Relationship between Neoliberalism and Imperialism Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Neoliberalism and imperialism are two concepts that expound on the political and economic discourse in the world. The two are part of the many theories that theorize the functioning of the society. Therefore, the two concepts are highly related in the manner in which institutions in the contemporary globalized economy function.

Neoliberalism, which was advanced from liberalism, refers to the economic philosophy that was developed in the Western world by the liberal scholars. This concept was developed in the 1930s, when the world was facing tough economic times due to the impacts of the First World War.

Arguing against National Socialism and capitalism as the leading causes of the poor economic situation in the world, neoliberalism opposed the development of a market economy by putting the state at the centre of control. On the other hand, imperialism is a policy that backs the expansion of the authority of a country by pegging on economic and political tools.

This paper explores the similarity between neoliberalism and imperialism. The article goes further to show the linkage of the manner in which the two concepts expound on the developments in the economic, political, and socio-cultural realms in the contemporary globalized world.

In this paper, it is argued that most of the propositions that are made by the proponents of neoliberalism enhance the development of imperialist tendencies in the global economy.

Understanding imperialism and neoliberalism

As observed in the introduction, a deeper comprehension of the development of the philosophy of neoliberalism is rooted in the developments of the 1930s. During this period, states had absolutely lost the power to control the economy due to the nature of political and economic philosophies that were being embraced by states.

The Great Economic Depression that occurred in the 1930s is one of the indicators of the inability of states to restrain the economy. It is as a result of these developments that the states sought for means of ensuring they re-established their potential to control the economies.

As the western world, led by the United States, later attained the control of the world long after the Second World War, the idea of putting the state at the centre of the economic functionality in the society gained prominence. Keynesianism was highly embraced at both the national and international levels.

It is as a result of the continued embraced of Keynesianism that conferences resulted in the development of international economic institutions to help in maintaining economic stability through the imposition of controls in the economy were held.

The stability of national economies was guaranteed under the watchful eye of the international economic institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The guarantee of security came from the nature of financial controls, like the devaluation of currencies.

However, what ought to be noted at this point is that the nature of economic policies that were developed as a result of the embrace of neoliberalism made states to be the determinants of the economic trends in the world. It is essential to bring in imperialism at this point. Imperialism is essentially a policy that supports the increase in authority and dominance by states in the world.

Borrowing from the traditional times where the states increased their authority and control through conquest, the modern type of imperialism is portrayed through the use of soft political and economic policies. Most of these policies feature in neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism gave the state the powers to determine the economic trends. A substantial number of political scientists argue that the main form of imperialism in the contemporary globalized world is depicted by the economic power and prowess of states.

Relationship between neoliberalism and imperialism

As noted in the argument above, there is a strong relationship between imperialism and neoliberalism. The development of neoliberalism is seen as one of the critical steps in the enhancement of imperialism in the contemporary global society because imperialism was developed much earlier than neoliberalism.

Arguing from the economic perspective, it can be noted that neoliberalism was critical in giving states powers to control the economy. Therefore, countries that had stronger economies during the 1970s when neoliberalism was fully enforced were at a more significant advantage of gaining a mileage in the control of the world economy.

The embrace of the Keynesian principles enables the dominant states to develop stronger trading organizations and the subsequent expansion of these organizations in the world through the establishment of periphery organizations known as subsidiaries. When pictured now, dominant firms in the world, most of which originated from the Western world due to the neoliberal thought, have dominated the global economic arena.

It is essential to explore the nature of dominance in order to understand how these forms of dominance depict imperialism. A substantial number of political commentators relate the advancement of neoliberalism to a kind of political project that was developed to embrace a certain form of capitalism across the globe. This capitalism is embraced in different ways, mostly in the nature of the functioning of the global political and economic institutions.

Taking it from the earlier point about the advancement of global trade through the sprouting of multinational corporations, it has been noted that multinational corporations reflect a higher level of capitalism and imperialism in the contemporary globalized world.

While it is rational for one to appraise the multinational corporations for embracing the competitiveness of markets across the world, the level of dominance that is depicted by the operation of the multinational companies is what results in the argument that these institutions are the centres of imperialism in the global political economy.

It is essential to observe that most of the multinational companies came from the western world, which I synonymous with the promotion of capitalism. Most of the multinational companies have been too dominant in the foreign states in which they operate due to their contributions to national economies.

