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Running head: role of colonialism in consolidation of global wealth/poverty

It can clearly be said that inequality evolved with poverty. At the beginning of society evolution, a period referred to as the hunter’s society, poverty and inequality differences among countries and in the countries were very low. This is because in those times, there was hardly any regulations or justice administration and therefore people lived freely in their own countries.

In the second period of society evolution which was referred to as the age of shepherds, inequalities of property and fortunes began to emerge between countries as well in families as men began to show their degree of authority and women in the society were seen as subordinates. There was introduction of civil government to a certain degree which brought some rules and regulations to people.

Although poverty has been a subject which is widely discussed by many people in the world, the first systematic attempt to define, understand and measure poverty was defined in the nineteenth century where quantitative accounts to understand the lives of people living in poverty were made based on census data. The studies made were conducted using census data and reports to estimate the rates of poverty and household surveys were also conducted so as to get accurate information on incomes, family size, household conditions and expenditures in the families.

In the 19th century, there was a rapid increase in industrialization in the United Kingdom and this deepened poverty in the region. Data used showed that the income distribution in the five richest countries in the world ranged at 40 times more in comparison to the 10 poorest countries in the world. There was a raise in global inequalities in wealth and poverty from 1820 all through up to 1980.

This pattern of inequality in the world was due to the fact that the countries which were already rich were growing at a faster rate, such countries are Europe and North America, as compared to the the growth rate of the poor countries such as Bangladesh, China, India and Vietnam. This pattern of inequality brought a conclusion that inequalities which are experienced in countries were attributed to the inequalities existing among countries. This means that those countries which had high degrees of inequality between people in the country significantly affected the rate of inequality of that country with the other countries.

(Timothy, 2003). However, there was a global growth pattern reverse in 1980; the poor countries began to grow at a faster rate which lead to a modest decline in poverty and inequalities among countries, while growth in the Latin America stagnated for some time. There was still very slow growth In the African continent which increased the rate of inequality in the world but the increased growth in the Asian countries which outweighed the African countries helped to reduce the inequality rate.

Projections made in the growth and rates of inequalities in the world show that if the same growth trend persists in Asia, equality will not be achieved because Asia holds most of the poor people in the world. Therefore if the trends do not rise, inequality rates in the world will decline until 2015 and then they will reverse again and inequality rates will rise sharply. (Ravenhill, 2007). The understanding of the colonial period and its impact in development of countries has raised a big debate in today’s world. As many of the developing and developed countries are linked through colonialism, it remains a controversial issue.

There are many disagreements among people about its effect on the countries and the citizens which were their colonies and whether it is responsible for the rates of poverty experienced today in the developing countries. Colonialism brought great inequalities and a sharp raise of poverty especially in the developing countries. This is the major explanation which lies behind today’s differences in incomes, poverty and inequalities across the globe. In the colonial era, today’s affluent countries took over the poor countries and began ruling them.

These affluent countries traded people of the poor countries in other affluent countries, therefore poor people became slaves in other rich countries and did not have the chance to develop their own countries. The ruling countries destroyed lands and natural resources of the poor countries and took most of their best lands for their own use, they created colonial trade by force, the people practiced it involuntarily and the colonialists did not respect either political or property rights of the indigenous people of the countries that they colonised.

It further destroyed the boarders and cultures which predated it and it is said to be the major cause of the problems that are faced in the African continent and other developing countries today. The late 20th century created a history as a period which resulted to poverty globalisation which was marked by the major collapse of productive systems in the developing countries as well demise of national institutions. The education and health systems in the third world were also majorly affected.

It has completely reversed the achievements which were made after the post-war de-colonisation and has extended its grip almost to all the major regions of the world especially in the 1990s. These regions include the North America, western Europe and the countries of the former soviet block as well as the newly industrialised countries of the South east Asia and the far east . Great famines have erupted in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, parts of Latin America and south Asia.

Health facilities like clinics and dispensaries as well as schools have been closed down and many children in their millions have been denied their right to basic elementary education. Resurgence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and malaria have been reported in the third world, the Balkans and the Eastern Europe. (Ravenhill, 2007). This global poverty has been brought about by corporate restructuring as well as relocation of production to cheap labour found in the third world.

This has led to an increased level of unemployment as well as reduction in income earnings to workers in the urban areas and farmers of the third world countries. This new order of international economy which feeds on cheap labour and human poverty had led to high level of national unemployment which is experienced in both the developing and the already developed countries worldwide. There has been an internationalisation of unemployment as investors move from one country to another in search of cheap labour.

Colonialisation brought about poverty and famine in the third world countries, a large part of population in the African continent has been affected by famine and many have died as result. In the post independence period and extending all the way to the 1980s, starvations and deaths were only limited to the peripheral tribal areas in South Asia but right now there has been a widespread of poverty in both the rural and urban populations; this was as a result of the adoption of the new economy policy which were set by the IMF and the World bank institutions in 1991.

