The 23rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2010)

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Imperialism

   Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a nation's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Imperialism was both normal and common worldwide throughout recorded history, the earliest examples dating from the mid-third millennium BC, diminishing only in the late 20th century. In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. Therefore, the term is used in international propaganda to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

Cultural imperialism is an extremely fuzzy concept, pointing to the supposed influence of one dominant culture over others, i.e. a form of soft power, which changes the moral, cultural, and societal worldview of the subordinate country. In some ways, this is such an expansion of the concept of imperialism as to be meaningless. This is more than just "foreign" music, television or film becoming popular with young people, but that popular culture changing their own expectations of life and their desire for their own country to become more like the foreign country depicted. For example, depictions of opulent American lifestyles in the soap opera Dallas during the Cold War changed the expectations of Romanians; a more recent example is the influence of smuggled South Korean drama series in North Korea. The importance of soft power is not lost on authoritarian regimes, fighting such influence with bans on foreign popular culture, control of the internet and unauthorised satellite dishes etc. Nor is such a usage of culture recent, as part of Roman imperialism local elites would be exposed to the benefits and luxuries of Roman culture and lifestyle, with the aim that they would then become willing participants.

European expansion greatly accelerated in the 19th century. To obtain raw materials, Europe expanded imports from other countries and from the colonies. European industrialists sought raw materials such as dyes, cotton, vegetable oils, and metal ores from overseas. Concurrently, industrialization was quickly making Europe the center of manufacturing and economic growth, driving resource needs.

Some geographic scholars under colonizing empires divided the world into climatic zones. These scholars believed that Northern Europe and the Mid-Atlantic temperate climate produced a hard-working, moral, and upstanding human being. In contrast, tropical climates allegedly yielded lazy attitudes, sexual promiscuity, exotic culture, and moral degeneracy. The people of these climates were believed to be in need of guidance and intervention from a European empire to aid in the governing of a more evolved social structure; they were seen as incapable of such a feat. Similarly, orientalism could promote a view of a people based on their geographical location.

A resurgence came in the late 19th century with the Scramble for Africa and major additions in Asia and the Middle East. The British spirit of imperialism was expressed by Joseph Chamberlain and Lord Rosebury, and implemented in Africa by Cecil Rhodes. The pseudo-sciences of Social Darwinism and theories of race formed an ideological underpinning and legitimation during this time. Other influential spokesmen included Lord Cromer, Lord Curzon, General Kitchener, Lord Milner, and the writer Rudyard Kipling. The British Empire was the largest Empire that the world has ever seen both in terms of landmass and population. Its power, both military and economic, remained unmatched for a few decades. After the First Boer War, the South African Republic and Orange Free State were recognised by Britain but eventually re-annexed after the Second Boer War. But British power was fading, as the reunited German state founded by the Kingdom of Prussia posed a growing threat to Britain's dominance. As of 1913, Britain was the world's fourth economy, behind the U.S, Russia and Germany.

German participation in imperialism was negligible until the late 19th century. Prussia unified the other states into the second German Empire in 1871. Its Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1862Ц90), long opposed colonial acquisitions, arguing that the burden of obtaining, maintaining, and defending such possessions would outweigh any potential benefits. He felt that colonies did not pay for themselves, that the German bureaucratic system would not work well in the tropics and the diplomatic disputes over colonies would distract Germany from its central interest, Europe itself.

With Constantinople as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. Following a long period of military setbacks against European powers, the Ottoman Empire gradually declined in its ability to remain sovereign against competing powers in the late 19th century. The empire allied with Germany in the early 20th century, with the imperial ambition of recovering its lost territories, but it dissolved in the aftermath of its defeat in the First World War. The residue was the new state of Turkey in the Ottoman Anatolian heartland, as well as the creation of modern Balkan and Middle Eastern states, thus ending Turkish colonial ambitions.

Echoing the prevailing ideological perspectives regarding colonialism and imperialism embraced by Spain's European rivals during the colonial era, including the English, French, and the Dutch, the Spanish utilized colonialism as a means of expanding imperial geopolitical borders and securing the defense of maritime trade routes in the Caribbean basin.

The scope and scale of Spanish participation in imperialism within the Caribbean basin remains a subject of scholarly debate among historians. A fundamental source of contention stems from the inadvertent conflation of theoretical conceptions of imperialism and colonialism. Furthermore, significant variation exists in the definition and interpretation of these terms as expounded by historians, anthropologists, philosophers, and political scientists.


 

 
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