A hand-drawn image shows a mountain with several streams running down it toward a town.
The silver mines at Potosí, in what is now Bolivia, were an important source of silver for Spain's trade with China, helping to fuel Europe's rise to economic dominance.
illustration from Cieza de Leon 1553

The Rise of the West [link]

Map of world GDP per capita
Figure 1: World GDP per capita.
data from World Bank World dataBank

One of the perennial questions in the social sciences is to explain "the rise of the West." "The West" is a vague term roughly corresponding with the developed world or global North, excluding Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. Looking at Figure 1, we know that certain parts of our world have been at the forefront of economic growth, becoming the core of the capitalist world economy. More specifically, we know that the industrial revolution began in the English Midlands, and spread first to the rest of Europe and North America. But why those countries instead of others?

A huge variety of theories have been proposed to explain why certain countries have come to dominate the world economy. One long-popular theory was race: Europeans, and their descendants elsewhere in the world, were said to be simply more intelligent and harder-working (Kobayashi 2003). But as we learned in an earlier chapter, race is not a biologically valid concept when applied to people. And if the white race is not biologically distinct from other races, then we can’t explain the economic growth of Europe on the basis of biological characteristics. A related theory was environmental determinism. We will discuss environmental determinism in detail later. For now, we can summarize by saying that some people argued that the temperate climate of Europe was invigorating to its inhabitants, whereas tropical climates in much of the rest of the world made people lazy and sensual (Frenkel 1992). This theory too has been discredited, as no evidence exists to support it. Other writers have tried to find something inherent in European culture to explain the difference. In his essay "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," sociologist Max Weber argued that the Protestant doctrine of predestination -- which held that God had already decided who would go to Heaven and who would go to Hell, and there was nothing an individual could do about it -- caused people to work hard and invest their savings in the economy rather than wasting them on Earthly pleasures. If they succeeded in their economic endeavors, people would take that as proof that they were favored by God and thus likely to be among those predestined for Heaven (Weber 1904). Weber’s theory fails to account for the greater economic dynamism of Asia during much of the period after the Protestant reformation or the recent economic success of Catholic (Spain, Ireland) and Confucian (Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore) societies.

Today, geographers hold that one critical piece of the puzzle of the rise of the West is colonialism. Colonialism is a process by which a country takes over new land, and reorganizes that land's economy to benefit the colonizing power, rather than to benefit the residents of the colony. Colonialism works to funnel wealth back to the colonizer while inhibiting the development of the colony.

World Systems Theory [link]

As geographers, we are interested in the way that the spatial arrangement of societies may influence the development of economic systems. One important synthesis of the way these spatial arrangements work is World Systems Theory. We can think of World Systems Theory as making several core propositions (Frank 1998, Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997):

1. Large areas of the world have been integrated into single economic systems for a long period of time. The formation of some of the early trans-regional economic linkages can be dated to as early as 3000 BCE, when the Sumerians living in what is now Iraq traded with Egypt and the Harappan civilization in what is now Pakistan (Frank and Gills 1992). Over time, these trans-regional economic linkages have spread farther and grown stronger, leading eventually to our modern globe-spanning economy.

2. In any widespread economic system, a division into a core, semiperiphery, and periphery can emerge. The important idea here is that long-distance trade is not carried on for the equal benefit of all parties. Rather, the system is typically organized so that the bulk of the profits accrue to one area of the world, called the core. Other portions of the system, called the periphery, experience a loss of wealth due to their participation in the system. The semiperiphery is composed of areas in between the core and periphery. Semiperipheral areas often aspire to become the core, in order to reap the rewards of long-distance trade. For example, imagine what happens when a mining company opens a new mine in Papua New Guinea. The world's major mining companies are headquartered in places like North America and Europe. This means that the profits from selling the mine's products will go to investors in those regions. Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea may receive a few low-paying jobs. But they also lose potential mineral wealth, and have to deal with pollution from the mine. Since Papua New Guinea is so poor, they lack the power to say no to the foreign mining company, or to mine the minerals themselves.

3. Large economic systems go through boom and bust phases on a long historical time scale. We're familiar with short-term economic ups and downs, which last perhaps a few years at a time. But economic historians have also identified long-lasting waves of economic growth and decline, lasting several hundred years. During the growth phase, economic activity picks up, populations rise, and the volume of trade between regions increases. But eventually, the system becomes too rigid and overexploits its resources, and there is a downswing (Chew 2001). During this contraction phase, regions refocus on local subsistence and trade declines. Eventually, the stage is set for a renewal of growth.

