Is Globalisation Simply Imperialism by Another Name?

Subject: Globalization
Pages: 27
Words: 7501
Reading time:
27 min
Study level: PhD


The question, “Is globalization simply imperialism by another name?” arouses the mind to active deliberations, analyses, and conclusions regarding what may, at first sight, appear to be an obvious social good, viz. globalization. However, after careful consideration, it becomes apparent that it may be a social ill, at least in part. The world is old and in its many years, it has experienced various eras ranging from the primitive stage of humanity, to feudalism, and now capitalism. Communism as a possible successor to capitalism continues to lurk in the periphery, but the world seems not to be in any particular rush to change era. However, continuing on that line of thought may prove to derail the purposes of this paper, whose focal point is globalization as a possible synonym for imperialism. As such, it is important to begin by noting that globalization has a ring of materialism to it. After all, globalization refers to “The opening of local and nationalistic perspectives to a broader outlook of an interconnected and interdependent world with free transfer of capital, goods, and services across national frontiers” (Stiglitz 2002, p.42).

Alternatively, the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale” (Barratt-Brown 1974, p.45). On the other hand, imperialism is defined as, “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means” (Krugman 1996, p.186). Alternatively, one can define it as, “the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas it is broadly the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence” (Ruccio 2003, p.84). Both of these definitions denote an influence over another state, which may be political, military, colonial, or economic and this paper dwells upon the economical exertions. Colonialism may be dead to the world, but neo-colonialism is very much alive and one of the forms in which it subsists is in capitalism, which is rampant across almost the entire world (Arrighi 1994, p. 332). Therefore, it follows that globalization could easily conceal a hidden agenda for the developed countries and if it were viewed in light of capitalism, it would mean that the developed countries are using globalization as a mask to conceal their oppression and exploitation of the developing countries. This aspect translates to increased intensity of work among the proletariat in these third world countries for increase in value of production only for the oppressors to appropriate the profits leaving the workers with nothing, but low living standards. In such a case, Karl Marx posits that soon enough, a revolution by the working class shall soon occur and they shall succeed in instituting a socialist era (Marx & Engels1848). However, it is necessary to begin by introducing Marxist international relations theory and analyzing it in light of other theories that either build or criticize it.

Key theorists and their distinctive arguments


The validity of Marxism as one of the explanatory theories of international relations is a highly controversial topic. Opponents in this debate, such as Stephen Walt, proclaim the death of Marxism by announcing that it passed away decades ago. However, this assertion is very unlikely because Marxism is the source of most radical and postpositive recourses to social sciences and international relations is a social science. Marxism differs from realism in that it is a historical structural theory (Dougherty & Pfaltzgraff 2001, p. 49). For the purposes of understanding globalization and imperialism, it is necessary to understand the related theories of Marxism such as capitalism, historical and dialectical materialism, humanitarian intervention, and global governance as some of the most important variables that affect these two concepts.

Historical materialism

History may be defined as a moment from one era to another. According to Marxism, material or economic actors in society shape that society’s history. Therefore, as a material basis change, so does the history of that society, hence the popular Marxist saying, “material forces are the engine of history”.

Fundamentally, humanity cannot survive without consuming products, which means that for any generation to survive, it has to produce and reproduce (cycle of production) the material needs of life (Arrighi 1994, p. 331). This aspect is a law that governs society– principles of production; therefore, whoever controls production controls society, which is the birth of capitalism.

The dominant mode of production in a generation shapes the unique character of that era. For instance, in the primitive era, humanity hunted and gathered for food and slavery and landlord-ship characterized the feudal era. Historical realism posits that in addition to shaping the unique features of an era, the production also shapes other aspects of life including culture, politics, education, and even legal systems. In a bid to illustrate this point, a comprehensive review of the current era of history, viz. capitalism, is necessary as explicated in the next section. However, if one looks at the education system of most states in the world, there is a pattern of producing a skilled labor force. This works very well for capitalists because it puts in place an inexhaustible supply of skilled and unskilled laborers to help in the generation of capital. This concept is known as Base and superstructure (check for illustration in the appendix), where the base is more important than the superstructure and it influences the functionality of the superstructure. The composition of the base is critical in that it is predominantly capitalist class, while the superstructure is flooded with the masses including the laborers.

