C.R Bijoy

The Imperialist Hegemonic Paradigm

The conception and the progressive conceptualization, redefinition and refinement and further, their extension and adaptation of the imperialist formulation of democracy and governance through the colonial and the postcolonial predatory phase constitute the overarching framework, responding to which, self-rule is conceived and propounded.

The closing years of twentieth century was predicated with a number of significant pronouncements. The end of ideology and of socialism, the end of nation state as we knew it, the final clash of civilization, the dawn of a brave new world and the emergence of the ‘global village’ were ushered in with much relief and excitement. Along with these were the apprehensions of the dangers of a nuclearised world, of ecological disasters and of regional armed conflicts.

The post war world threw up important lessons for further development of imperialist development models. Direct political take over preceding economic extraction and expropriation were costly besides being tragic in economic and human terms. These were the lessons from the Vietnam fiasco. Militarily and economically propping up dictators and authoritarian regimes in the ‘Banana Republics’ of Latin America, and harvesting high returns in the short term, was grossly unreliable and highly risky. The regimes were prone to rapid upheavals. Creating backyard economies as Mexico that was cautiously used, remained limited in potential, fragile and ‘backward’. Conventional wars as the prime method of consolidation of imperialism was clearly no longer possible – a lesson learnt from the world wars. Newer instruments were then necessary for neo-colonialism.

Globally there were visible changes with the accumulation of capital. The dominance of industrial capital in determining political processes perceptibly changed with the financial capital coming to the fore. The shift has been to the trader dominating decision making in production rather than the producers themselves – market determining matters of production. Technology and capital were deployed whole scale by the finance sector for rapid ‘modernization’ of economies and production internally as with ‘Tiger Economies’ of Asia. A steady high return per dollar was maintained. Cheap raw material and labour became the key factors for sustainable profit. Finance capital increasingly developed a calculated and viscous predatory character moving across regions and countries more rapidly than ever before. This required that the state becomes an active facilitator and collaborator. The integration of national capital and global capital was a natural and necessary requirement to enable the largely national capital controlled state to become the instrument of this facilitation. The state as both a facilitator and a collaborator progressed simultaneously, each feeding into the other progressively. The formally ‘decolonized’ countries that continued to retain and build on the edifice and formulation of democracy and governance of the colonialists had, at one level, strengthened the emergence of a strong politically influential economic elite. Strong resentment and resistance, at another level, constantly threatened to spill over, revolting against the process of internal colonization by this economic and political elite. The imperialist development agenda for these economies became the prize offered to these economic elites within ‘developing’ economies. This was carried through whole scale transfer of technologies and capital in the initial phase. This was also made possible by the economic mess that followed the adoption of the imperialist models of democracy and governance besides development. These were interceded through economic aid and policy interventions that had progressed subsequent to ‘decolonization’.

Globalization: The Step Forward to the Global Village

With the internal economic elite having progressed in strength and political influence and their increasing collaboration with emerging stronger global capital, the economy of countries could be pried open with the instrumentality of the state that had by then got effectively into the hands of a much stronger national capital. The internal bankruptcy, heavy debt burden and demand for more aid for ‘development’ constituted the plank and lever for the further economic transfer that came to be known as ‘globalization’. From transfer of capital and technologies, there was a distinct shift to transfer of whole production and marketing processes to the developing economies – the hollowing out of industries, outsourcing and re-import from the capitalist nations.

Globalization became the new form of war without loss of life to the first world. War mongering and low intense warfare continued the perpetuation of threat of whole scale war and strategic geopolitical engagements besides ensuring a phenomenal growth and profits to the arms establishment. Globalization essentially trans-nationalized production and capital, and standardized production systems and products. The World Bank, the International Monitory Fund and World Trade Organization transformed themselves to becoming the instruments of globalization – the instruments of this war. This supra-national global superior was pushed to position themselves above the UN systems, which got marginalized, and pushed aside and under.