Origins of the Modern World System [link]

In order to explain how "the West" became the core of our current world economic system, we have to go back to a time when it wasn't. Economic historians calculate that the emergence of Europe as the core of the world economy occurred relatively late in history -- possibly as late as 1850. Prior to that, other regions of the world, specifically China and India, could be considered the core (Frank 1998).

Map of Afro-Eurasian cities and trade routes, c. 1200 CE
Figure 2: Afro-Eurasian trade routes and major cities, c. 1200 CE.
data from Open History and Beaujard 2005

We can begin to trace the causes of "the rise of the West" in the 1200s. At this time, most of the Eastern Hemisphere -- from Britain to Japan, and from Russia to Zimbabwe -- was connected in one large trade network (Abu-Lughod 1989), shown in Figure 2. India and China were the dominant economic powers in this system. Europe was attracted by the riches of Asia, but had few products that it could trade for Asian goods. European trade with Asia was further hampered by a lack of easy trade routes to the East. Ships sailing in the Mediterranean were blocked by the African, Arabian, and central Asian land masses, the rulers of which could limit trade or extract taxes from merchants. Much of the trade within Asia was carried on by Arab and Chinese ships, and caravans through Central Asia.

In the 1300s, this world system experienced a decline (Abu-Lughod 1989). This was in part triggered by the Black Plague. The plague originated with rats from central Asia. It spread quickly along trade routes throughout the Eastern Hemisphere, devastating populations and thereby disrupting economies. Long-distance trade fell off as people focused on maintaining their own local livelihoods. But by the late 1400s, the world economy was on its way back. As trade routes began to grow again, European rulers and merchants committed themselves to capturing more of the trade surplus -- to becoming less of a semiperiphery and more of a core part of the world economic system.

Europe had a breakthrough in 1492 with the voyage of Christopher Columbus (Blaut 1993). Popular culture portrays Columbus as having the insight that the world was round -- and thus that China could be reached by sailing westward -- while his ignorant contemporaries insisted the world was flat. But in fact this is a myth, invented by storyteller Washington Irving in 1828. Educated people in Europe had known the world was round since the ancient Greeks proved it around 200 BCE. The real disagreement was over how big the earth was. The Greeks had calculated a relatively accurate figure -- 39,690 km around, as compared to an actual measurement of 40,008 km. If there was nothing but ocean between Europe and China, the sailing ships available in Europe at the time could not make the voyage. But Columbus was convinced that the Earth was smaller than that, and therefore that he could sail all the way to China (Blaut 1989).

What Columbus found, of course was that there were two whole continents lying west of Europe and east of China. It was Europe that stumbled upon them simply because Europe was located much closer to the Americas than China or India were. These continents proved far more lucrative for Europe than any trade route. Conquest and colonization of the Americas provided Europe with a huge boost in resources and markets that enabled it to hitch a ride on the Asian train – and eventually take over that train.

Conquest, De-population, and Re-population [link]

Europe had two key advantages that enabled colonial powers such as Spain, Portugal, Britain, and France to take over large swaths of the Americas. The first was technological superiority (Diamond 1997). Europe had benefited from being connected to the large Afro-Eurasian landmass, giving it access to the technological ingenuity of a large population of people, and creating competition that drove those people to devise new technologies for projecting power over new lands. In particular, Europeans brought with them steel (known since antiquity but greatly improved by Indian smiths), and guns (invented by the Chinese). (Note that contrary to popular myth, the Chinese did not use gunpowder solely for fireworks -- indeed, one would have to be rather dense to invent something that makes a dramatic explosion, and not figure out that you could use it to kill someone!) Native Americans were often skilled fighters, and they quickly took up European weaponry, but they remained largely dependent on trade with European allies to keep up in the arms race.

