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The function of "colonial division of labor" in development project: Philip McMichael By Miha Alam

The concept of development was introduced in the colonial era. The European countries started to colonize the 'non-European' countries. Colonialism is defined as " the subjugation by physical and psychological force of one culture by another- a colonizing power- through military conquest of territory and stereotyping the relation between the two cultures" by McMicheal. The colonial division of labor played a very important role in the colonial era as it lead to the reorganization of the world. The European countries colonized countries that had copious amount of resources for example China, India and Africa. In order to attain these resources, they introduced the concept of specialization. Their colonies specialized in extraction and production of raw materials and resources that were rare in the Europe. The European countries used these resources to industrialize as a result, their economy developed. Colonial division of labor played a key role in shaping the terms of reference of the development project and established the hegemonic relationship. The Europeans first thought of the concept of development and colonized other countries so that they themselves could industrialize and attain economic growth. Hence, the colonial powers categorized themselves as developed countries, and their colonies as underdeveloped because they thought that the 'underdeveloped' countries were trapped in oppressed cultural traditions. This diction and jargon (developed and underdeveloped) formed the hegemonic relationship because a developed economy was better than an underdeveloped economy.

Colonized economies not only choose the names/labels to categorize the economy, but also categorized the countries into such categories, which lead to the division between the countries in the world. The Colonial powers/European countries were the powerful ones and also the "developed ones and the their colonies/non-European countries became powerless and hence underdeveloped. Such domination again established hierarchy. The colonial division of labor contributed to this hegemonic relationship between colonizers and their colonies because the colonizers were successful in colonizing the underdeveloped countries by exploiting their natural resources. They forced their colonies to specialize in production of raw materials, which was only beneficial for the economy of the colonial powers.

In many cases the colonization started with trade links established between the trading companies. For example; in India, the East India Company came to India to do trading of spices and cotton. Later on the governments took over the country as it were successful in taking advantage of their colony's' cheap labor, non-existent labor laws, easy conversion of agricultural based economy of the colonies to manufacturing based economy favoring the growth of the Colonial powers. Colonizers made such structural changes that the host countries had no choice but to participate. For example; Decca, a small city in India was known as "extensive, populous and rice as the city of London "(34, McMicheal). However, after the division of labor, their resources were exhausted, the population decreased from 150,000 to just 30,000 due to malaria. The book mentions that Decca became a poor town as local farming cultures lost their land to commercial agriculture, which was only for European consumers and industries. Lastly, the development project itself also contributes to the establishment of hierarchy between the colonizers and colonies. Truman proposed "a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas". He proposed the idea of aid instead of proposing the idea of achieving economic growth together which clearly depicts that he was not sincere and he was just interested in forming a trade relationship with countries that have a lot of resources. The fact that a country is giving aid to another country puts the country in a superior position (because country giving the aid has more power, money and technology) than the country that is receiving the aid, as they are dependent on the country's aid to develop.

This exchange of money established a hierarchy, as again there is concept of dominant over weak. In conclusion, the colonial division of labor and the development project formed this hierarchy between the colonizers and their colonies because "development historically depended on the unequal relationships of colonialism, which included an unequal division of labor and unequal ecological exchanges- both of which produced a legacy of "underdevelopment" in the colonial and postcolonial worlds" (McMicheal, 38). Colonization in the end benefitted India because the British introduced technology such has the railways (India has the 5th largest and most dense railway system) and telegraph. UN countries (first world) are known as G8 countries and the members of the Security Council even today have "veto powers" which other member countries don't have which is an example of colonial legacy.

Miha Alam
Sociology on International Development
Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, USA