This opening up of ‘developing’ economies is to be carried out through dismantling of protectionist barriers such as tariff, quota restriction, licensing measures, capital control, labour market policies etc. These were essential for the further rapid development of economic and political elites of the earlier phase. The WB-IMF-WTO lay open these economies to the unproved assumption that market-mediated growth would ensure efficient allocation and utilization of resources for growth. They shaped public policies. State intervened to lay open vast natural livelihood resources of the masses and labour for predatory capital now in the name of growth, development and even ecology. The Fund-Bank? exercised power through financial leverage to revamp and legislate entire legal regimes, and even to alter or bypass the constitutional structure of the borrowing nations. Fiscal policy, trade policy, labour laws, energy policy, environmental regulations, civil service requirements, health care arrangements, procurement rules and budgetary policy are all rewritten. Along with these changes, the integration of national capital with global capital, and deployment of global capital, signify rapid converging processes of interests.

Globalization extends beyond trade and financial flows to flows of technology, services, information, and persons, and quite notably, of ideas, conceptions, approaches, models and systems along with structures to carry them forward to their becoming a reality. The emergence and placement of new hegemonic structures globally as well as the evolution of newer structures, besides transformation of existing structures or even dismantling of irrelevant structures, progressed simultaneously - both internationally and nationally. These were to take care of both integration as well as dissension.

The post 9/11 global war on terrorism indicate amply the extent to which economic integration has progressed towards political integration spanning wide range of regimes - from the authoritarian to the liberal democracies. The progressive militarization of nation states is now winding its painful brutal path to the placement of an efficient globalized military establishment.

Redefinition of State, Democracy and Governance

The economic and political transformation globally and nationally went along with it the evolving and changing conceptions of state as a hegemonic instrument to mediate these changes as well. These changes themselves had within them changing notions of democracy and governance.

The transition from colonial empires to capitalist democracies came along with it the critique of these economic and political regimes internally, that they are not inherently capable of benefiting entire communities in these countries. It was also argued that the very nature of the system was based on the perpetuation of inequity and injustice, both internally and externally. This critique, for example, gave credence to the alternative conception in which a socialist conception was credited with providing the concrete alternative. This political and economic perception giving its expression in different parts of the world through revolutionary transformation in the erstwhile Soviet Union, China, Cuba etc provided sufficient legitimacy to this alternative conception and constituted a credible threat as well. These therefore provided the movement to incorporate changes in the capitalist system that could indeed take care of the critique. On the other, the so-called decolonization process gave way to the colonial empires being dismantled chaotically in most parts, but largely leaving behind the colonial structures.

The notions of a strong state and democracy based on adult franchise were considered the new dispensation. Criticisms to these systems were to be taken care of by the state with the state also being a welfare state. With progress in the capitalist agenda, notions of strong state retreated. The state is systematically divesting and abdicating its role from the multifarious sectors that make up the life of its citizens to the established and expanding market forces. The spaces vacated by the state are progressively determined by the market - of the market’s self-proclaimed ability to take care of for its own perceived perpetuation and growth. Along with this divestment of responsibilities by the state in the social welfare arena, there is also the rise of the national security state. The global rise of the ‘right’ as in large parts along with these are consistent with these changes.

The legitimacy to the system was provided by a democracy expressed in the form of representative democracy. However, democracy considered a panacea for equality, fraternity and justice in the post-world war ‘decolonization’ phase was seen as an impediment to the growth of imperialism on the one hand, while the imperialist nations themselves, on the other, adopted the path of this democracy. Subversion of this democracy by covert and overt means in developing economies through political manipulations of the ‘free’ nations by the imperialist nations constituted the bulwark for geopolitical management of the various regions in the world. With the immediate threat of ‘socialism’ receding in the post cold-war era with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the stagnation in capitalist growth creating a crisis that manifested globally, the unfolding experience of the sustainable returns from the Asian tiger economies and the potential created by the debt traps that the developing nations had fallen into, along with the establishment of invasive and coercive institutional instruments in enviable command, the predatory phase of capitalism unleashed its global formulation, popularly known as ‘globalization’.

