Modernization Theory, Modern Colonization

Growth has always come at a price for any nation, culture, and corporation. The rate of growth is dependent on how much one is willing to change their views, ethics, and morals. Throughout history, the growth in any culture has followed a simple formula and a few simple rules, which have been implemented in various ways, resulting in different degrees and speeds of growth. The basic rules are known through an old proverb applied to many topics involving competition, such as economics, sports, and nature. The proverb states that, "for someone to win, someone must always lose." This is a result of a zero-sum game. Perhaps a more fitting proverb, which is applied to a more natural occurrence of this phenomenon sometimes not involving human involvement, would be, "survival of the fittest," a proverb coined by Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher. One might call this an understatement when describing social relations, but when examined more closely, this rule has been identified by many scholars in the field of social change and development, including Karl Marx who, in his "5 Modes of Production," identified two classes of masters and slaves. Alfred Sauvy took Abby Siyes's "One Planet, Three Worlds" description of the French Revolution, and split the world into the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The current trend is that the 1st and the 2nd Worlds have been coming closer and closer by maintaining an increasingly equal part of global wealth, while the 3rd has been moving further towards extreme poverty.(i)

This principle has been implemented around the world in various forms, however, three fundamental components have continuously remained; The gap between the two classes and the speed at which it grows, how that gap has been enforced, and the way in which the higher class has justified keeping the divide in place. Whether the gap has been geographical, economical or social has played a large role in the implementation of the other two components. This is based on the higher-class's acceptable levels of tolerance and intolerance for different degrees of what in war is referred to as collateral damage. Economy has played a key role in growth of a nation, so obviously trade has been a key factor in the nature of the relationship and interactions between the two classes.

Nowhere in the modern age has this been seen on a larger scale then the European colonization of the Americas, Africa, Middle East, and to a lesser degree in the Far East regions of Asia. The need for new markets and new sources of raw materials led Europe to expand to these regions and impose a foreign system which had a sole purpose of benefiting the colonizers. (ii) As other western nations grew, similar needs arose, and resulted in the same search for markets, raw materials and a cheap work force. The most recent economical expansion has been the current western movement of globalization, mostly, but not limited to, the 3rd World in search of new markets, raw materials, and a cheap labor force(iii), most often driven to this labor as a last result of the poverty and instability left after decolonization. Due to technological advancements in communication and increased education, a growing awareness of the issues and conflicts affecting the 3rd World have made it difficult to justify the new wave of expansion by the western world, similar to the triggering of decolonization after World War II. The Modernization Theory has been used as a reason for this recent expansion, but various faults in the theory made the original arguments in the 1950s to 1970s unrealistic and unaccomplishable. These faults included the assumption that Western countries were most developed, and had not only the right, but the duty to help the less developed countries around the world. This theory assumes that the "less developed" were a backwards society, not realizing that many of the societies in the 3rd World thrived for centuries based on not wrong, but different social norms. This contrast of societies created classes within which one could judge and belittle the less developed societies. Further education and developments in communication methods can make modernization a reality, bringing with it advancements in health, education, and standard of living, but only when the true motivation behind the modernization movement is to benefit the countries in need, and not the wealthier countries, as was the case during the colonization years, and continues to be the case today.

Through out the history of the modern man, trade has been a big part of communal expansion into other regions. Reasons have often been a combination of new markets, new sources of raw materials, and a new labor force. This capitalist economic theory calls for ongoing growth to stay competitive and thrive in an open market society. Competition is often credited with largely benefiting the consumer, but the benefits must come at a disadvantage of another member of the society. The tradesman providing the goods would not take the burden of a loss because further growth would cause further loss, and the inevitable failure of the business. The key to sustained growth has been to produce the same goods and services at a lower cost per unit, without largely affecting the cost, and at the same time raising profit margins. China's economic growth is a recent example. China's rapid GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 9% a year(iv), has been possible through producing and selling large volumes of goods, forcing their workers to work harder, with minimal if any increase in compensation. China's international customers have benefited from the cheaper prices, while China has benefited from increased profit margins. The average Chinese worker however has seen their standard of living decrease, working in conditions below the excepted world standards.