Marxists suggest that capitalism is a precursor to communism. This assertion means that they (Marxists) do not support capitalism because it has obvious mal-effects such as the formation of classes due to discrimination according to wealth and the suggestion that the only way out is through war, when the proletariats are finally tired of the capitalists’ tyrannical era and so they overthrow the bourgeoisie and put in place communism. In a communist era, resources are divided according to the saying, “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” (Chigora & Ziso 2010, p. 91).

Dialectical materialism

This school of thought borrows heavily from Marxist – Leninist school of thought. Dialectics is Hegel’s field of study and it involves the division of an idea into thesis, synthesis, and antithesis. However, dialectical materialism is a Marxist idea and Karl Marx was very specific about its specifications by noting that he was not interested in Hegel’s way of defining dialectics. Instead, dialectical materialism focuses on applying dialectics only to the approaching, studying, apprehending of phenomena while maintaining a materialistic perspective in interpretation and thus the answers derived by dialectical materialists are the most accurate of all schools of thought of materialism due to the deduction procedure (Doremus et al. 1998, p. 97). Summarily, in dialectical materialism, the procedure may be dialectical, but the mental state of the analyst is always materialistic.

As a theory that impacts globalization, dialectical materialism provides a very materialistic perception of globalization, and thus results in the deduction that globalization is simply a cover-up for the advancement of capitalist interests especially through the exploitation of developing states by those states that already achieved ‘developed’ status (Burchill et al. 2001, p. 76). In an attempt to further build upon this notion, it would be imperative to discuss a practical example of this phenomenon and this shall be done in the case study of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, it is apparent that the US, at the time, was not exactly in desperate need of Iraq’s oil reserves because at the time Iraq was selling the US oil at a relatively cheaper price, Saddam Hussein was conflicting with the rest of the OPEC members and so it was in his best interests to befriend the US for protection. Consequently, there was no jeopardy for the escalation of oil prices. Therefore, it follows that even though the reason for the invasion of Iraq by the US had an economic element in it, there must have been another reason for the way that the US used to occupy and later to try to transform Iraq in the name of reconstruction (Groom & Light, 1994, p. 65). From a dialectical materialism perspective, this other reason is undoubtedly imperialism.


This is a Marxist theory, which underscores the belief that human beings are material beings and as such, materialism is a motivation factor for all the activities they undertake as well as all the events that are consequential of these activities. Capitalism as a system has ‘profit’ as the fundamental factor that informs its foundation. For individuals to remain as capitalists they require capital and they attain it by:

  1. Increasing productivity – this means that they intensify labor so that the same number of workers using the same type and number of machines produce more goods.
  2. Low production costs – this aspect is in comparison to the capital produced and it reflects on the low wages paid to workers as well as extravagant prices charged to consumers.
  3. Using technological inventions to increase efficiency – a good example of this is in e-commerce (Cameron 1973, p. 147). However, the workers face the dire consequences of this move because of the increase in layoffs as machines replace workers. With all the capital pinched in these varieties of mechanisms, the capitalists can continue to appropriate the profits created by low-paid workers.

The second guiding base for capitalism is competition among the capitalists. Without competition in the world, the market system would most likely collapse. However, it is also due to competition that capitalists resort to these exploitative methods to make capital. Marxism suggests that the capitalist class dominates the world because this group controls the means of production and government instruments, which means that the state and its agencies including the police, the army, judiciary, schools, and religious societies are simply puppets of the capitalistic classes. Since this scenario is the case in most states, it is safe to state that it is a global position for it indicates that what happens nationally and internationally (regionally or globally) is simply being in the interests of the capitalistic class (Escobar 1995, p. 66). Additionally, at times capitalists from different states form alliances to achieve certain ends and in such scenarios, it becomes global capitalism.

However, this theory has been subject to numerous criticisms for no state would like to admit being a puppet to certain individuals who hold the reigns. Consequently, contemporary Marxism or neo-Marxism allows that states may not be purely instruments of the capitalist class and that sometimes they may act in the interest of the state or even of the public. Moreover, they hold that even within the capitalist class, autonomy is rarely guaranteed because different individuals may have different interests, which would explain the instances in which state policy may appear to be inherently contradictory.

