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May 14, 2024

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The imperial core—which is comprised of settler-colonial states like those in Western Europe, as well as states like the United States, Canada and Australia—have been stealing the resources and labor of the Global South—or the periphery—for centuries. It started with the direct colonial violence and resource exploitation that marked much of the last few centuries, but it didn’t end there.  

Neo-colonialism—a term that you’re probably familiar with—is broadly defined as the use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence other countries, especially former colonies. But what does it actually look like in practice? How is the imperial core still plundering and pillaging the periphery? The practice of widespread crude, cruel, brute force that marked direct colonialism may not exist in the same exact form as it once did—but the outcome is still the same: mass extraction and exploitation from the Global South which has resulted in a staggering net transfer of resources, wealth, and labor to the Global North. 

In this episode, we’re going to discuss the mechanisms and extent of neocolonial extraction and exploitation as they manifest today, and we’ve brought on the perfect guest to walk us through it. 

Jason Hickel is a professor at the The Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the author of the books The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions and Less is More: How Degrowth will Save the World, and the the lead author of two papers that we’ll be focusing on today: “Imperialist appropriation in the world economy: Drain from the global South through unequal exchange, 1990–2015” published in journal Global Environmental Change, and "Unequal exchange of labour in the world economy" forthcoming in the journal Nature Communications.

In this conversion we explore the theory of uneven exchange and how it sheds light on neocolonialism in practice, we discuss some of the key findings from Jason’s research on imperialist appropriation in the world economy, we dispel some of the myths perpetuated by those claiming that capitalism has lifted “millions out of poverty,” we talk about what a just degrowth transition of the global economy would look like and, crucially, how we might achieve it.

Further resources:

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Thank you to Berwyn Mure for the covert art.

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