Are We still Colonised?

The inevitable engagement owing to trade and international relations is a contemporary reality due to which the world is no longer a place that allows countries to stay in isolation. When there are a lot of players on the stage, somebody has to take the lead and be the director. The current scenario witnesses a hegemon too, the United States. The most relevant notions of hegemony, have to do with soft power today. The cultural and economic influences that the US holds are so deep-rooted that we don't even think of it as being something unnatural or unfamiliar. Eating at McDonald's or shopping for blue jeans does not seem to have any critical thinking behind it. But from an economic lens, it deals with the theory of consumers' behaviour, and from a political lens, with the US hegemony. An open world economy operates efficiently when the hegemon supports its creation and existence. The hegemon usually does this for its advantage but often the competitors sweep under its umbrella to take advantage of the openness of the world economy. Living in a unipower world is definitely a reality, but is this to be given the name of “ colonization”? And if it is true, is being a colony beneficial for the economy?

It is important to note that the economic superiority of the US is inseparable from its structural power-- the power to shape the global economy in a particular manner. Considering some significant US favouring choices makes the claims more plausible. Laying emphasis on the economic preponderance of the US economy is the “Bretton Woods System”. It was set up by the US after the second world war. It established a system of payments based on the dollar, which defined all currencies in terms of the dollar, itself convertible into gold, and above all, "as good as gold" for trade. However, painting the US hegemony only with colours of military or economic power gives an incomplete picture. It is the cultural influence that acts as the backbone behind its domination. The US today has the power to "manufacture consent" and win the consent of the dominated classes to view the world in a manner that is favourable to the dominating class.

The cold war era was not only a race of arms, but also a war between ideologies of how to structure the economy in a post war era. It was about the USSR's Socialism and USA’s Capitalism. For the US economy to prosper it was important to create a world where the world economic structure was aligned with the USA's. Taking advantage of its power to manufacture consent, the US was able to convince the biggest economies to adopt capitalism. This was done by introduction of wise policies like the “ Marshall Plan”, the war ridden economies were given loans to rebuild their countries on the condition to adopt capitalism. Today, a large chunk of countries follow capitalism and very few continue with the legacy of socialism. Colonisation and hegemony are not only about deploying military power but also about deploying ideological resources to shape the behaviour of competing powers. Consent is more effective than coercion! Whether we admit it or not, the ideas of good life and success are nothing but dreams churned out by the practices prevailing in America.

The impact of the US hegemony on India is important. After liberalisation and opening of the economy to the international market, imported goods have gradually gained friction among buyers in India. The repercussion is that the market is flooded with goods from the international market. Together with foreign origin brands, Indian brands have to run through notable developments and become successful enough to pose strong competition against their foreign counterparts. Consumers benefit from this competition in terms of quality, technology, performance, and efficacy. Foreign brands are becoming more prevalent amongst Indian consumers gradually turning as cofactors to fashion their preferences, buying practices, and thereby lifestyle. In the current situation, the best response would be to come under the umbrella of the hegemon and take advantage to grow one’s economy. Indian government and policymakers understand this and thus force on the need to “make in India.”

Make in India is a national program of the Government of India intended to facilitate investment, foster discovery, improve skill development, preserve intellectual property, and model best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure in India. The purpose of this initiative is to attract investments from across the world to encourage the manufacturing sector of the country. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India are responsible for this initiative. The program is essential for the economic growth of the country as it aims to utilise the existing Indian talent base, create additional employment opportunities, and empower the secondary and tertiary sectors. The program aims at advancing India’s rank on the Ease of Doing Business index by dropping the redundant laws and regulations, make bureaucratic processes easier, and make the government more transparent, responsive, and accountable to the citizens and the investors.

Coming to the question asked earlier, "Are we colonised economically?”, the answer would be a big yes. But how far is this beneficial or harmful? A country's exports and imports affects the GDP, exchange rate, level of inflation and the level of interest rates. When exports are greater than imports, it hampers the balance of trade and leads to devaluation of the country's currency. This devaluation affects the day to day life of the citizens and degrades the nation's economic performance. But then, coming to the positive aspects, a weaker domestic currency stimulates exports and makes imports more expensive; conversely, a strong domestic currency hampers exports and makes imports cheaper. Indian national rupees have seen a constant devaluation since independence. Recently India was even added to the US watchlist for being a currency manipulator. A healthy economy is the one where both the exports and imports are growing. This usually indicates economic strength and a sustainable trade surplus/deficit. If exports are increasing, but imports are declining significantly, it may indicate that foreign economies are doing better than the domestic economy. On the other hand, if exports fall sharply but imports rise, this may indicate that the domestic economy is doing better than overseas markets. Thus, being an economic colony, it has its own pros and cons. All that is needed is to maintain the healthy economy tag. American hegemony is a reality, and a popular saying sums up the best possible strategy, "If you can't beat it, be with it."

Deshna Jain

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