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Colonial Division of Labor: Rich and Poor Nations

The problem of social inequality is deeply historically rooted. People’s being divided into poor and rich is primarily connected with the appearance of propriety and labor division. Labor division from the very beginning includes the division of working conditions – of the instruments of labor and materials, and therefore, breaking up of raised capital between different proprietors.

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Labor division itself is the qualitative differentiation of labor activity in the process of society development, leading to isolating and coexistence of its different kinds. Labor division exists in various forms, corresponding to the level of the development of manufacturing powers and the character of productive relations. Manifestation of labor division is the activity exchange.

Colonialism implies many-sided subjugation by force of one culture by another with the help of invasion and military conquest of the land.

McMichael (2004) study found the following:

The history of the colonial division of labor found its beginning in 16th century, where European colonists and traders travelled along African coasts to the New World and across the Indian Ocean and the China seas seeking fur, precious metals, slave labour, spices, tobacco, cacao, potatoes, sugar, and cotton. The European colonial powers and their merchant companies exchanged manufactured good such as cloth, guns, and implements for these products and for Africans taken into slavery and transported to the Americas. In the process they reorganized the world. (p. 8)

Colonizers’ aim was to adapt colonies to their own purposes, mainly to maintenance of European industrialization and therefore, to producing primary goods. Consequently, handicraft industry destruction, reducing agriculture to a specialized monoculture, alienating of lands for commercial exploitation took place. Local farmers now often had to produce single crop only for export. According to McMichael (2004), India was a manufacturing country till colonizers converted it into a country exporting raw produce (p.10).The colonial division of labor practically ruined the systems of communities’ production. Colonialism resulted for enthralled countries in destruction of productive activity, it delayed economical and political development of these countries, led to plunder of enormous districts and annihilation of some peoples. Military and confiscatory methods were often implied; together with robberies and taxation the colonial exploitation by means of trade took place, it meant the unfair change. Enormous treasures were exported from the colonies. Though colonizers were interested in the growth of farm marketability, they in various ways hampered economical progress in the colonies. Supremacy of foreign capitalists, duty-free import of manufactured goods, constant raw materials pumping led to devastation and destitution of native population. It destructed handicrafts and rudiments of manufactory that had existed long before the colonizers came.

Politics of colonial enslavement faced heroic resistance of enslaved peoples, it called certain number of national liberation movement in the colonies; and every war entails deaths, land devastation and exhaustion of resources.

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In conclusion, it is possible to state that the colonial division of labor had an extremely negative impact on non-European societies and a disorganizing psychological impact on the minds of enslaved people. For example, Third world had to industrialize to get rid of being dependent on colonial division of labor. Colonialism was highly censured for the fact that individual countries seek their own places under the sun. Colonial division of labor really conditioned the foundation for a world divided between rich and poor nations. It is logical, taking into account the fact that colonialism itself implies certain subjugation of one people to another and absolute inequality between the colonizers and colonies.


McMichael P. (2004). Development and social change: A global perspective. California, Cal.: Thousand Oaks.

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