Therefore, as opposed to Stephen Walt’s way of thinking, Marxism is still very much alive and the evidence of its existence is in the fulfillment of its prophecies such as the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the exploitative nature of capitalism evidenced by the worldwide poverty is another sign of life. Currently, there are 2.7 billion people living on less than two dollars a day. In 2002, the World Bank announced that the income of the top 50 richest people in Europe was equivalent to the combined income of the poor 2.7 billion people. This realization is a clear case of wealth concentration, “which means that the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen” (Groom & Light 1994, p. 120).

In advanced capitalist countries, the living conditions of the working class are deplorable due to the low wages they earn and the new trend of outsourcing labor courtesy of compliance with international institutions such as World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Such countries’ industries and other employers are constantly laying-off workers as they branch out into the world in the name of globalization to form transnational corporations.


The definitions of globalization bring out a vital element of globalization that is economic in nature. Therefore, an economic perspective of globalization is prudent at this stage as the main point of view at which an analysis of globalization ought to be carried out (Hellyer 1999, p. 45). A quick review of the fundamental elements of globalization presents as its features:

  1. International capital and product markets – these elements comprise the myriad of export and imports commodities and services that have infiltrated trade in this contemporary era. One of the causes of this revolutionized trade is the technological innovations that enhanced the ease of transacting across borders. With the invention of machines like the telegraph and other forms of telecommunication devices, capitalists from different corners of the world could easily transact business and build on their capital pools. Moreover, the liquefaction of currency that has enabled traders worldwide to pay for goods and services from the comfort of their homes has largely contributed to the transacting of international business within the borders of the state. The ease at which one can transact his or her business of late is an important point to consider when discussing globalization.
  2. Macroeconomic policies – these are issues to do with the budget. Each state is a member of the global arena and as such, the issue of identity politics comes to play forcing actors to advance their trade to meet world standards if they are to be taken seriously by fellow state players. As such, when preparing the fiscal budgets, states ensure that they allocate adequate funds to sectors that deal with international trade.
  3. Industrial Relations – this element is apparent in the transfer of technology as well as the popularity of outsourcing. Different states have different levels of intelligence regarding production and assembling mechanisms that are likely to profit other states. However, this transfer does not happen on a philanthropic standing as the beneficiary state usually has a unique characteristic that the benefactor seeks to benefit from as well (Kirchberger 1998, p. 296). As such, it becomes an issue of exchanging intelligence for intelligence or for other favors and the result is that trade becomes more homogeneous by the day. At times, the state may transfer its entire manufacturing or production wing to the state with the required intelligence and so while they get their work done for them, the host country provides employment opportunities for its citizenry.
  4. Labour Market Policies – this is somewhat interlinked to the concept of the industrial relation and it is in reference to matters such as the creation of employment opportunities, the advancement of state viability for global competition, and outsourcing (also known as cross–border job exchange). In addition, at times, the issue of the multinational team projects comes up where a corporation has several branches in different states and they need to implement a new policy across the board, thus forcing the executive team to work across different nationalities, and thus issues of conflict of laws are bound to arise.

The effects of globalization are numerous and can be fitted into various categories ranging from economic, social, political, security implications, geographical (including environmental) and even legal. However, continuing in the same vein of economic orientation, some of these effects include the increment of cross, open, and trans-border transactions. The evidence of this phenomenon is in the ratification by states of free trade agreements and other such neo-liberal policies aimed at integrating international trade by reducing trade barriers.

This aspect is apparent in, for instance, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that exists between Canada and the US. In this relationship, 85 percent of Canada’s exports go to the US and about 65 percent of Canada’s Foreign Direct Investment is from the US. Therefore, this relationship is strained with tension build-up, especially in Canada because if the US were to shun Canada, it would probably suffer greatly on an economic level (Knock 1992, p. 41). This phenomenon is an interesting observation especially considering that Canada falls squarely within the developed countries’ bracket. The question that comes to mind is what of the developing or third world countries that are in such a relationship with either the US or other developed countries. In answering this question, an answer to the main question in this paper stands out clearly; however, before that, it would be prudent to review other related theories to obtain a holistic comprehension of globalization.