But Europe's advantages in military technology alone would have been insufficient to guarantee victory. In his first assault on the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Hernán Cortéz's forces -- armed with guns, swords, steel armor, and war horses -- were defeated by the Aztecs. Yet in their second assault, they were successful. The difference was that while the Spanish were regrouping, a plague (historians think it was likely smallpox) wiped out many of Tenochtitlan's warriors. The pattern would be repeated throughout the Americas. In Peru, Francisco Pizarro defeated the Incas by taking advantage of a civil war that broke out when a disease (probably smallpox as well) killed the emperor Huayna Capac and his designated heir, Ninan Cuyochi. In what is now Massachusetts, the generosity of the Wampanoags to the arriving Pilgrims was not merely a matter of altruism. Rather, the tribe had been devastated by a disease epidemic. This meant that they had a lot of land to give away, but were at a distinct military disadvantage against inland tribes who had not been hit so hard, and thus they wanted allies. (Unfortunately for the Wampanoags' strategic calculations, the English soon turned against all of New England's native people).

Throughout the Americas, European diseases wiped out countless native people. Among the diseases causing significant epidemics were "smallpox, chickenpox, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, yellow fever, common cold, pneumonia, scarlet fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, dysentery, cholera, bubonic plague, malaria, and amoebic dysentery" (Krech 1999). The pre-European population of the Americas is estimated to have been somewhere in the range of 40 to 80 million, but the population was reduced to only 6 million by 1650 (Denevan 1992). It was not uncommon for tribes to lose 90% or more of their members. And disease spread quicker than European explorers and conquerors. So as Europeans pushed into the heart of the Americas, they found tribes already devastated by disease and "wilderness" that had only recently been abandoned.

Three key factors explain why European diseases were so devastating to Native Americans, whereas with the exception of syphilis, no American diseases ever became a problem for Europeans: domestic animals, population size, and time (Dobson and Carper 1994).

Most of the devastating epidemic diseases are derived from diseases common to herd animals. Smallpox derives from cowpox, measles from rinderpest, and human influenza from related diseases of a variety of livestock. Acquisition of deadly diseases from animals continues today, with recent concerns over bird flu and swine flu. Humans caught these diseases by domesticating animals like cattle, sheep, and chickens. Farmers living in close proximity to their livestock gave ample time for the bacteria and viruses to jump the species barrier. As a result of the vagaries of biogeography, the Afro-Eurasian landmass contained a number of suitable domesticable species. The Americas, on the other hand, produced only three domesticated animals -- turkeys, llamas and alpacas, and guinea pigs (Native Americans also had dogs, which were brought from Asia). None of these are the sort of herd animals that commonly pass diseases to humans (Diamond 1997).

For a disease to persist in a population, it needs to strike a balance between being too virulent and not virulent enough (Dobson and Carper 1994). A disease that is too slow to infect new victims will disappear, as everyone who has it dies or gets better without passing it on to new victims. A disease that infects too quickly will soon find itself without any new victims because everyone in the population is either dead or healed. It is much easier for a disease to hit this sweet spot in a large, dense population. At the time of colonization, Europe was much more densely populated than the Americas. And the hemisphere-wide economic system that had emerged connected Europe into a huge total population of people. Thus, the diseases that people in Afro-Eurasia got from their livestock could easily find new victims in the local area, and pass on to new areas when the local epidemic's peak passed. The population of the Americas, on the other hand, was smaller, less densely settled, and less tightly linked into long-distance trade.

Finally, diseases have a much more devastating impact when they come to a new population for the first time. This is a simple matter of evolutionary biology. For any given disease, human genetic variation will produce people with a variety of levels of susceptibility to the disease. Epidemics will tend to kill the people who are most susceptible, preventing them from passing on their genes. Over time, only the genes conferring high resistance to the disease will be left. Thus, millennia of living with various diseases had turned them into childhood nuisances but not terrible plagues for Europeans. Native Americans, on the other hand, had never had an opportunity to evolve resistance to diseases like smallpox or measles, and so they were killed in huge numbers.

Map of the world showing major empires in 1754
Figure 3: Colonialism in 1754. China remained the richest country on Earth, but had not conquered an overseas colonial empire. Major European powers concentrated on establishing colonies in the Americas (some of the most valuable of which, in the Caribbean, are too small to be shown here) and trading posts in Africa and Asia.
based on a map by Wikimedia/Andrei nacu

Once the American colonies (Figure 3) were conquered, the new European rulers had to find someone to extract the resources and produce the products that would make the colonies worthwhile. Initial attempts to use Native American labor were disappointing, as so many of them had died of diseases. So the colonial rulers brought about two major migration streams: settlers from Europe, and slaves from Africa.