During colonization in the 19th century, European nations expanded raw material production to Africa, in order to produce finished goods in their own home land. This brought enormous profits to the colonizers. The raw goods were bought at below market prices, which the colonized farmers were unable to negotiate, out of fear for prosecution and other methods of intimidation(v). To increase profits, the goods were produced in such high volumes, the local market was not able to consume the new influx of products and over production created under consumption. At the same time, a new consumer market was slowly developing in the colonized nations. Out of the exported raw materials, the finished goods were imported back and resold to the colonized nations(vi). Various ways of taxation and unfair trade forced many farmers to succumb to the western currencies. The introduction of western goods at lower costs, although lesser quality, prevented many local vendors from competing, and they as well had to surrender to the new currencies and economy. This undermined the local economy and forced it to conform to the colonizers social systems. In the 1800's China resisted the influx of international products, excepting mostly gold and silver for their teas and fabrics. England decided to weaken China's economic and social culture by importing large amounts of opium grown on their farms in the nearby India. After the Chinese population's addiction to the drug became a national problem, their emperor retaliated by destroying 20,000 shipments of the drug. In retaliation to the defensive move, England initiated the Opium War(vii), which after 2 years of bloodshed, would eventually give Hong Kong to England, all in the name of profits.

In recent years, through various media, the growing awareness of globalization and the impact large corporation have on communities around the world, has put a spot light on the impact economic growth and expansion has had on societies. As during colonization, the benefits quickly shifted from a "mother country"(viii) to large corporations acting as the main recipient of the benefits of expansion. A recent example is the fast food industry in the United States, the pride of capitalism. Its profits grew from $6 billion a year in 1970, to more then $110 in 2001.(ix) This market has become the prime example of over production, but at the same time, over consumption. Through increased spending on advertising, such as Coca-Cola spending $1.6 billion in 1998(x), the companies have been able to convince the public that consuming their product is a good alternative, despite the numerous health risks associated with their product.(xi) The pattern of expansion has repeated itself in the form of expansion into new markets. The international expansion first occurred within the United States, and over years has spread to countries around the world. McDonald's restaurants now open more restaurants outside of the Unites States. In the last 10 years, McDonald's has expanded its international restaurants from three thousand to seventeen thousand restaurants, in over 120 countries. Every 4 restaurants out of 5 are opened oversees.(xii) While the awareness of the health risks is growing the western countries, forcing McDonald's to introduce a healthier choice meal and listing nutritional facts on their packaging, other developing nations are still not aware of the health risks, and will not see similar changes in their local restaurants.

The need for cheaper raw materials and a cheaper work force has also come about due to the fast-food industry. The meat supplied to the restaurant comes from the United States, but the monopoly in the fast food industry has put increased pressure on the ranchers, eventually putting most out of business, in favor of larger meat packing plants. The cheap labor initially came from Americans desperate for work, but increased labor disputes forced the meat packers to look for a more vulnerable work force. One solution has been to higher desperate workers like homeless people and immigrants from other countries like Mexico and Bolivia. These workers labored for much less pay and with higher health risks then the average US citizen was willing to. With the increase in illegal migrant workers, the meat packing plants were able to convince the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is responsible for "assuring the safety and health of American workers"(xiii), to reduce enforcement of health and safety laws.(xiv) In Latin America, Coca-Cola has had a lawsuit brought up against them "for the murder of union activist Isidro Gil Segundo and an ongoing campaign of intimidation, terror, murder and paramilitary activity against union members and leaders."(xv) Even the capitalist model of the United States, not despite but due to its growth, has put many people and communities in similarly desperate conditions as colonized nations were, and continue to be today. Western environmental and human rights laws prevent some jobs from being done within their borders. As a result, those countries where these rules are relaxed receive employment unfit for western countries. One example is the "scrap-recycling operations" where old ships are sent to countries such as India and Bangladesh and taken apart for scrap metal. These ships too often contain nuclear waste or other forms of material causing health and environmental risks, causing the entire recycling operation to be deemed as "blatant disregard for the environment, human rights, and international law" by Greenpeace.(xvi) Despite an average death of 1 person per day, and Basel Convention Guidelines regulating these operations, and banning most, they continue to stay open, due to the necessity of their services to industrialized countries.