These economic policies made the small farmers and the workers who form a large population in India to be bankrupt therefore increasing the rate of inequality between such developing country and the already developed countries. Lack of incomes of such farmers has also led to an increased rate of poverty in the developing countries. A study which was conducted in Andhra Pradesh (which is a relatively prosperous rural community) on the starvations and deaths among the peasant farmers who were handloom weavers showed the extent in which poverty in local communities has affected people living in them.

The poverty rates were as a result of the adopted macroeconomic reform in the communities. These starvations and deaths in the community occurred only months after the new economic policy was introduced. The policy which led to devaluation and lifting of controls on the export of cotton yards and the sharp increase in the price of cotton yarn domestically led to a collapse in the payment rates by the middle men of the pachan which represented 24 meters length of the cotton yarns. (Timothy, 2003).

Globalisation which is a result of colonisation has brought greater inequalities than equality in the world. It has led to inequality of power distribution globally and mostly within developing countries. Globalisation is mostly imposed on the developing countries by the Bretton Woods institutions. These institutions undermines sovereignty of a country since the countries have no choice but to adopt the liberal risks or policies which are being cut off from international capital flows as well as the world markets.

These institutions seems to favor the rich countries over the poor therefore increasing the rate of inequality among these countries. Globalisation is also seen as a tool which undermines accountability, democracy and transparency as agreements which are reached between developing countries and the developed countries leave little or no room for debate or approval. One of the most problematic aspects of the current wave of globalisation in the world is the issue of raise in inequality.

Increase in inequalities in the past within countries has been related to globalisation, there has been an increase in capital mobility in the world which has caused a raise in competition between countries for investments and this has greatly affected governments of different countries negatively because there are unable to take any action against the raising inequalities. The governments interventions on the issue of income redistribution is perceived as an obstacle to investments and due to this, globalisation has continually increased the gap that already exists between the rich and the poor countries in the world.

As a result, Anti-globalisation movement has been created due to the feeling that income distributions in the world are morally reprehensible and are unjust. Many people oppose it because they feel that it has brought unfair social outcomes in the world; it is therefore necessary to address the issue of inequality so that globalisation can be sustainable politically. There are people who view colonialism as being a necessary tool for those countries which were colonised, they see it as a logical development in a world which had been previously isolated from development as they searched for global trade.

They say that colonialism is not negated by the ill practices which were conducted then such as corruption, slavery, annexation and war, because there was a result of mutual benefit which was trade expansion, which was the the primary purpose of colonization of the poor countries by the major economic powers of the world. It is further said that colonisation of the poor countries brought about a freer and a more modern world where the benefits of trade are enjoyed by all the people in the globe.

Its is further argued that colonization expanded the worlds horizons and built institutions of the world which enabled availability and efficiency of capital as well as resources, therefore helping to distribute world’s wealth and resources which have helped to support the increased growth of people’s population in the 20th century. The world has become better under the system of colonial trading due to the advancement of liberty which is an improvement in the society.

The governments have become more sophisticated as well as the markets and all the institutional structures such as banks which supports the economy. (Jonathan, 1988). Social exclusion can be defined as the multi dimensional process where the various forms of exclusion are put together. These include participations in political processes and decision making, access to material resources and employment as well as involvement in common cultural practices in the community.

All these have been made possible by globalisation, however, globalisation does not only reflect on increase in poverty line which its linked with but it shows an active process of allocation as well as distribution of space along the various forms of social exclusions. The forms of social exclusions which are brought about by the issues of globalisation, are gender, race and class issue, (Sen, 1981). In the modern era of globalisation, the most contentious issue is about inequality and poverty especially in the developing countries.

There are five trends of modern era of globalisation which started in the 1980. The first is the growth rate in the poor countries which is seen to have accelerated and for the first time in the modern history, they are higher than in the rich countries as their per capita income grew for more than 3. 5% a year in the 1990s. Secondly, there has been a significant decrease in the number of extremely poor people in the poor countries and since 1981, the number of people living on a dollar a day in the developing country, for the first time in history has been cut by a half.

The third trend is that the global inequality has modestly declined, in some countries such as China, the United States and India, the within country inequality has declined and finally, inequalities in wage is seen to increase world wide. Colonialism which brought about globalisation is said to have lifted the countries which were colonised by the other powerful countries out of the dark ages as it brought technical advances , delivered education and health facilities therefore increasing their prosperity as well as their social lives. (Joseph, 2002).

An agenda can be built on how to reduce global poverty, although there are a lot of things which needs to be done, economics offers a means of moving beyond the set millennium goals to effectively reduce poverty. To obtain reliable measures of poverty, there is a need to carry out household surveys on income distribution or consumption which can be comparable across countries. Currently, there has been comparable data of 88 countries out of the total 158 low and middle income countries in the world thanks to the World Bank Research Department.

