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Cover Poverty and Development

13. Colonialism, Capitalism, Development  

Henry Bernstein

This chapter discusses some of the connections between colonialism, capitalism, and development. The making of colonial economies — through the organization of commodity production and trade by colonial states, settlers, and companies — entailed the 'breaking' of existing patterns of production and social existence, of whole ways of life. This process was encapsulated in the formation and functioning of colonial labour regimes. Other aspects of social and cultural change under colonialism also contributed to new forms of social differentiation among the colonized, and exposed the contradictions of colonial rule, not least in challenging its legitimacy. The European colonial empires were dismantled in the decades following the Second World War: anti-colonial movements became stronger, and international capitalism led by the USA no longer required the direct political rule of Asia and Africa (an 'imperialism without colonies'), while the proclamation of strategies of 'national development' by the newly independent states assimilated many of the tensions and ambiguities of the 'doctrines of development' of the era of (industrial) capitalist colonialism.