The key observation here is the need to conceal the draw backs of sustained growth from the consumer market. "Out of site and out of mind" has been a powerful tool in the hands of colonizers and today's corporations. Misinformation about the affects of colonization made it seem like the colonized peoples were better of, racking in the rewards the western world had to offer.(xvii) In reality, the thriving economical and social states in regions like Africa and India were crippled by the burdens of colonization.(xviii) The ability to sustain the exploitation of 3rd World countries was a delicate balancing act by the governments and factories collecting the profits, and what the public really new. Awareness wasn't as wide spread in the colonizing countries of the monstrosities occurring in their name, and in the name of their religions. The idea of a "white man's burden" has been used to justify the takeover of entire societies in search for wealth.(xix) Christianity was forced on indigenous people not only to make them conform to "serving a higher power" mentality, but also to justify colonization back home. Such measures worked until people became aware of what was actually taking place on the ground. Most would look away, but others brought the realities to the forefront. A 2005 documentary(xx) revealed how lobbyists from England in the 19th Century prohibited and manipulated the information on the health risks of sugar and the working conditions of African slaves in the Caribbean who worked on the sugar cane plantations. The documentary also revealed that the lobbyists are still promoting their distorted message. The European colonizers of the 19th century were forced to let go of the hold they had on other countries, partly due to their weakening after World War II, and partly by the pressure from United States and USSR, the two new super powers after WWII. During decolonization, countries either left abruptly leaving a state of social and economic disarray, or only gave the illusion of independence, leaving in place a "puppet ruler" responsible for carrying out the old regimes policies.(xxi) Both of the superpower regimes gave money to leaders who supported their ideas, disregarding the effects they would have on the country. War-lords and rebel fighters were used to overthrow governments not complying with the democratic or socialist system. African countries were pinned against each other to support the interests of the west.(xxii)

Many ideas came about to deal with the issues of decolonized nations. The problems were made harder by the end of the Cold War where the United States and the capitalist democracy they promoted won over the USSR's socialist system. The push from world leaders for capitalism and the globalization of raw materials is now being promoted through the idea of modernizing the 3rd World, which was widely talked about in the 1950s through to the 1970s. This movement claimed to promote "greater political and economical interaction among people and the growth of communication networks would break down peoples` 'parochial' identities with ethnic kindred and replace them with loyalties to larger communities like Canada or the European Community."(xxiii) Unfortunately, this has only lead to resistance of newly enforced rules, which resemble the old regimes of colonization. "Puppet rulers," promoted corruption, due to the influx of funds to local governments from other countries, money which was never delivered to the public. Aid was mostly provided in the way of loans, which made the borrower at the mercy of the west. As some got rich, others remained poor, which let to competition and inequalities, eventually leading to civil war. Leaders made "claims on behalf of the group's collective interests reflect material and political as well as cultural linguistic, and religious concerns."

This ongoing dependence on other countries again resembles the old colonized regimes. The idea of bringing a capitalist market into decolonized regions depends on their participation in global capitalist trade. Unfortunately, after years of colonial rule and civil infighting, there is no industry in place, except for raw materials. Again, these countries are forced to export these precious commodities, and again below market prices. Growing debts give them no choice but to conform to these conditions, and in time, with the decrease of social stability and an increase of frustration, giving rise to a ethnonational revolt where the "main political objective is the 'exit' strategy"(xxiv) and not a unified nationalism. This time of unification would make self-reliance possible and allow for sustainable long term growth from within, instead of an attack on the current rulers, making civil war inevitable.

In order to again justify the current Modernization Theory, various measures and principles have been created to show the results in a positive light. The gross national product (GNP) rates countries on the value of products they produce, but doesn't reflect the level of education, health, human rights, and standard of living. In developing countries this product is most likely raw materials, and is exported since there is no industry to produce a finished product. In Latin America for example, natives used trees to provide for their families and tribes. Now, this precious resource is being cut at an alarming rate to provide lumber for other countries' economic growth.(xxv) The attempt to democratize decolonized nations has been identified as causing "ethnic and communal conflict."(xxvi) Even though developing countries' GDP or GNP may go up, national unity is not achievable because the resources which could have provided long-term support are now being depleted. Figures increasingly show the poverty rate in the world is decreasing, but when looked beyond the headlines, realities come through. These numbers reflect the decreases in poverty achieved by Asia, but hide the increases in extreme poverty occurring in sub-Sahara Africa. The number of people in extreme poverty in this region has actually increased, from 164 million in 1981, to 313 million in 2001. "Food production per person has been falling,"(xxvii) with nutritional food and caloric intake decreasing. This causes a health epidemic, induced further by the lack of medical supplies. If the Millennium Development Goals are realized, projected figure of Africa's poor in 2015 would be 198 million, more then in 1981, but decreasing(xxviii).

What can we do?

