Colonialism has played a significant role in crafting our ‘contemporary international politics’ ; an influential force that has contributed to our current global issues. The term colonialism connotes an image of a domineering and oppressive empire controlling a subservient colonial state. This prestigious role is particularly seen in the Western world, where they ‘dominate the international society’ and have a form of colonial power over the ‘underdeveloped third world .’Although the colonial system has become extinct, the effects of it are still being experienced by the once colonised countries.
The extreme economic and social inequality that is occurring in the world today can be seen as a consequence of momentous historical events, with European colonialism being one of the most prevalent and major. The continuing existence of Western supremacy and characteristics of colonialism such as racism and xenophobia are still widespread, revealing that colonialism is still a dominant characteristic of global politics and demonstrates the fact that ‘the colonial past influences the postcolonial present’ .
The colonial strategy of ‘[playing the] leading role’ and economically exploiting a region is still transpiring in the Western world today; the use of ‘racialized labour recruitment’ in underdeveloped nations resembles the works of colonialism. This economic influence is a form of indirect control through the facade of aid, investments and trade policies, which ultimately make these nations ‘economically dependent’ .
In the contemporary context, domestic workers in Third World countries such as Bangladesh and India, work in dangerous conditions to produce goods for Western businesses such as Nike and Primark. These western companies exploit child labour and sweatshops, paying them as low as $2 an hour ; such mistreatment can be considered as modern-day slavery. This highlights how Core countries such as the USA are still deeply invested in colonial pursuits which essentially allows them to exert ‘economic power across the globe without direct political control’ and reveals that Western consumers are entitled to ‘own and expend a majority of the world resources’ .
The West’s negligence of human rights violations and conditions in these factories demonstrates how colonialist attitudes are still occurring in this modern domain. In a world where the Western countries benefit vastly by acquiring resources from the developing nations through labour workers, emphasises how colonialism is still a dominant factor of international politics both historically and in the present.
Colonialism being a dominant factor of international politics can also be seen in the cinematic portrayal of ‘the “East”’ and how they ‘are defined as the “Others”’ . Cinema that enforces stereotypes are predominantly produced by the United States and Europe for example films such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Stereotypical films have high racial implications which pollute the minds of the West and make the ‘Others’ seem sinister and simply the subject of ridicule. These cynical connotations of other cultures resemble the attitudes that were held during the period of colonisation and reflect the ‘European imagery of barbarians and outsiders’ ; unveiling how current Western views of the non-West are effects of European colonialism. Universal perceptions of undeveloped nations as being ‘native, primitive, savage, barbarian’ make the Western world seem more ‘superior and evolved.’
These widely-held views allowed European powers to ‘classify [non-Western people] into hierarchies’ making the ‘natives’ appear inferior. Said unveiled how People of the Orient are symbolised as being ‘exotic, backward and non-rational’, whereas the West are identified with more positive qualities such as being more ‘secular, liberated… and civilized.’ The comparison between the Western states and the non-Western world is a continuance of the hierarchal beliefs that were prevalent during colonialism, and highlights how it is still existing in our international politics.
Contemporary issues such as discriminatory acts against ethnic minorities and the rising xenophobia occurring in the United States reveal how colonialism is still a dominant factor in our world politics. Recently, the Muslim Travel Ban policy enforced by Trump can be seen as a reflection of colonial xenophobia as it targets specific races and ethnicities– creating a great divide in ‘the relationship between the East and West.’
An echo of colonialism can also be seen in the US detention centres where Mexican migrants were detained – parallel to the British concentration camps used in the Second Boer War when South Africa was colonised. Treating humans differently on the basis of religion, race and ethnicity is an aspect of colonialism and still exists today. Racial infringements in government politics and our current domain reveals how an element of colonialism is still present in our society and international politics.
Overall, it can be argued that colonialism is still a dominant characteristic of international politics and our contemporary issues and events are an effect of it. Colonial attitudes that ensued in the past are mirrored in today’s society such as how Western knowledge is credited more than the non-Western world. Issues of racism and ethnic discrimination resemble the xenophobic colonial attitudes are widespread today in our global politics. The Global West dominating the rest of the world is a continuance of colonialism and demonstrates how the ‘colonial experience is crucial to reach an understanding of contemporary politics’ . These problems highlight that colonialism is still a dominant characteristic of international politics.