Thursday, 2 December 1999

From "Aid or Development?"

By Willem Gustaaf Zeylstra, pp. 48-53.

[...] the decolonization in Africa South of the Sahara cannot directly be compared with that in Asia, and as far as France is concerned, with North Africa. Merely creating new states in the framework of decolonization has been shown not to explain the relationship between decolonization and development aid. This relationship, however, becomes obvious only where, as in Africa South of the Sahara, assistance to colonies was integrated in a systematically planned decolonization [...] This kind of decolonization cannot be imagined as resulting only from a loss of political power and prestige. On the contrary, it must have had its roots in a colonial policy including concern with the welface of the subject peaple. Historically seen it must have been a logical consequence of an idea embedded in the rationale of colonialism.


The early British liberalism was a synthesis of the common sense of Adam Smith and Bentham, and of the humanitarian ideals o rousseau and the French Revolution. This ambivalent social philosophy produced a nationalism founded on social idealism, as well as an abstract materialistic capitalism unconcerned with national boundaries. Because it was meant to counterbalance this capitalism, the European labour movement could only succeed once it felt itself carried by international ideals. The nineteenth century colonialism, fruit of capitalism linked to nationalism, demanded capital as well as people. As it was a European social concept, it underwent the influence of social developments within Europe. "Out of the adjustment of the relation between capital and labour on an international plane has arisen a common recognition that the economic development of the tropics is a matter of world welfare."

[...] in the Victorian era in which British power and wealth reached their zenith, the increased British self-confidence looked ound for a more suitable philosophic justification. The new philosophy again joined rational ideas with idealistic objectives. "From Darwin's principle of the survival of the fittest it derived a justification of various schools, the doctrine of social justice. These ideas, applied to colonial policy in the new environment, gave birth to modern imperialism." [...]

The paternalistic idealism born of Western social philosophy that inspired the colonial administrations during the first half of the twentieth century, originally did not respond to wishes of the subject people to share the blessings of Western civilization. It is not surprising, therefore, that to the apostles of the new era the possibility, sooner or later, of the subject-territories becoming politically independent was unthinkable.


The introduction for the first time of concepts such as "development" and "welfare" in statements of colonial policy did not mean that the metropolitan countries were prepared to render financial sacrifices for these purposes. It was supposed that the colonial territories would be able to finance their own development once their economic output started increasing by the application of Western techniques and efficiency.

[...] Although the mother country, while introducing modern techniques and ideas in the colonial society, was not supposed to incur expenses, it had to furnish "appropriate instruments of welfare" required by a "constructive" colonial policy [...] For this reason thousands of British, French, Dutch and Belgian civil servants and experts were sent overseas, to become an army of pioneers in dealing with the problems resulting from letting Western civilization penetrate areas with a divergent cultural heritage. Much of the knowledge and insight gathered by these people has retained its value for modern developeent research. There is no reason why a certain reluctance to draw upon their experience should not be overcome, provided Balandier's warning is heeded: "Quelle que soit la doctrine politique adopteé, les rapports de domination et de soumission existant entre société coloniale et société colonisée caractérisent la situation coloniale."


Because the resistance to the colonial guardianship in Asia and North Africa had sprung from the peoples' devotion to their own cultural identity, it had roused feelings of disappointment and frustration with the colonial powers whose cultural pride had been hurt. As a reaction their desire was strengthened to give assistance in territories where Western superiority was not challenged. But precisely by increasing their efforts to further education and economic development, they hastened the moment in which they were bound to admit to themselves that ultimately responsibility for the welfare of the foreign peoples was nowhere compatible with political rule over them [...]

Once a rational conclusion has been reached, it is typically Western logic to translate it into action. Since colonial relationships between peoples were considered obsolete, they should be ended as soon as possible. In the still dependent African and West Indian territories development aid became synonymous with preparation for decolonisation.

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