If the 1st World was to truly help the 3rd World, then efforts should depend primarily on what the 3rd World really needs, and not as secondary to how the 1st World can make a profit. The changes needed are for western countries to give fair trade, not financial aid. The current percentage of the GNP which is given to aid must be increased. Technological and medical advancement should be provided to truly induce communication and progress in trade. United States, the riches of all the countries, only donates 0.21% of its GNP to foreign aid. The world's GNP must be increased to 0.7% for there to be any real progress in solving the poverty situation.(xxix) The means of distribution must also change. Instead of giving the money to governments, most of which goes to relieving debt, government fees, and paying consultants, the money should be directed at development in specific regions. The Gambia Pneumococcal Vaccine Trial (GPVT) in 2005 gathered money from donors, which went directly into the project.(xxx) Its success can be measured by the fact that meningitis and pneumonia were eliminated from Gambia in just five years.(xxxi) For comparison, the Nepal government was given funds from the World Bank to purchase half a million vaccines to fight a Japanese Encephalitis outbreak, which cause 8,000 deaths in Uttar Pradesh in 1978. In 2005, the outbreak killed 200 confirmed cases, mostly children, although health officials admit that these only account for deaths in public hospitals, and the actual death toll could be closer to 1,500.(xxxii) The government of Nepal has since been criticized for not providing the vaccines fast enough.

New developments in technology, specifically the internet would improve communications and allow people around the world to see the realities and consequences of what they do at home, without it being filtered and distorted in interest of lobbyists. Personal web logs known as BLOGs, allow people to see first hand accounts of disasters around the world. No source should be the only source, but when true information is available, it helps with the distortion coming from special interest groups. Technology like radios could be given out to farmers to see what the world prices are for their goods. This would allow them to receive the money they deserve. Local farming groups could work together and become self sufficient. Money which is invested and monitored, is put to better use. Countries too often give money out and see it as "money lost." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote that "There will be no development without security, and no security without development."(xxxiii) Investments in local groups for their own benefits would help them with national pride. Instead of trying to impose a power structure like capitalism or socialism, cultures should be allowed to develop their own structure which is not competing with the local realities, whether they be geographical, economical or social.

i. J. D. Sachs, "Can Extreme Poverty be Eliminated?", Scientific American, Sept, 2005, 56.
ii. D. Green & L Luermann, Comparative Politics of The Third World, London & Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc, 2003, Part I pp 47.
iii. T.C. Lewellen, Dependency and Development: An Introduction to the Third World. Connecticut & London: Bergin & Garvey, 1995: pp 24.
iv. "Table 15. GDP Growth Rate", United Nations, (Last Updated on April 21, 2005, viewed on March 18, 2006,
v. M. Palmberg (Ed), (1982), The Struggle for Africa, London, Zed Press: "The Colonization of Africa", pp 24.
vi. DG & LL CPoTW, 48.
vii. TCL D&D, 35.
viii. TCL D&D, 22.
ix. E. Schlosser, (2002), Fast Food Nation, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company: pp 3
x. J Ledbetter, The New Coke Order, (Last updated 1998, viewed on October 13, 2005,
xi. C Lambert, The Way We Eat Now, (Last updated June, 2004, viewed on October 16, 1005,
xii. ES FFN, 229.
xiii. OSHA, OSHA's Mission, (Last updated October 20, 2005, viewed October October 20, 2005,
xiv. ES FFN, 162, 179.
xv. K Lydersen, Sugar and Blood, Coke In Latin America, (Last updated March 11, 2003, viewed on October 21, 2005,
xvi. Greenpeace India, No more Ships for Scrap to India or Bangladesh: Green Groups expose, (Last updated on July 11, 2005, viewed on October 20, 2005,
xvii. MP SforA, 10.
xviii. MP SforA, 1-19.
xix. DG & LL CPoTW, 50.
xx. B Mckenna, Big Sugar; Sweet, White & Deadly, Galafilm Production: Montreal 2005.
xxi. DG & LL CPoTW, pp 60-62.
xxii. DG & LL CPoTW, pp 67-68.
xxiii. T. R. Gurr, "Peoples against States: Ethnonational Conflict and the Changing World System", in International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 30. 1994, pp. 341-352.
xxiv. TRG ISQ, 354.
xxv. TCL D&D, 25.
xxvi. TRG ISQ, 361.
xxvii. JDS SA, 56.
xxviii. JDS SA, 61
xxix. JDS SA, 64
xxx. "Vaccinating African children against pneumococcal disease saves lives", World Health Organization, (Last updated March 25, 2005, viewed October 23, 2005,
xxxi. "Gambia hails vaccination success", BBC News, (Last updated June 29, 2005, viewed October 25, 2005,
xxxii. "Encephalitis claims 200 in Nepal", BBC News, (Last updated September 13, 2005, viewed October 25, 2005,
xxxiii. JDS SA, 65.