Humanitarian intervention

This area is a sensitive topic because it refers to the intrusion of another state’s privacy otherwise known as state sovereignty in the name of protecting the human rights of the inhabitants of that state. Consequently, the question of the state as a sovereign, and thus a respectable individual in the world politicking arena comes up. The state that is intruded upon must question the authority of the other state and in the absence of an international organization, society, or institution to veto the intrusion; consequently, a war could easily break out (Krugman 1996, p. 234). This realization introduces another angle to globalization; that is, aside from individual states trading with their neighbors and other international players, sometimes conflicts may arise and in order to resolve this, there needs to be an authoritative figure that is revered by both of such states. Examples of such an authority would be the United Nations, the European Union, or the World Bank among others, and this phenomenon is discussed more fully under liberal institutionalism as an opposing theory to Marxism, later in the paper. However, the key point is that if an international institution that the parties recognize vetoes such intrusion, it shall be democratic (Aradau 2004).

However, this scenario is not always the case, as even within the international organizations, rebels exist. A good example is the League of Nations that preceded the World War I (WWI), but had to be dissolved after the US, Germany, and Italy went rogue (the US never joined the league, to begin with and this cast aspersion on the league’s credibility since the US was a superpower even then and so it could flaunt any regulations with impunity) (Lee & Wallerstein 2004, p.78). Additionally, even on such institutions, capitalistic interests being advanced at the expense of poorer members may be mere signatories or beneficiaries of the universality principle. (For example, in the UN where the US and the rest of the superpowers can veto an action that will benefit them even though at the expense of other countries, or they can refuse to veto when it does not suit them. An illustration of the severity of this possibility is when the US and Soviet Union paralyzed the UN using their vetoes during the Cold War).


Imperialism is a school of thought that is mostly associated with Lenin. First, it would be helpful to recap the definition of imperialism as given in the introduction. Imperialism refers to the act of increasing a state’s jurisdiction to cover another state’s through colonization, use of military force, or other means. A poignant example here would be the scramble for Africa coupled with what followed this partition, viz. colonization (Lenin 1964, p. 199). The countries in Africa became protectorates of their imperial masters, which meant that they were an extension of the colonizer. For instance, Ivory Coast was a French colony.

The French used assimilation to subjugate the natives and so the natives were required to abandon all their “repugnant” traditions and adopt French values by way of civilization. Those natives who rebelled against the French administration met deadly consequences especially for the guerrilla fighters that staged armed resistances. Additionally, if one did not disown his or her culture (including language) and religion and adopt the superior French version of the same, he or she was automatically locked out from the privileges that accrued to collaborators such as receiving an education, including the chance to travel to France to further one’s education. Meanwhile, the French settlers annexed the prime properties and put in place French laws that stated that they could own that property. They hired Africans to work on their farms and industries and granted meager wages, which were enough to feed them for a day, but not enough to keep them away from the plantations.

They restricted the movement of these Africans and it was illegal to be found in any association that would jeopardize the French rule. These examples are just but a few of the regulations put in place by the French people to ensure subservience of their subjects and maximum exploitation of their resources. Consequently, half a century after Ivory Coast achieved independence, this scenario is the state of affairs in that sovereign state. The national language is French, the education system mirrors that of France, as does the legal system and their ties with French are not easily severable as there are contracts that have a 100 years validity including land ownership contracts, considering that the French own most prime lands. The example of Ivory Coast is of political imperialism and the consequences of that extend to the economic sector. Given the brainwashing that followed this tyrannical era, it is scary to imagine what an instance of purely economic imperialism would do to a state.

Lenin posits, “The burden of overthrowing capitalism and bringing about socialism rests upon the working class…they first become class-conscious, then they acquire a socialist consciousness” (1964, p. 298). Accordingly, international bodies such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) among others are capitalistic in nature and ought to be eradicated first by the rising revolutionary working-class generation. Additionally, theorists posit that what these bodies propagate throughout the world in the name of globalization is actually a masquerade of capitalistic interests manifested in the form of: requiring the third world countries to adopt bankrupt and corrupt regulations of privatization. In addition, the developing countries have to open up international markets by implementing the reduction of barriers to the market through lowering of taxes and relaxing national legislation governing foreign investment. The desired end is to open up such markets to the plundering of transnational corporations and this shall not help in the alleviation of poverty (Vilas 2002, p. 72). These multinational corporations shall then swoop in and carry their specialists from abroad to do the bulk of the work, then they shall repatriate profits back to their capitalist countries and the host shall have gained very little or nothing. If anything, hosts go at a loss because the international institutions reject any homegrown policies aimed at benefitting the poor and so the multinational corporations dismiss the state laws with impunity.