In most cases, the multinational corporations influence the political landscape in the foreign countries in that the political decisions have to factor in the considerations of the multinational companies because of the position that they occupy in the national economies of the foreign nations where they operate. This means that the international economies have been deeply influenced and controlled by the multinational companies.

The level of dominance exhibited by the multinational companies enables them to engage in malpractices under the watch and protection of the foreign governments. In other words, it is apparent that the mother countries can make use of the multinational companies to advance their foreign policy goals and objectives across the world.

Therefore, the Western world has, for a long time, made use of the multinational corporations to exercise their power, authority, and influence over the developing countries in which their multinational operate.

Also, the sprouting of the multinational corporations in different countries across the world has been responsible for the adoption of capitalistic tendencies in various economies across the world. It is critical to note that the Western world highly values capitalism; thus, neoliberalism has greatly aided these countries to spread the ideology of capitalism.

The adoption of capitalism across the world depicts the achievement of the western world and a form of imperialism. However, this is slowly changing as other regions in the world, like Asia, come into the global economic arena.

More often than not, dominant countries in the world like the United States take advantage of the neoliberal principles to forcefully establish and sustain their philosophies. For instance, the United States makes use of the international institutions to enhance the state of hegemony, which it enjoys.

By virtue of international cooperation and the promotion of global peace as embraced by globalization, the United States relies on its supremacy as the leading financier of these institutions to influence the political course in other countries; not as a way of supporting the nations, but as a way of exerting its influence and control over states and other players in the global arena.

Under the pursuance of corporate security, most political science researchers argue that neoliberalism has been integrated with imperialism to promote what is referred to as liberal imperialism.

Neoliberalism has resulted in the increased democratization of the world. It is critical to observe that democracy is an ideology of the Western world. With the embrace of neoliberal principles is the growth of the idea of globalization and cooperation among states through the advancement of technology and the growth of the global mass media.

Most political scientists argue that globalization and its resultant developments are a new form of neoliberalism. The growth of technology and interconnectedness makes it easy for people to access the developments that take place in different regions across the world.

The idea of the embrace of humanity has gained more comprehensive coverage through the global mass media in the sense that the autocratic form of governance is often subjected to criticism and opposition. This promotes the development and institutionalization of the principles of democracy in different states and institutions across the globe.

The Western world manages to expound the subject of human rights through globalization and the resultant growth in media coverage across the globe. This enables the western world to promote its philosophy of democracy. The growth and wider adoption of this philosophy also depicts the dominance and control of the world by the West and the promotion of imperialism.

Countries that exercise democracy are greatly applauded in the world today. The Western world only fosters positive relations with the countries that embrace capitalism and democracy, while mostly ignoring and enhancing negative publicity for the countries that fail to incorporate these philosophies in governance.

The nature and trends of cooperation that is witnessed as a result of globalization depict the search for political and economic mileage by states in the global political economy. It is common to see countries in the world today, engaging in bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Beginning with multilateral cooperation, a lot of commentators observe that forms of neo-imperialism highly feature in multilateral cooperation between states. An example is the embrace of a free trading environment in the world under the spirit of total liberalization of the global trading environment to promote global trade. The idea of free trade promotes an imbalance in the economic arena.

The nations that have a comparative advantage in the trading arena take advantage of this state to advance their economic status over the countries that have a comparative disadvantage.

Thus, the subject of free markets continues to dominate the series of trade negotiations that are mediated by the World Trade Organization, where the developing nations keep voicing their concerns about their inability to gain from the free global markets due to their disadvantage.

The picture that is painted here is that neoliberalism acts as a basis on which several policies that promote the interests of a few states are developed, thereby helping the few states to exercise control over other states in the economic and political realms. This depicts the exercise of imperialism in the global trade arena.


This paper has argued that that the sets of principles that are embedded in the neoliberal school of thought result in the continued exercise of imperialism, with the difference only lying in the different forms of imperialism that are exercised in the political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological realms.

Imperialist tendencies are eminent in the modern tendencies of trade and development where principles of dominance and authority over other states are exercised indirectly. From the discussion in this paper, it can be concluded that the concepts of neoliberalism, like globalization, support certain aspects of imperialism and neo-imperialism to a large extent.

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