Predatory capitalism carried with it the redefinition of the state and the role of the market. The now ‘obtrusive’ state was to be rolled back redistributing its functions to the market. The state, economy and markets were not natural constructs. Predatory capitalism projected economic competition as the highest expression of liberalism and advocated state regulation of society, and political and legal changes to foster competition. All forms of actions in ‘non-economic areas’ were considered ‘unintelligible’. Therefore, these are to be made intelligible by making them ‘rational’. This rationality was to be solely expressed through utility maximization exemplified through market idioms. In this conception, capital has to be unregulated or self-regulated. This is possible through the promotion of predatory politics drawing on a number of components such as minimal intervention of the state in the economy with strong intervention of the state in non-economic domains - primarily in security, both internal and external. Social authoritarianism, a disciplined society, hierarchy and subordination went along with market society. Market expediency dictate that issues of equity and justice are to be supplanted with what is possible. And what is possible varies differentially to different social classes. Limits to ‘growth’ inherently contained in it the negation of equity as a physically achievable goal and therefore not pragmatic and conceivable.

‘Democracy’ is now interpreted as primarily the unfettered market. This unfettered market is provided the scope of intervening in the non-economic sectors to reconstruct them into economic norms. This redefined ‘democracy’ is presented, becomes desirable and almost necessary for the growth of capital that this ‘democracy’ is almost a precondition to a nation being considered a part of the emerging ‘global village’. The state, meanwhile, is to fortify itself with arsenals as a militarized security state apparatus, participating in the lofty global project of a militarized, safe and protected global system. ‘Human rights’ are tagged on to this ‘democracy’ and a deemed violation of desirable practices or standards of ‘human rights’ constitutes a justification for intervention of the global US led police. Notions of justice are disjointed from ‘human rights’, confining ‘human rights’ to the intelligible economic terms, for instance, in compensatory terms.

‘Governance’ that was based on colonial percepts and structures, were centralized in essence. The explanation for the failure of ‘development’ proceeds from a critique of the state and governance. The critique then goes on to provide two sets of trajectories. The first is ‘decentralization’ of the centralized structure and ‘devolution of power’ that includes the introduction of ‘local self-governance’. These structures are interphased into existing centralized structure as merely the elaboration and further extension of the centralized structure itself. The essential task of these decentralized and local ‘self-governing’ structures are to facilitate the process of integrating local economies and resources very rapidly and efficiently into the globalized systems in a cost effective manner. The establishment of these structures, their availability and space for ‘peoples participation’ are expected to introduce and enthuse the people to conceive possibilities and opportunities, organize efficiently, cost effectively and competitively the local resources, skills and products and link them up with the global system. At the same time, this process is also to facilitate an easy entry of the global market into local economies for consumption of products and services. The local ‘self-governing’ structures now introduced are also critically important as a very low-cost structure as compared to corporate structures. They now carry out the very functions of imperialist penetration and control of productive forces of local economies as well as integrating the local economy to market and therefore under the purview of ‘market democracy’.

The second trajectory in governance stems from the failure of government to adequately provide public goods and services. The ‘good governance’ agenda includes ‘information’, ‘participation’, ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’ besides ‘decentralization’. In developing countries, it is argued, that the markets have not sufficiently developed and therefore, government’s social functions are to be distributed to the ‘organizations of civil society’. In the neo-colonial formulation, the organizations of civil society are identified, as 'non-governmental' to whom are disbursed large amounts of funds while incorporating them in the making and implementing of policies. They identify closely and work with governmental, international and multilateral agencies. They also work with the market and the corporates to strengthen them in their capacity to undertake social responsibilities, which the government is abdicating itself of.

Impacts: Of Cooption, Resistance and Exclusion

The colonial, and subsequently, the neo-colonial era set into motion the superimposition and strengthening of the imperialist and hegemonic formulation of democracy and governance. The precondition to this was a complete negation of what existed prior to colonization. This negation was also legitimized legally and politically, and attempted to be enforced forcibly. The process of extraction in the form of revenue went along with the fundamental assault on the source of survival and livelihood of the masses. This was enabled with the pursuit of the concept of ‘eminent domain’ of the state under which the natural resources – the land, forests and water – were deemed to belong to the state and hence the colonial power. With it, the very base of subsistence were brought under the purview and control of the state and the colonial power from that of communities organized in various diverse forms prior to colonization. This constituted the setting into motion the process of negation of all and any form of democracy and governance that existed prior to colonization. The internal structures that existed were sought to be retained and utilized to meet the goal of expropriation – the primary motive of colonization – as long as they suited this purpose. Where this was not possible or not sufficiently efficient, newer structures were introduced and developed further. Nevertheless, they also generated subtle but critical changes within, often creating tensions amongst various social groups and classes, which were also used to manage any dissensions and resistance to colonial domination. The social elite were systematically trained to become part of the structure or tied in interest to this structure. The extent the diverse social groups were brought into the ambit of expropriation was also not uniform, but largely depended on the extent to which these social groups could be assimilated into the colonial dispensation. This also depended on the extent of resistance of these social groups.