Dependency / Underdevelopment theories

Two eras of dependency theorists have been in existence; the first existed between 1950 and 1960 and the key theorists were Dos Santos, Cardoso, and Furtado. Of the three, Cardoso is known to be the most ‘politically correct’ or shy. He speaks very cautiously on the internal and external factors that determine the development. Nevertheless, this first dependency theory suggests that development is mutually inclusive of the advanced economies in the world. This assertion means that the developing countries cannot attain the status of the first world on their own or by their own means without some sort of interference from the developed states (Escobar 1995, p. 304). This theory rings with Marxist capitalism because it posits that capitalism subjugates developing countries by relegating their opportunities and choice range to the leftovers of the first-world countries. Additionally, these leftovers are few and rare especially due to the great numbers of developing countries scrambling for them.

Partly, this scenario subsists due to the oppressive arrangements procured by international organizations such as the IMF imposed on these developing countries (Wilber 1973, p. 43). As stated earlier, if the people heading these international institutions, organizations, and societies are capitalists, the policies and directives issued by them shall be capitalistic in nature. If this were the case, then according to a study conducted by David Mitchell, only by the year 2147 that developing countries like those found in sub-Saharan Africa can reduce the amount of poverty by half (Mitchell 2003). However, currently, most countries have discovered the oppressive policies advanced by the likes of World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO) (Wæver 2009, p. 214). Consequently, millions of workers worldwide are organizing protests each time these organizations meet. The reason why the first-world countries keep these policies as oppressive as they are is that they need the extra capital that such domination yields to remain among the capital class.

Therefore, the problem of underdevelopment in third world countries is due to the pursuit of further development by the first world countries and so “underdevelopment is a consequence of development” (Smith & Owens 2008, p. 37). The second class of theorists, viz. Frank, Amin, Barret & Muller, Emmanuel Radice, and Rodney are less critical in their description of capitalism and instead they focus on the effects of globalization on the world economy and international relations theory. Theirs is known as the “center-periphery analysis” (Wright 1966, p. 19)

World-systems theory

This theory posits that the problems in the world are caused by the capriciousness of capitalism and neo-liberalism. This argument borrows from Marxism in suggesting that there is an increase in class struggles between old world (developed/first world) countries and new world (developing/third world countries). In this perspective, the theory posits that capitalists see the international system as their vehicle to capital accumulation from all corners of the world, and especially from those countries they still consider primitive like the sub-Saharan block (Mitchell 2003, p. 2). This train of thought proceeds to reveal that the international societies and institutions put in place by these first-world countries are inherently flawed because the aim is to exploit and dominate the developing countries. Lenin (1964) adds on this by classifying the states of the world into oppressors versus the oppressed. This aspect brings the term ‘class struggle’ to a completely new level wherein the classes are formed at the state level, which incorporates one of the critical international relations theories, viz. identity politics. The classes are a reflection of how the various states perceive themselves or assume class consciousnesses on a world scale level. Therefore, it follows that the laborers in the third world continue to toil to make profits only for the capitalist oppressors in the first and second worlds to appropriate these profits.


Realism (Anarchical world)

This school of thought is based on the assumption that the politics in the international arena predominantly gravitates around power struggles and conflicts and the bane of its existence (realism’s) is military security. As one of the counter-argument for liberal institutionalism’s stance on world cooperation, realism brings up the issue of the World Bank, the WTO, and even the United Nation’s inability to totally or even to a limited extent, eradicate issues such as nuclear proliferation, poverty reduction, or environmental abuse (Dougherty & Pfaltzgraff 2001, p. 167). The divergence of realism from globalization, a Marxist theory, is on globalization’s dependency on interstate cooperation, as well as the predominantly economic perspective or lens through which the world views globalization (Wilber 1973, p. 12). If it were up to realists, as stated above, all matters of importance would gravitate around the military and other security matters.

Liberal institutionalism (Co-operation as key to peace and development)

This theory suggests that an understanding of international relations can only be derived from comprehending global governance and the working of international organizations (Stiglitz 2002, p. 69). It posits that states have common goals and the ability of an international organization to come up with harmonized policies to ensure interstate cooperation is a landmark feature of a successful international system. For the majority of the second half of the twentieth century, liberal institutionalism was the bane of realism existence. It espoused the use of international organizations to plan and run world systems’ affairs.

