless of whether colonial relationships previously existed. The term neoimperialism has a similar meaning although it is usually associated with a Marxist perspective. See also COLONIALISM, IMPERIALISM.



the system of unequal economic and political relations imposed by the imperialist states on the sovereign developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with the aim of maintaining the imperialist exploitation of the peoples of these countries and their dependence on imperialism.

The material basis for neocolonialism in the developing countries is the monopoly capital of the imperialist powers—for example, foreign corporations (or their affiliates) and banks. The imperialist countries take advantage of the economic, scientific, and technological backwardness of the former colonies and semicolonies for neocolonialist purposes. Neocolonialist theories provide an ideological justification for neocolonialism. As a system, neocolonialism originated under conditions in which direct colonial rule had been almost completely eliminated as a result of the downfall of the colonial system of imperialism and the development of the world socialist system. With the elimination of the colonial system the territorial division of the world among the imperialist powers essentially came to an end. Under neocolonialism a new struggle is under way to divide up the world economically and to create new political, economic, and strategic spheres and zones of influence. This not only strains relations between the former colonies and the imperialist states but also provokes intensified conflicts and contradictions among the imperialist states.

In their effort to maintain and, where possible, increase imperialist exploitation, the imperialist powers attempt to prevent the newly sovereign states from moving toward genuine independence, especially by hindering the nationalization of the property of the imperialist monopolies and the creation of a state sector of the economy. They also try to prohibit the developing countries from choosing a socialist path of development and strengthening cooperation with the socialist countries. Thus, in the context of the struggle between two world systems, neocolonialism is directed at protecting the possibility of maintaining capitalism and at preventing the spread of socialism and the expansion of its forces in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The developing countries that have chosen a socialist orientation have rejected neocolonialism and carried out far-reaching, consistently anti-imperialist measures. The countries that adopt a course of cooperation with the imperialist powers are drawn into the neocolonialist sphere of operation.

Neocolonialism takes many forms, including the penetration of foreign monopoly capital into the newly sovereign states and the granting of “aid” in the form of credits and subsidies. (Essentially, such aid creates the conditions for the establishment of control over the development of these states.) Under the neocolonialist system the developing countries are drawn into economic and military blocs and political associations led by the imperialist powers, who force them to sign unequal agreements and impose puppet regimes on them. The imperialist powers often set some countries against others or interfere in the internal affairs of developing countries, organizing reactionary coups, inciting national and tribal strife, and blackmailing the new nations with the “threat of communism.” In addition, the old methods of “traditional” colonialism, including military pressure and outright military intervention, are used in dealing with countries that have broken away from imperialism.

An extremely important factor affecting the methods and forms of contemporary neocolonialism is the scientific and technological revolution, as a result of which the gap between the levels of economic development and economic and technological achievement in the capitalist countries and the developing countries has widened.

In addition to an earlier trend toward maintaining former colonies and semicolonies as agricultural and raw-materials appendages of the economies of the highly developed capitalist countries, there is an increasingly strong new trend toward transforming the developing countries into an “industrial appendage” of the world capitalist economy as a whole. The imperialist monopolies are trying to transfer to the Asian, African, and Latin American countries their own less profitable industries, as well as industries that pollute the environment. Taking advantage of lower labor costs in the developing countries, monopoly capital is seeking to establish entire lines of industry that would produce a higher rate of profit than in the developed capitalist countries.

The progressive forces in the Asian, African, and Latin American countries are struggling against all forms of neocolonialism, especially penetration and coercion by foreign monopoly capital. In this struggle they rely on an alliance with progressive forces throughout the world and especially on the support of the socialist countries.


Ul’ianovskii, R. A. Neokolonializm SShA i slaborazvitye strany Azii. Moscow, 1963.
Solodovnikov, V. G. Afrika vybiraet put’: Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskie problemy i perspektivy. Moscow, 1970. Chapter 4.


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