With the consolidation of colonization, power structures were created with the formation and development of an economic and power elite allied to the colonial interests – the mercantile and industrial capital. The inability to retain the original form of colonial consolidation soon gave way to conflict and the emergence of liberation struggles in most parts. The establishment of colonial structures internally, the process of the transfer of power or the occupation of the seat of power by a power elite, the ‘independence’ from the direct rule of the colonial empire, the internal colonization process carried forward by the power elite with the use and strengthening of the colonial structure left behind by the erstwhile colonizers and consequently the development of national capital, unfolded the progress made in this era of neo-colonization. The aspirations of the ‘free’ people were themselves used by the economic and political elites to become an active collaborator in the imperialist neo-colonization programme through the adoption of the ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’ prescriptions which were also getting further refined to suit the changing needs of imperialism and allied internal expropriation.

The colonial structures were further developed and strengthened. This further intensified the hegemony of the state. The control of the natural resources by the state progressed rapidly. The resources were either transferred or put to use to subserve the interests of economic and political elites. The economic and political elites perceived and conceived ‘national development’ as a process to legitimize their hegemony as well as to serve their interests. Both these progressed along side increasing negotiations and collaboration with the imperialist powers and interests. The conceptual base for the engineering of instruments, both nationally and internationally, was propounded quite uncharacteristically as ‘liberalism and later neo-liberalism’. These were legitimized and deployed for ‘growth’ and ‘development’ facilitated also by the mediation of technology and capital from developed economies. The hegemonic economic and development agenda laid waste vast areas, displaced large sections, and generated conflicts within and between social groups. It exploited those included, exploited those who are excluded and is, in addition, creating a class of totally excluded.

Two key areas of conflict emerged sharply. One was the area of the increasing exclusion of masses from their life-sustaining natural resources, which were increasing transferred to or deployed to serve the interests of the national and global capital. The second major area of conflict that arose was the increasing tension and conflicts between whatever modes of traditional governance that remained. The former, in addition to transfer of resources, also included the generation and transfer of capital surplus to centres of ‘development’ through various mechanisms of taxation and subsidy, credit and savings, and that of the market. The latter included the virtual criminalisation of almost all facets of traditional governances where the ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’ and the formal legal framework by their very imposition deemed all other forms of social practices as ‘criminal’ by legal edicts, either by their non-recognition or by supplanting with formal laws and practices of the state. This superimposed system had inbuilt within it necessarily the absence of dispute resolution mechanism (a prerequisite for imperialism to carry forward its agenda for otherwise it simply could not). It also required a complete subordination, subjugation and cultural acceptance of the objectives and ends of the superimposed system. Any dissenting note is therefore treated as a threat to ’national interests’ and ’public good’.

The constriction and often the removal of the traditional spaces of communities or social groups and sections within communities that is economical, cultural, social and political, generated frictions, tensions and conflicts within social groups which the ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’ managed through subjugation and containment. These tensions and conflicts took various forms of protests and struggles putting forth various demands as perceived then by the aggrieved as reflecting solutions that are possible. These protests and struggles were also organized into a continuous process coming to be categorized under social and political movements.

The response to these from ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’ is primarily that of law and order. Therefore, these are to be contained through the administrative machinery, the law and order machinery and the judiciary. But the persistence and widespread acceptance of the demands as legitimate is then accommodated within the percepts of the imperialist agenda through their incorporation into the frame and ambit of the system through reformulation. This reformulation in essence is a compromised accommodation within the frame, robbing its essential content through their refashioning within the imperialist frame. The imperialist frame itself therefore becomes the only defined space that is permissible. The process of accommodation in fact is transformed into political cooption instead.