Additionally, liberal institutionalism posits that at times, non-state actors also participate in global politics (Vilas 2002, p. 76). This assertion denotes that a clear hierarchy of importance does not exist and more emphasis is laid on the contributions of the various respective parties and it frowns upon the use of force as a substitute for asserting authority. The common denominator of the participators in a liberal institutionalism setting is that they have common goals and at least a majority of common values that they ascribe to in their operations. Additionally, such players, if they were states, must be prepared to sacrifice a bit of their sovereignty to achieve autonomy and international peace. This intricate system of interdependence was first suggested by Keohane and Nye in the 1970s and it is the key divergence from realism.

Finally, the states that decide to subject themselves to such a form of common governance on an international level are indirectly committing to be bound by the norms and principles, which are usually a set of customs that all the member actors are familiar with and regularly practice. Alternatively, they may have been set up upon the institutionalization of a new international organization. Either way, the proponents of liberal institutionalism posit that these norms, rules, and principles are legally binding upon signatories and failure to comply with the results in sanctions or even military repercussions like occupation.

Critical international relations: Identity politics or constructivism

Constructivism is construed by most international relations theorists to be the most difficult to grasp of the entire school of theories. However, this should not be the case because the root of the word constructivism is ‘construct’ and one only needs to build on this element by understanding that political actors build international political relationships out of their own perceptions; consequently, international relations are simply the construed perceptions of different political actors being reflected on an international arena. Alexander Wendt is renowned for remarking, “Anarchy is what states make of it” (Wendt 1999, p. 453).

As such, constructivism is stratified into various categories. One of the major classifications emphasizes the internal or individual level. At this stage, theorists look at the internal characteristics of the various individual states. State interests are dynamic and as opposed to the realist manner of thinking, they can be derived from a variety of sources such as the military or the legal system. Identity politics is simply a synonym for constructivism.

Regarding globalization, it has become apparent that the first-world countries are the role models for the rest of the developing world. In terms of identity politics, this aspect means that the third world countries regard themselves as inferior to the first world countries and this informs their stance towards the policies advanced by the former. However, the motive behind the support or advisory offered by first-world countries is also very important because these actors wield the power to make or break the newcomers (World Bank 1996, p. 6). Unfortunately, most of the old world countries are capitalist in nature and so their agenda is the accumulation of new capital from all avenues possible. This element does not abode well for the new world countries because it means that they are being exploited and their profits appropriated by their so-called patrons.

Key Debates

Realism/ Liberalism

The First World War was majorly responsible for the upstart of liberalist thinking. Liberalist thinking has its basis on the idea of institutionalization and so at this point, viz. post WWI, a common belief among the nations of the world was that if they came together to institute some sort of international forum to handle disputes or global crises, this would help avert another world war (Ruccio 2003, p. 86). Consequently, the League of Nations came up as the international organization in charge of ensuring global peace and for a pioneer at the concept and it was quite an adept body in its own right.

However, the US refused to be party to it and so its viability as a successful avenue for ensuring peace began to be questioned. By questioning its capabilities, the world was in fact questioning the foundational principles of liberalism and this was what became known as the first debate. Realists were at the forefront in opposing liberalists’ theory with their century-old theories of anarchy featuring power plays and conflicts (Smith & Owens 2008, p. 50). To them, liberalists were being idealists or utopian in their thinking whereas to liberalists, realists were too pessimistic to grant international institutions a chance of ensuring global harmony. Moreover, although both groups valued morality, realists felt safer if those wielding authority did so at the state level instead of the liberalists’ proposition of carrying out security and other policies at worldwide level. The anticlimax of both the League of Nations and the liberalists’ thinking came in the 1930s when states like Italy and Japan were clearly flaunting the League’s rules and in 1939 when World War II broke out, the notion of global cooperation may as well have received a global funeral. The realists, led at the time by E. H. Carr, had a field day blasting liberalists. However, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the successive years following the WWII have been quite peaceful and the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, GATT, and the World Bank among other international organizations are holding their own in performing global mobilization towards achieving various ends. That they are being successful is not in question, what it is that they are being successful in is the question and the answer to that is globalization (Smith 1981, p. 18). However, that end may not necessarily be in the interest of all states in the world and so the realists may have had a point all along.

