18th vs 20th Century Colonialism

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    I haven’t had a chance to see the “Obama 2016” movie and have read some mixed reviews on it, but was talking to a friend who was telling me about how the movie paints Obama as an “anti-colonialist.” What does this term mean by those who use it? It seems to be used by the Right in describing a Leftist-ideology. Just by looking at the word itself though, I think it sounds great! I mean, it’s what the 13 States fought the English over! Colonialism was a mercantilist,protectionist, imperial, anti-free market, anti-self rule system. It’s a system that I feel like has been brought back, though painted differently, in a neo-mercantilist system of corporate America influencing the Federal government to use the military all over the world to secure their markets on American corporate terms, all on the tax payer dime. My friend said the movie spends a few minutes distinguishing between colonialism of the American 18th century and the 20th colonialism of West Africa & India.

    I’ll have to check out the movie just to see what distinctions there are as well as re-watch the lecture that touches on European colonialism. But if anyone has input/discussion, I’m interested.


    I saw the movie. I thought it was well-made, but sort of missing the greater point. It presents something of a personal attack (via character study) of Obama specifically, rather than a detailed refutation of why his actual positions are terrible. The unstated implication throughout the movie seems to be something like: “Obama takes the positions he does because of his odd background with a non-present African father and Communist-sympathizing mother and grandparents.” Which of course, begs the question, “Why are Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton also extreme leftists?”

    Anyway, it seems to me that when neocons refer to “anti-colonialism” they mean people who are vehemetly against the traditional colonial powers (of which America is included as one). An anti-colonialist, for example, would side against America, France, or England in a dispute against any African or Asian nation, regardless of what the facts are or what the dispute actually involves. The underlying belief is that essentially all “developing” nations are only developing because they were exploited and taken advantage of by “the west.” That evil on the part of the colonial powers is the only reason that world peace and prosperity have not been achieved.

    In any case, if you watch the movie hoping for a detailed discussion of colonialism, you will be quite disappointed. The movie is about two thirds a biography of Obama (mostly retelling of his book “Dreams from my Father” with a negative spin), and one third a brief rundown of some of the current political issues with a neocon spin. If you’ve read Obama’s book, and if you ever listen to conservative talk radio, you’ve already experienced pretty much everything this movie has to offer.

    Jason Jewell

    I have not seen “2016,” so I’ll defer to SmartMuffin’s description. In common usage it seems that “anti-colonial” and “anti-Western” are practically synonymous. It’s implied that because of the history of colonialism/imperialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western countries have an ongoing moral responsibility to sacrifice their interests to benefit non-Western countries, in large part through a redistribution of wealth (foreign aid, debt forgiveness, etc.).


    Dr. J, I just finished all 84 of your lectures on Western Civilization (thanks for that), and the one topic that seemed most lacking was a lecture on decolonization.

    Given a mixture of my public schooling and lack of interest in history while attending said public schools, my experience throughout these two courses was more of a learning ground-up than a correcting of misinformation.

    And consequently, I still know next to nothing about decolonization (though the rest of the course was great). Any chance at a follow up 20-40min video lecture on the process of decolonization after WW2?

    A book recommendation would be ok too, though I’d prefer a lecture 😉


    Jason Jewell

    Mark, that’s definitely a gap in the lecture series. As I’m sure you noticed, by the end of the course I was running out of lecture slots, but I still had many topics to try to cover. Decolonization didn’t make the cut, in large part because my knowledge of the topic is pretty superficial, although I have done survey-type lectures on it in the past.

    If I ever do a “second edition” of this course, this an area I’d want to explore more because so much of the demand for global wealth redistribution today rests on assumptions about colonialism and presumed handicapping of the former colonies at the time of their independence.

    Unfortunately, I don’t even know of a reliable book recommendation off the top of my head. I’ll do a little digging and see what I can come up with.


    Thanks for looking into it.

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