PoliSci1020E March 20, 2012
Consequences of Imperialism and Ways in Which it is Sustained
What makes it possible? What sustained it?
Franz Nanon (1925 – 1961)
o Key thinker who actively opposed imperialism.
o Trained psychologist who frequently encountered racism.
o Racist thoughts were/are a result of Imperialism.
o European imperialism rested upon the mindset of the inferior “other,” and they
based their invasions on spreading Christianity. It was the fate of non-Christians
to become slaves to Christians. Christian theologians of the time had a difficult
time explaining and labelling other and unfamiliar cultures and races (e.g.
St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.)
o Claimed that the children of Noah’s son Hams (in the Bible) condemned to
slavery, moved to Africa. Thus, African slavery and imperialism was biblically
justified and part of fate.
In addition, Social Darwinism has a significant impact.
o Darwin: Survival is based on adaptability abilities.
o Problem: Darwin’s ideas were wrongly applied to people, in the form of Herbert
Spencer’s (1820-1903) idea of “survival of the fittest.” There was no room for
questioning this theory, because it was presented as science.
o Effects of it for those conquered. E.g. India for Britain.
Cotton and jute were extremely hot commodities and India was
considered “the crown jewel” for imperialism. They would provide a vital
source of profit for the British.
o Social Darwinism justifies the brutality of imperial practise – they said that the
dying poor were simply those condemned to death by natural circumstances. E.g.
8 million Indians died under British rule as a result of starvation and deprivation.
It was an ideology used to “explain the truth” by the imperialists to the general
o However, it has been proven that people – even poor – can achieve if presented
“White Man’s Burden” (Poem)
o Author: Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)
o Claimed that whites of Western society were simply better people – more
civilized and democratic.
o “Non-whites were half-devils half-children, and barbaric.”
o Promoted civilizing the natives (others) as a “responsibility” of the superior and
civilized white man.
o His theory was used by many imperialists to justify their actions and beliefs.
National Interest Henry Kissinger (1923), Secretary of State in USA in 1920’s.
o “When you’re asking Americans to die, it has to be explained in terms of national
The definition of national interest is subjective and open to different understandings.
Why is it so difficult to define?
An interest can mean many things, but an interest can be defined as a claim, need,
demand, or concern.
National Interest is an expression of claims, needs, demands, and concerns voiced by
society as a whole.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778)
o All societies have particular interests, but also common ones. These common
interests are referred to as the “general will” (e.g. peace, unity, equality). Can be
realized only when people put aside their particular interests. Without common
interests, society would disintegrate into groups of personal and selfish interests.
o It is the duty of states to introduce policies that promote the general will.
o The national interest is only the interests of the dominant class (bourgeoisie),
seen as a trick played by the elite.
o Because the state does the bidding of the dominant class, it is impossible for them
to promote an authentic national interest.
Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)
o Doctrine “reason of state.”
o Survival of the state should be the main concern of all rulers, achieved by either
training defence or invading (imperialism). This should be the national interest
(even if it includes brutality and necessary immorality).
o There is a separate morality that doesn’t apply to personal life, a ruler should
know how to do evil.
o Justification = without the state, chaos rules.
Used to make sense of the world and international relations.
o Because the international realm is characterized by anarchy, there is no authority
o States are the key players and have to rely on themselves for survival; assumes
dominance as a theory.
o The state is not guaranteed preservation.
o How to ensure state survival:
Rulers accumulate economic wealth and military power. This is what
furthers the national interest. o It is dangerous for a state to base national interest and foreign policy on moral
Hans Morgenthau (1904 – 1980)
o Key thinker, believed that basing national interest and foreign policy on moral
values was mass national suicide, and you will end up getting involved
o Good intentions (universal morals) don’t always lead to good outcomes.
o If you open yourself as a state to other countries and their moral concerns, you
open your own state up for attack and domination.
o This is an argument for self-preservation through self-interest – it’s peace-
o If you keep interfering internationally, no one is left to defend at home.
National Interest in Application to the Cuban Missile Crisis
Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, Cuba was the playground for the American rich. In
addition, its land and industries belonged to America’s corporations.
1954 Oil Agreement
o Leader in agreement: Fulgencio Batista (1901 – 1975), was “America’s best
friend.” However, in preserving outside powers, his society was poor, and
controlled using violence, fear, and death tactics. Complete structural breakdown
1959 overthrown by Fidel Castro (1926 – present) and a new administration was
Early on, real and suspected Batista sympathizers were gunned down under Castro.
Thousands flee but many stay and support Castro.
Aimed to embrace socialism.
Asks for $4 million loan from states and engage in trade. U.S. rejected his propositions
as long as land reform was part of his platform. Fear: U.S. businesses would lose assets.
Castro promised to pay corporations back $50 million over 20 years. However, only
prompt compensation would do.
Castro took over sugar cane fields and cattle ranches (all American-owned).
Result: U.S. takes counter-actions. They limited the amount of sugar that Cuba could
sell to the U.S.A. Castro sold to the Soviet Union instead (other major super power at the
Castro’s regime rejected the principles and oppression of supposedly Marxist Eastern
Europe, thus in the beginning, relations were weak.
U.S.A. and anti-Castro Cubans bombing raids on Cuban targets – sugar cane fields and
munitions sites – increased. (1960)
As tensions mount, American companies ($1 billion worth) are taken over b