At least a few Europeans settled in every colony, in order to run its affairs and direct the production of wealth for the ruler. But European settlement was particularly heavy in areas that have come to be known as neo-Europes -- Canada, the US, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay in the Americas, as well as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The distinguishing feature of the neo-Europes is the similarity of their climates to that of Europe. This made it easy for the package of plants and animals that support the European way of life to be transferred to the new colonies (Crosby 1986). For example, English farming systems involving wheat, peas, and cattle could be recreated in the northeastern US with little effort. While they were set up as colonies, the wholesale transfer of the European way of life to these areas enabled them to become rivals to the European homelands, and even, in the case of the US, capture the status of global economic core.

Other areas of the colonies were less climatically similar to Europe, but they produced many of the most important commodities such as sugar and tobacco. Here, the European rulers relied heavily on slaves brought from Africa. Slavery had existed for a long time in both Europe and Africa. But the trans-Atlantic slave trade differed in several crucial ways. First was the scale. Between 1492 and 1900, over 10 million men and women were taken from Africa to the Americas (Voyages 2009). Second, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was highly racialized. We learned in an earlier chapter that the idea of race, in the sense of biologically distinct sub-species of humans, was created during the colonial era to justify the social organization of the colonies. In the past, slaves had been captives from war or children sold off by impoverished parents. During the colonial era, Europeans came to believe that the people of an entire continent were fit only to work at the behest of superior types of humans (Sundberg 2008).

Europeans did not colonize the interior of Africa during this period (though they would do so later, after the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade). The work of capturing slaves and bringing them to the European trading ports was done by other Africans. But the presence of massive European demand for slaves greatly shaped Africans' incentives. European trade goods, particularly guns, quickly became necessities. A ruler who acquired guns from the Europeans in exchange for slaves was at a political and military advantage vis-a-vis neighbors who did not participate in the slave trade. Raiding neighboring villages or even selling off members of your own tribe served as insurance against becoming a victim of the slave trade yourself -- sell them before they sell you (Nunn and Wantchekon 2009).

The slave trade exacerbated conflicts among kingdoms and tribes in Africa. It depopulated significant swaths of land, which then reverted to disease-infested swamps. And it undermined African economies. Slave traders naturally preferred able-bodied young men and women, who were the productive backbone of pre-slave-trade African economies. Losing these workers made Africa more dependent on European goods and less able to produce for itself. The effects of four centuries of slave trade on Africa are still apparent, a mere century and a half after its end. Ethnic groups that were hardest-hit by the slave trade exhibit lower trust and poorer economic success than their neighbors who were less devastated by slavery (Nunn and Wantchekon 2009).

Colonial Riches and the Asian Trade [link]

Map of world silver flows
Figure 4: World silver flows, 1500-1800.
data from Frank 1998

Europe's first priority in establishing American colonies was to produce things that they could sell to China and India. One of the reasons that Europe had remained in the semiperiphery of the world economy before 1492 was that there was little that Europe could produce that China and India wanted. Asian manufacturing was much more productive than that of Europe. As late as 1793, the Chinese Emperor Ch'ien Lung bragged to King George III of England: "I set no value on objects strange and ingenious and have no use for your country's manufactures" (Frank 1998).

One major commodity that China did demand from the outside world was precious metals, particularly silver (Frank 1998). China's economy ran on a silver standard, and so economic growth created an enormous hunger for silver. But unfortunately for China, there are few silver mines in its territory. The Americas, on the other hand, had huge untapped deposits of silver. The mines of the Americas began pumping silver into the Asian economy, either moving directly across the Pacific in Spanish galleons, or passing to Europe and then on via the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia (Figure 4). As the silver flowed toward China, a variety of commodities -- textiles, spices, ceramics, and others -- flowed back toward Europe.

Other natural resources and agricultural products were important as well (Pomeranz 2000). European powers moved quickly to establish plantations in the Caribbean and nearby parts of the mainland to grow sugar, tobacco, and cotton, among other products. Timber and other forest products like turpentine were also important. These raw materials fed the manufacturers of Europe, easing resource constraints that had grown as Europe's economy expanded.

Finally, the American colonies provided a captive market for European manufactured goods (Blaut 1993). While Asians had little interest in Europe's poorer-quality textiles, ceramics, etc., settlers in European colonies had little choice but to buy them. The colonies' external trade was controlled by the ruling power (so they couldn't trade with China themselves), and they were often forbidden from developing their own manufacturing base to compete with the mother country.