Traditionalism/ ‘Behavioralism’

This methodological debate raged in the 1960s. The behavioralists maintained that International Relations could only advance in its development as a field of study if it uses the methods of natural science to adduce, analyze, and present information. This move was in opposition to the idea of developing international relations by applying interpretative historical methods, which was the position held by traditionalists, also known as classicists. The core method proposed by behavioralists for analysis and the empirical testing of hypotheses was falsification. Among the more vocal traditionalists was Hedley Bull and he stood in opposition to headstrong behavioralists such as Morton Kaplan. Bull acknowledged the existence and importance of natural science in a state, but maintained that the world was too big a sphere to try to fit into a neat plan (Wood, 1999, p. 8). It had too many variables that would distort any structure of neatness and this left interpretative methods to decipher and advance globalization theories. Therefore, counter this vein of thought, behavioralists reiterated that the very idea of generalization existed so that minimal information could be extended to cover large stretches of geographical locations and so the point was that what was deduced from a sample population could be applied to the world. However, this perspective is a rather porous argument and the traditionalists sounded the death knell when they argued that since the basis of behavioralist theories was positivism, behavioralists ran a risk of leaving out crucial data in their information collection, analysis, or presentation especially because they automatically discarded variables that could not be quantified such as human perception and motives. This argument meant that their research could not contain the variable of “what ought to be”, which was a prerequisite for the formation of normative theories (Wallerstein 1996, p. 49). Despite this debate, most of the world organizations have adamantly continued to use behavioralists’ methodologies and as a result, the perception they draw of globalization is not necessarily accurate.

Neo-Realism / Neo-Liberalism

Kenneth Waltz is a major theorist in the class of neo-realism. He comes up with the idea of identity politics and posits that although it is true that states can indeed co-exist within the anarchical world systems, the extent of this coexistence is relative and in fact dependent on other variables such as their functional similarities or differences. Neo-realism is more inclined to scientific, hence behavioralist methodologies as opposed to classicist methodologies.

Some major proponents of neo-liberalism include Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. Neoliberalism, just as neo-realism is inclined to behavioralist methodologies of deduction and that is one of the points of convergence between these two thoughts. Another converging point is in the adoption of the anarchical theory by neo-liberalists. In fact, critics have questioned whether this was indeed a debate at all, but it is apparent that some areas of divergence do exist as well (Smith 1981, p. 34). One key divergence is that although neo-liberalists also apply behavioralist procedures, and the subject matter of their analysis is cooperation between states as well as the institutional relations with states (international organizations like WTO and WB). They aim at finding out the possible effects of such interdependency.

In summary, neo-realists view the world through a competitive lens by seeing states as archenemies looking out for national interests and so the issue of the securitization theory comes to play. The neo liberalists on the other hand agree with this deduction of the state of the world, but they see beyond this conundrum and try to find a solution to it hence their suggestion of cooperatively concerting national resources, efforts, and opportunities to ensure that they are aligned with those of other international players.

Contemporary case study: US invasion of Iraq

Iraq survived more than a dozen years of economic sanctions, two US-instigated wars, and one occupation without flinching. This remarkable history evidences the resilience of this Middle East country and forms part of the explanation for the US invasion of Iraq. In 2003 after the US invaded Iraq, Paul Bremer, the Administrator of Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), came up with what came to be known as the Bremer Orders. These orders were like a new constitution for Iraq because in effect they overhauled the entire economic structure of Iraq to put in place a system that opened the Iraqi market to foreigners for investment with the option of repatriating full profits abroad immediately, and this was the least ridiculous of these rules.

Originally, the objective of the US government that had occupied Iraq in 2003 was to reconstruct its (Iraq’s) economy from being centrally oriented to a market economy. Towards this end, American firms landed lofty contracts to redo most of Iraq’s economic pillars including the water system. Key among these US investors was a multinational corporation by the name Bearing Point Inc. and among other areas; it was in charge of privatization of the water system in Iraq. However, before this firm could start working, Iraqis received a letter from irate Bolivians elucidating on what to expect from Bearing Point. Among other grievances, the letter stated that Iraqis ought to be prepared to pay exorbitant prices for water bills once these were privatized. Additionally, if upon such exploitation the Iraqis felt the need to protest, they were warned to be prepared to combat the deadly force applied by troops in defense of Bearing Point’s right to privatization.

