Libya and postcolonial karma

As the EU has signalled the lifting of sanctions on Libya, quite a lot of that $110 billion of Libyan assets will presumably get unfrozen in the very near future. As part of that, expect much backslapping over the removal of Gaddafi (when it has actually been confirmed).

At this point, it is worth noting Laura Seay’s interview with  Zachariah Cherian Mampilly about his book Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War. Based on his own experiences, Mampilly notes that the exisitng literatures

didn’t conform to the reality of what I was witnessing on the ground but were more a fantasy of how the West perceives post-colonial countries, i.e. weak and corrupt governments overtaken by violent criminal warlords.

Similarly, and presciently, back in February, Charles Hugh Smith gave an ascerbic dissection of the crisis that currently grips much of Arab world in particular in what he described as post-colonial karma:

Most of the “developing” world is still working through the consequences of 19th century Imperial/colonial domination–the “karma” of post-colonialism. Even the rare exceptions which avoided direct Imperial control such as Thailand were still shaped by the carving up of the globe by European Empires in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I’d suggest that the problem in some of these postcolonial states is that local power structures and social modes have continued to be resistant to the actual territorial framework and insistence on western style governance models that was imposed at the moment of colonial eclipse (and subsequently maintained by various western agencies like the UN and World Bank). And it isn’t just the ‘developing’ world, unless you want to include Palestine/Israel and Ireland in that…

Both articles are worth a read.

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  • Alanbrooke

    what total crap

    this is a western guilt trip problem. Lots of countries have succeeded in the last 50 years post colonial and are now richer than the UK. Ireland for one.

    Perhaps you should stop listening to all that bollocks Bono spouts.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Perhaps there’s something in this. I can’t eat foie gras without getting a lump in my throat thinking about what those Normans did to us, and don’t get me started on those fecking Vikings! I get the shakes whenever I see a set of flatpack shelves and my PTSD kicks in whenever I hear the word ‘Ikea”.

  • Actually, it has less to do with past colonialism, and more to do with current centre-periphery exploitation. We see this locally in the way supermarkets squeeze farmers, so that the companies at the centre make all the profits, and the expense of people in rural areas. Written large, this describes the trading relations between the overdeveloped and underdeveloped countries.

    A lot of private money flows from the poor to the rich. A small proportion of that goes back as public subsidies (as aid or welfare payments).