Colonizing the East [link]

Maps of the world showing major empires in 1914
Figure 5: Colonialism in 1914. This map shows the world's major empires on the eve of World War I. The focus of European colonialism has shifted to the Eastern Hemisphere, and neo-European United States has become a colonial power in its own right, seizing some of declining Spain's possessions. After the war, much of the Ottoman Empire's territory was divided up among Britain and France, while Germany lost its overseas possessions to the victorious nations. China's power was severely weakened by the ongoing fall of the Qing Dynasty.
based on a map by Wikimedia/Andrei nacu

A mere boost to Europe's fortunes was not enough to turn Europe into the core of the world economy. Extracting resources from the Americas got Europe into the economic game, making it more competitive and richer, and giving it the ability to become an important middleman in intra-Asian trade as well as trading directly for Asian goods. Lacking access to colonies put a strain on China's production. Yet at the same time, the increased economic activity generated by the influx of American silver and other resources, as well as a population boom fueled by new American crops like potatoes and maize, was causing the economies of China and India -- the old cores -- to expand too (Frank 1998). To gain control over the world economy, Europe had to take out its competition. As historian Janet Abu-Lughod put it, "the 'fall of the East' preceded the 'Rise of the West'" (Abu-Lughod 1989). So as the American colonies began to gain their independence, European colonial efforts shifted to the east (Figure 5).

As discussed earlier, the world economy goes through cyclical ups and downs. Each downswing is an opportunity for the system to be reorganized as different powers seize the advantage. This is basically how Europe, boosted by the products of its American colonies and skilled in colonial domination by its practice there, brought down China and India.

India fell first. An economic recession in the mid-1700s created an opportunity for the British East India company to move in and take over, uniting the various empires and principalities into a colony encompassing what are now the nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (Frank 1998). The East India Company ruled the colony as a corporate asset for 100 years, until the British government took over and ran the colony for another 100 years.

During the two centuries of British rule in India, India's economy was restructured to benefit Britain (Davis 2001). India's major commodity export for a long time had been textiles, produced in rural shops all through the region. But Britain's emerging industrial economy was also focused (among other things) on textile manufacture. The solution was simple: Britain banned India from exporting textiles. Britain's mills could now buy cotton from its colonies in India and Egypt, as well as slave-grown cotton from the southern US, turn it into cloth, and make a profit selling that cloth around the world, including in the cotton-producing colonies.

Britain also established a free-market doctrine that undercut India's social support programs (Davis 2001). The unreliability of India's climate had led native princes to develop systems to accumulate and store food during good years, and redistribute that food in bad ones. Under British rule, these programs were eliminated. Instead, food was distributed by the international market, flowing to whoever could pay the most for it. In many cases, that was British consumers rather than Indian ones. A series of unprecedented famines struck India and other colonies in the late 1800s, even as these colonies were exporting food to Britain. Note how this resembles the recent spike in Mexican tortilla prices in response to US ethanol demand. Given this history, it is not surprising that the entitlement theory of famine was developed by Amartya Sen, an Indian.

In China, the colonizing impact was less direct, as no European power ever directly ruled China. Nevertheless, European powers were able to use their increasing control over world trade to force China into making trade concessions favorable to Europe (Davis 2001). Britain and other powers extracted tax breaks and special deals as well as trade monopolies over certain regions. Each of these concessions was then exploited to further tighten Europe's grip on the Chinese economy. China soon began to suffer some of the same problems as India, as its economic activity came to serve European wealth and systems to provide for people in the event of a catastrophe like a drought weakened.

Impacts of Colonialism [link]

Only a few of today's countries were never ruled by a European or neo-European power, and even those came under heavy European influence in their internal affairs and ability to participate in the world market. By the end of the colonial era, the world economy had been remade to place Europe and the neo-Europes in a dominant position. In addition to the violence of the conquest itself, a variety of consequences were felt by colonized societies.