While all this was transpiring, other controversial parts of the Bremer Order number (#) 39 were yet to come into force. These included the provisions regarding:

  1. Taxation and banking laws
  2. The repealing of laws that forbade foreigners from without Arabian countries from investing in or owning property in Iraq
  3. The near-elimination of the guaranteed food program

Until then, the Iraqi government had in place a program that employed more than 60000 government workers to handle the distribution of food rations from the more than three hundred government warehouses countrywide monthly among the public regardless of wealth status. According to Bremer Orders, this program would only benefit the neediest of Iraqis, which was in a bid to be more “realistic” and save on resources. Alongside this plan was also the eradication of subsidized housing of cheap energy. It is noteworthy that Americans wanted to privatize most of Iraq’s state assets and since this was unconstitutional in Iraq, the US purported to change the constitution via the Bremer Orders. Another provision of the same required the Iraqi agricultural setting to change and focus on luxury crops such as fruits and flowers that were exportable instead of focusing on food f local consumption. In other areas where this policy has been attempted, it has been disastrous and led to famine and drought, which cost lives. However, the occupying US was not ready to back down.

It is noteworthy that this entire move to overthrow Iraqi’s fundamental law was illegal according to the Public International Law. Specifically, the US was acting in breach of several regulations and resolutions including article 43 of The Hague Regulations of 1907, the 1949 Geneva Convention, and the US Army Code of War. Since the US was publicly flaunting internationally established norms, the international community was highly displeased, and most states signaled their displeasure in camera. One such state was Britain. Lord Goldsmith wrote to Tony Blair indicating that their activities in Iraq were the ultra vires international law and if they continued in the same vein, they should not expect the international society to support them.

Many theorists have attempted to analyze the US motivation to annex Iraq and it is apparent that their motive superseded the superficially convincing economic gain that they would guarantee by getting control of Iraq’s oils reserves. This aspect holds because at the time of the occupation, Iraq was on good terms with the US especially because Saddam Hussein was at loggerheads with the rest of the OPEC community. The most convincing argument is that the US was in pursuit of further capital for its capitalistic coffers. By controlling Iraq, the US would have control of the rest of the Middle East countries because they all relied on the waterway that flowed through Iraq. The US clearly failed at forcing globalization upon Iraq and so they resorted to military intervention, which by the time was already outlawed, as a further attempt to subjugate Iraq. However, this crude approach also failed as it was bound to (this was a form of regressive capitalism because it stunk of colonization that was already outlawed by humanitarian laws, which ironically were championed by the US Bill of Rights).

Back to globalization – Personal argument

Having discussed the various theories and principles that govern globalization, it is important at this point to answer the question set out at the beginning of this paper, viz. is globalization simply imperialism by another name? From the evidence adduced above, this paper answers this question with a resounding yes! Globalization is a policy that aims at improving the economic standing of third-world countries to reach the levels attained by the pioneering old-world countries. However, at closer inspection, the mask falls off and it becomes obvious to the careful observer that globalization is just a front used by the old world or first world countries to exploit developing countries and appropriate their profits in a bid to fatten their already bursting capitalist coffers. This aspect is especially apparent when one looks into the various international organizations that are at the forefront of advancing these globalization policies. An example is the International Monetary Fund that inflicts upon poor countries bankrupt privatization policies while rejecting any homegrown policies that would otherwise have benefitted the poor. The result of this approach is that wealth concentration gets worse by the day. The reason why this paper maintains the position that globalization is imperialism by another name is that imperialism simply refers to extending one state’s jurisdiction to cover another’s. In globalization, that is exactly what happens when capitalistic nations hide behind the policies of international organizations to exert their power and extend their tentacles into the wealth pools of unsuspecting nations.


It would be accurate to state that globalization is to the contemporary era what colonization was to the eighteenth century. Both are forms of imperialism only that the former is economic where the latter is political. However, the mal-effects of such domination have been felt throughout the corridors of history and unfortunately, blood usually ends up being spilled before harmony is obtained. Presently, worker groups throughout the world, who endure the most of globalization have begun mobilizing their forces to fight globalization by organizing protests whenever any of the notorious international organizations such as the WTO or World Bank is meeting. If Marxism prophecy is anything to go by, and as noted above, so far, most of the prophecies have been fulfilled and the world is at risk of a worker revolution that will overthrow the capitalist reign and put in place the more equitable socialism.


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