These countries represent 89% of the entire population of the developing countries in the world. This survey shows the living on ‘a dollar a day’, a living standard which cannot be termed as poor in the middle developing country and is even unthinkable in the developed countries such as the United States. (Michael, 1998). There has been an estimate of proportions as well as the number of people who are living on less than a dollar a day for different developing countries of the world in 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996 and finally 1999.

These developing regions of the world consist of countries which are classified as low or middle income earners by the world bank. Starting with the estimates of 1990, these numbers estimated will be used to towards the set goal of halving global poverty by the year 2015. In 1990, collected data showed that 90% of the poorest people in the world came from three major regions in the world which are the East Asia, South Asia and the Sub-Saharan Africa.

It further showed that out of the total from the East part of Asia, four fifth of the total number of the poor people were from China while the poor in the South part of Asia were found to come from India. This data therefore shows the uneven distribution of poverty in the world which is brought about by Colonialisation. Between 1990 and 1998, fall of poverty in the developing countries showed a good progress as the index of the people living in poverty reduced significantly.

However, the reduction rate of poverty in the world is different in different countries; while some receive a significant reduction, others show a slow reduction or even stagnant reduction. For example in the East Asia, the reduction was significant while it remained stagnant in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty reduction in some developed parts of the world like the Latin America and the Carribean are also stagnant and the situation seems to worsen in Europe. (Ronaldo, 2005). The process of cubbing poverty in the world is moving very slowly as poverty is usually very persistent.

This gives an explanation as to why some of its trait such as resource endowments, the burden of diseases such as malaria, cholera and HIV Aids and the factors which are related to geographical matters are hard to change. These traits are the major reason why poverty in some parts such as the sub Saharan Africa has remained stagnant. Economic growth is a major process which can be used to bring down poverty rates in the world. The economic instruments which can be used are such as human capital, physical capital and technological changes in a country.

For example, use of human capital has helped in raising incomes of people while use of the agricultural technology has helped to improve the agricultural sector in many developing countries. Economic growth therefore reduces the poverty rates of people and their countries. (Robert, 2007). National governments which are aiming a reduce poverty in their countries cannot do so by just enacting reforms at the lofty level government budgets. This is because the budgets might not be too far out of balance therefore they need to use more tactics.

Also, the budgets are not too might show too much inflation and greater openness to the foreign investment and trade. The policies and institutions which are major determinants of the economical and political environment in which individuals accumulate and learn skills and where firms accumulate capital and at the same time produce outputs in a country must be on the front line. Researchers should take the role of conducting national analysis which will enable them identify the most effective anti- poverty policies which will help in fighting the poverty rates in the country.

Tying studies to a specific theoretical account as well as building up bodies of evidence based on various countries can also help in creating an anti-poverty policy options menu which puts into consideration and compares data and poverty rates. It also help in cubing poverty rates in a country. In conclusion, the role of colonialism in consolidating specific global and regional distribution of wealth/poverty in the world has been an issue which have been discussed in depth by many and has brought many controversial issues regarding the causes of poverty and inequalities in the world.

Many people view Colonialisation and globalisation as the major causes of poverty in the world and especially in the developing countries. Arguments in support of this issue shows that although Colonialisation of the developing countries brought about global trade, the powerful countries colonising them did this at the expense of the indigenous people of those countries and it was purely for their own economic benefits but not as a mutual benefit.

Although it led to construction of infrastructures in the third world countries and especially construction of the railway lines, the lines were for the sole purpose of exporting goods to the European countries. On the other hand, those who support Colonialisation argue that the issue of global economy was a mutual benefit and there were many benefits which the third world countries benefited as a result of Colonialisation such as health services, capital market and do not blame it at all as the course of poverty and inequalities experienced in the world.


Robert, O. B and Marc, W (2007), Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics 2nd edition Palgrave. Robert, W, (2003), Globalisation, Poverty, Inequality, Resentment, and Imperialism chapter 12 in Ravenhill Global Political Economy Ronaldo M, (2005), Globalisation and Social Exclusion, Kumarian press, ISBN: 1565491939 Michel, C, (1998), Global Poverty in the Late 20th Century, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 52, no. 1 Joseph, S. (2002) Globalisation and Its Discontents , London: Penguin.

A. K. Sen (1981), Poverty and Famines: An Essay On Entitlement and Deprivation Oxford: Clarendon Jonathan E. S, (1988), The World Bank and Poverty: The Plight of the World’s Impoverished is Still a Major Concern for the International Agency, American Journal of Economics and Sociology 47. 3257-275 Timothy, B & Robin B, (2003), Halving Global Poverty, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 17, No. 3, 3-32. Ravenhill, J. (2007), Global Political Economy chapter, Oxford university, U. S, 12 pp375-407.

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