Two broad streams of resistance continue to exist and refuse to be unacceptable in a fundamental manner. These are those that persist in insisting on communities' sovereign rights to their livelihood resources with the potential of their use not in harmony with and often in total divergence to the imperialist formulation. The second stream is those that insist on an alternative conception to the imperialist and hegemonic economic and political system where the alternative presents itself as counter to the prevailing system. These streams therefore find no scope in their being accommodated and co-opted as long as these streams persist in insisting on the fundamentals that constitute their very frame of conception and not adopting and reformulating to suit the imperialist frame. These are then deemed to be irreconcilable deterrents to the imperialist agenda that do not have the potential to be accommodated and therefore these are to be resisted militaristically and politically.

Self Rule as A Counter Paradigm

Self-rule is a form of dissent, resistance and alternative that is counter posed historically vis-à-vis the dominant discourse on ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’. It emanates from the living traditions of peoples worldwide and especially the indigenous and tribal/Adivasi peoples, as it is historically here that these traditions are most vibrant and alive. That the basic tenets of this tradition are articulated and asserted worldwide by the indigenous and tribal/Adivasi peoples movements in some form or other as what is desired and that they are increasingly being expressed through political expressions of struggles are themselves indicative of its continued and future relevance. It is also a matter of fact that these tenets in varying intensities and forms continue to be alive, practiced and insisted upon, further gives credence, indicating potentialities and possibilities. Self-rule therefore is a conceptualization arising out of the concrete reality and also from the critique of the dominant discourse.

Self-rule, it must be recognized, is not and cannot be a part of and does not emanate as another possibility within the dominant paradigm of imperialist formulation of ‘democracy’ and ‘governance’. Neither is it to be equated as the ‘self-governance’ of the ‘decentralized’ structure and ‘devolved’ power format of the dominant discourse that is peddled, especially in recent times, as the ideal form of ‘good governance’ by the various instruments and creatures of imperialist forces. Self-rule, in fact, emerges as a counter to the very paradigm that constitute the dominant discourse. Self-rule is also not yet another techno-managerial approach to human predicament, to be executed through a hierarchical power structure and delivery mechanism or vehicle.

Self-rule conceived here is both different in content and form. Self-rule is comprehensive in essence as they take into its ambit and encompass the total life of communities within its frame. Self-rule is a non-centralized participatory democratic system managing affairs of the peoples through consensual principles with focus on resolution of disputes. The absence of and therefore the prevention of any fissures or fracturing within and between peoples are fundamental to self-rule.

The subordination of the individual to the collective good, the natural right of the sovereignty of peoples, and the collective right to self-determination are essential components. The collective rights to the territory and command over resources and a conception, and realization of the conception through a system of participatory democracy and governance, a system of sustainable development for the collective good with equity and justice as central to the development notion are also fundamental. The fruits of both manual and mental labour is collectively owned and enjoyed. Aberrations are to be considered as a manifestation of the imperfection and weakness of the system and its practice, and therefore not attributed entirely to the individual. The collective deliberations on these issues are then the basis for reflection to identify weakness for a collective rectification. The notion of crime and punishment are to fall within this framework of intention.

The relationship of the collective to the territory and relationship within the collective is paramount and are to be reflected in attitude. The science, technologies and management systems are based on the above principles and to serve the above principles. The development principles are equity and justice, and inherently are not to give rise to inequities. They are to be environmentally sound. The political executive is to execute the decision of the collectivity without power and is accountable to the collectivity. The political executive selected through consensus is based upon demonstrated capacities and are constantly subject to a system of accountability based on transparency. The scopes to collectively examine the experiences at regular intervals are expected to enhance the capacities of the collectivity to learn lessons and progress. This system is most effective in a face-to-face community and therefore the fundamental unit is the face-to-face community where the members of the collective are in an ongoing regular interaction with each other. In essence, each collective in this non-centralized system is a little republic.

Finally, the matters that fall outside the scope of the particular collective are dealt with structures created at appropriate levels. These structures follow the path of non-centralized democratic federal principles. The fact that these are created by these republics makes it possible for them to function as non-centralized participatory democracies with an anti-imperialist content. This conception of self-rule carries within it an alternative perception as well as the anti-globalization and anti-imperialist intent.

Permission to upload this granted on October 03 2005


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