Colonized societies were forcibly incorporated into the emerging global capitalist economy, typically on bad terms. Pre-colonial economies in many areas were oriented toward production for local subsistence. Colonizing powers used a variety of techniques to shift economic activity toward cash cropping and resource extraction (e.g. mining). The bluntest instrument was to simply seize land and convert it into plantations run by Europeans. In the Americas, lands were cut up into haciendas run by Spanish or Portuguese masters, with poor and native people having little option but to work for the masters (even if they weren’t formally enslaved). In Africa, it was common for the best and most fertile lands to be seized by British colonists, forcing native Africans to crowd into poorer lands (Rocheleau 1995). But even where land was left in native hands, colonial rulers found ways to change their economic calculus. One mechanism was taxation (Watts 1983). Colonial rulers charged native people taxes that must be paid in cash -- in contrast to native rulers, who had accepted payment in grain, hides, or other products. The only way to acquire cash was to grow crops that could be sold to colonial trading monopolies, or to work as a laborer in colonial mines or other jobs. The taxes were often timed to force native producers to sell their crops at times of the year when markets were glutted and thus prices were low.

Colonization also imposed new boundaries on colonized lands. This was most famously done at the 1884 Berlin Conference, when the major European powers drew up a map allocating colonial control of Africa, disregarding any native ethnic or political boundaries as well as natural features (Chamberlain 1999). This re-cutting of the colonized territory stuck groups long at odds with each other together into the same political unit. In one sense, colonization reduced conflict among colonized populations, as the colonizer's military power imposed peace, e.g. the "Pax Britannica" established in Africa (Watts 1986). But the underlying tensions did not go away, and they erupted once the colonizer was pushed out -- as we can see today in Nigeria (Comfort 2002) and Kenya (Daily Nation 2010). Moreover, the net effect of colonization in some cases was to exacerbate ethnic tensions. Colonizing powers brought with them a conviction that race is a biologically real phenomenon, and so they interpreted many differences in culture or economic way of life among colonized peoples as racial differences. The colonizers then favored the "higher" races, placing them in positions of power. In Rwanda, for example, the sharp (and allegedly racial) divide between Hutus and Tutsis, and the privileging of the Tutsis that formed the basis of Hutu resentment, were created by the Germans and Belgians during their rule (Mamdani 2001).

Colonialism also created ideological subordination. Colonizing powers brought with them worldviews that said that Europeans were culturally, racially, and morally superior. They told themselves it was their task to bring civilization to the backwards peoples of the world -- a task labeled "the white man's burden" by British author Rudyard Kipling. This ideology brought two types of subordination to colonized peoples. First, it led to efforts by colonizers to wipe out or prevent the practice of native cultural traditions. In the United States, for example, government- and church-run boarding schools for Native American children prohibited them from speaking their native language, practicing their native religion, or learning traditional native ways of making a living (e.g. hunting or native forms of agriculture) (Smith 2007). Second, many people native to the colonies internalized the colonizer's ideologies. They came to believe that they were an inferior or backward people and that the only hope lay in assimilating to the colonizer's culture. Those who saw the harm in this internalization then reacted by simply flipping to the other side and rejecting anything that allegedly carried the taint of the colonizer. This anti-colonial nationalism then became a justification for clinging to harmful traditions (such as female circumcision) as a form of resistance to colonialism (Goldberg 2009).

Post-Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism [link]

The end of formal colonialism is usually dated to the mid-1800s for the Western Hemisphere, and the mid-1900s for the Eastern. Numerous colonies still exist today -- for example, the US controls places such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and some native activists argue that Hawaii is more colony than state. But the granting of formal independence did not necessarily end the economic and political control that the core held over the periphery.

On the economic front, political independence did little for countries still dependent on a global economic system in which the shots were called and the profits made in London, Paris, or New York. Economic activity in ex-colonies continued to be funded by investors in the former colonizer, and products were bought and sold by companies based in the former colonizer (Davis 2001). This continuation of unequal economic relationships despite an end to formal political control is called neo-colonialism. Many countries bear crushing debt burdens which are owed to ex-colonizer countries, forcing them to continue producing for the world market and making them vulnerable to demands from international creditors.

On the political front, countries in the European/neo-European core used their greater power to interfere with the affairs of ex-colonies around the world. This was most notable during the Cold War between the US and USSR. Techniques ranging from aid packages with strings attached, to direct military intervention, were used to install friendly regimes, with little regard to the consequences for the prosperity of the people in the countries in question (Faber 2002). Such activities have continued since the fall of the USSR. Today there is fear among some political players that China's rapid economic growth is giving them the means to compete with the US, Japan, and Europe in manipulating poorer countries (Brautigam 2010).

Works Cited

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Weber, Max. 1904. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

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