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Decolonize Explained: What is Colonization?
Decolonization: it’s all the rage. But what does it actually mean?
To help answer this question, I’ve produced a series of videos with Dr. Bruce Gilley—who, in addition to being a world-class scholar and expert in colonialization, has also recently become the most hated person a Portland State University!
So, it is indeed an honor to have him guest write a post my Substack.
I hope you enjoy and learn from his videos. Without further ado, here's Dr. Gilley's guest post and the first video in the series:
By: Bruce Gilley
A growing clamor to “decolonize” Western societies preys upon mistaken notions of what Western colonialism was and the results of decolonization in most societies.
The original “decolonizers” were the European imperial powers themselves. Their extension of liberal governance to the Third World brought the first wave of decolonization to societies long ruled by illiberal empires such as the Fulani slave state of West Africa, the corrupt Mughal dynasty of India, or the sadistic Comanche empire of the American southwest and Great Plains. Other indigenous empires who were in the process of colonizing native peoples, such as the Buganda of East Africa or the Tongans of the South Pacific, were stopped by European expansion.
The European empires were the most liberal the world had ever seen because European states were the most liberal forms of rule at the time. European rule rested upon a combination of legitimacy and self-interest for the colonized peoples. Coercive forces were minimal and most domestic threats were subdued through the participation of the colonized in counter-insurgency efforts.
Because of their liberal norms, European empires cultivated and encouraged liberal norms among the colonized, one of which was the development of self-government and extensive freedoms. From the mid-19th century onwards, European colonial rule was premised explicitly on the aim of creating self-governing states that would uphold liberal rights, good governance, and steady development, all of which was centered on the expansion of human flourishing.
After World War II, the economic crisis in Europe led to an acceleration of plans to withdraw rule from the colonial eras. Native politicians stepped into the growing power vacuum, styling themselves as “liberators from colonial oppression.” The problem was that most areas were far from ready to stand on their own as independent states. Rapid decolonization in the Third World led to the greatest humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen as country after country succumbed to civil war, economic collapse, and political repression. Decolonization did not bring liberation but a return to the pre-colonial oppression by rival groups of the past.
Calls today to “decolonize” the West amount to an open appeal to similarly destroy the foundations of liberal civilization on which human flourishing depends. The “decolonize” movement is nothing if not consistent with the Third World nationalists of the past. It seeks a destruction of the market economy in favor of state socialism; a rejection of liberal equality in favor of neo-racism and group-based status arrangements; an overthrow of electoral democracy in favor of street protest; a circumscribing of extensive freedoms and pluralism in favor of Woke ideology and censorship; and a replacement of neutral and good governance with revolutionary agitation orchestrated by progressive political and economic elites.
Bruce: So, colonization is kind of way of tutelage, or kind of mentoring program is a way to think of it, where an established state establishes rule in an area where there's not an established state, with the aim to help them develop the foundations to become a self-governing people.
More about colonialism from Dr. Bruce Gilley next week!