The Cold War & Modernization Theory: Thoughts

Dark Strangers in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, (1947- 1963), Chris Waters

The study of race relations in postwar Britain was largely a discourse about a largely silenced “other.” The immigrant was constructed as a perpetual foreigner who threatened to disrupt the monolithic and archaic conceptions of “national temperament/ character.” Britain’s imperial past imported unfavorable stereotypes about Africans that did not mesh well with the perceived national temperament. The threat of heterogeneity and the ushering in of a pluralistic society in a time of great uncertainty and fast change led to nativist sentiments.

Mandarins of the Future, Nils Gilman

The project of modernization, when framed within the Cold War paradigm can largely be conceived as a binary; the West stands as a model of progress and the Soviet Union stands in contrast as a deviant form of the modern state. From there, liberalism and its offspring neo-liberalism recast the economic progress of post-colonial nations as immediate matters of foreign policy. Globalization arose as part of a neo-liberalist agenda, beginning with the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire. The World Bank’s conditional loans stipulated particular forms of government. The International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Plans required a complete overhaul of the welfare state. Both undermined the welfare state, de-emphasizing saving and investment within the nation, as funds were being leeched out for the repayment of loans, or for the consumption of imported (American) goods. This also undercut the nascent manufacturing industries within these nations, stunting the growth of domestic businesses as multi-national corporations profited from the whole arrangement.

My opinion of the modernization theory is not positive. The messianic, missionary impetus mirrors that of colonialism. The burden of the superior, the more industrialized nation is to impose their way of life and system of government and economics upon those perceived inferior peoples. In essence, the globalization project could be constructed as a form of neo-colonialism- but for fear of essentializing those formerly and currently subjugated to the colonial apparatus as constantly captive and subjugated, I will not. The aim was still extractive, and the imposition of ideas and systems present in colonialism is seen in the globalization project.


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