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Postcolonial Theory of State

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Which states are called as post colonial?

The states which have been under colonialism – imperialism, commonly known as third world countries.
USA is not considered as a colonial state because, all post colonial state are continuing with the legacy of colonialism described as neo-colonialism by the founding father of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah.

What is colonialism?

Colonialism is a term of Marxist discourse. They defined imperialism as colonialism. At times, they also used the word ‘dependency’.
The main contribution to the theory of colonialism is of Lenin. It shows that the integration of the countries in the south with international economy does not help these countries. Third world countries should go for autonomous national development.
Colonialism explain a situation of dependency, which denotes unequal exchange leading to uneven development. Prosperity at the core and poverty or the development of under-development at peripheries.

The nature of post colonial states has been analyzed by scholars from different perspectives. The two prominent perspectives are
1] Modernization perspective
2] Marxist perspective.

1) Modernization perspective

This was given by western scholars, primarily World Bank economists. According to them, these countries will prosper if they are integrated with international economy.
Prominent scholars analyzing the nature of the states in developing societies are F W Riggs and Gunnar Myrdal.

F W Riggs

F.W. Riggs – he has used the term ‘prismatic societies’ for these states. What does prismatic society denotes? It denotes societies in transition. i.e. traditional societies moving towards modernization. He has given eight features of prismatic societies.
1. Formalism: There is a big difference in theory and practice. Rules are modern, practice is traditional.
2. Poly-communalism: Not yet a nation but different communities are co-existing. They are co-existing but don’t trust each other.
3. Poly-normativism: Different norms are followed while formulating laws.
4. Functional overlapping: It means lack functional specialization e.g. In most of the countries army and civilian administration is fused.
5. Attainment norms: Either by birth or by achievement. (How one will get position.)
6. Economic system: Bazaar Canteen model.
7. Administrative system: Sala model – for some people system is based on rules and for some, on connections.
8. Heterogeneity: Co-existence of modernity and tradition.

Gunnar Myrdal ASIAN DRAMA

He is famous for the concept of soft-state used for India. He suggests that India will never be successful in eradicating poverty. Because India is a soft state. Soft state is a state which is unable to implement the laws. Soft on law-breakers.
India is a soft state, according to Gunnar Myrdal because
1. There is a corruption among bureaucracy and political class.
2. Gandhian legacy. Indians have won independence through Gandhian methods, disobedience to law or as suggested by Ambedkar as Grammar of Anarchy. Since Indians won independence by disobedience to law, there is a inherent legitimacy for not obeying the authority.
3. Indian culture – In India those persons are more respected to disobey the law rather than those who obey the law.
The outcome of soft state is lawlessness and corruption. Failure to implement the developmental programs. He mentions about Pandit Nehru that even charismatic leaders like Nehru could not enforce the land reforms.

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2) Marxist approach

There are two approaches.
A] Instrumentalist approach. 
B] Structuralist approach.

A] Instrumentalist approach (dependency theories)

Given by the scholars of third world countries. Primarily Latin America and Africa. This theory is relevant to understand the nature of states in these regions. Even can be applied for middle east.
Exponents: A G Frank (LA), Sameer Amin (Egypt), Immanuel Wallerstein.

1] They categorize state into two groups. – Core State, Peripheral state.
2] These states are interlinked – they are interlinked because of capitalism becoming ‘world system’.
3] Core countries are advanced countries – They reflect the concentration of economic power, political power, technological power, cultural power, military power… The states in core countries are the instruments of their bourgeoise class /capitalist class.
4] Peripheral states – These states are in the state of ‘dependency’. Dependency denote a) Unequal exchange.  b) Uneven development
5] As a result of dependency, there is a development of underdevelopment (poverty). These states are not autonomous, they are instrument of the states in core countries, which in turn are the instruments of their own bourgeoise class.
6] According to them, the only way these countries can achieve development is by de-linking themselves from the international economy controlled by core countries and focusing on ‘national autonomous development’.

B] Structural Approach / Relative autonomy approach

This theory for post colonial states is given by Pakistani scholar. Hamza Alvi. His theory is applicable for the states in south Asia, particularly for Pakistan. According to Hamza Alvi, state in Pakistan is ‘overdeveloped’.
He believes that the instrumentalist theory will not be the right approach. The state in core countries can be called as the instrument of the bourgeoise class, however states in these societies cannot be called as an instrument of a particular class. Specific historical condition have made the states in these countries as autonomous, most powerful class in itself.
The power in these societies is concentrated in the state (executive/civil services). e.g. Pakistan can be called as ‘military-bureaucratic’ oligarchy. Similarly India was also known as ‘inspector raj’, though the change is taking place in India under the forces of globalization (rise of civil society and judicial activism).

Overdeveloped state is an evolution of modern nation state in developed countries.
States in western countries are equally developed. This is with reference to basic structure. e.g. When it was a state society, it was city state. When economic structure became feudal, the nature of state also became feudal. When economic structure became modern (capitalist), state also became modern. Two principle characteristic of modern nation state are fixed territory and centralized authority.
In post-colonial societies, modern state have not evolved naturally. It has been an imported institution. Imported by the colonial masters. Hence there is a mismatch in the level of development. Economic structure (basic structure) remains traditional, political structure (part of super-structure) became modern. Hence political structure is overdeveloped in comparison to the economic structure. e.g. India China have been civilizational states. It was British who defined the boundaries of India and introduced centralized institutions.
We can use the term Bonapartism to describe the nature of overdeveloped state.

Why Bonapartism? 

Colonial legacy. In order to protect the interest of the ‘raj’ colonial masters created a very powerful bureaucracy. Gave lot of discretionary powers along with protection (official secret act 1923). e.g. In India bureaucracy acted as ‘steel-frame’ of the raj.

Leaders after independence continued with the system. The party and the leaders which played the prominent role in the freedom struggle came to power. They enjoyed lot of legitimacy in the eyes of the people hence people didn’t questioned their methods.
These states followed stateless developmental model. It has resulted into the concentration of wealth in the hands of executive and civil servants. Hence above factors in combination made state the most powerful class.
According to Hamza Alvi, the state in Pakistan bargained with 3 classes: 1) Indigenous feudal class, 2) Indigenous bourgeoise class, & 3) Metropolitan bourgeoise.

Test Your Knowledge!

1] Who has given the concept of ‘prismatic societies’?
a) F W Riggs
b) Sameer Amin
c) Gunnar Myrdal
d) Wallerstein

Show Answer

Ans: a) F W Riggs

2] According to Myrdal, how does Gandhian legacy make India a soft state?
a) People adopt ineffective methods to protest against state’s failures
b) There is an inherent legitimacy for not obeying the law
c) Governments are soft protestors
d) Gandhi’s ideal of non-violence has made India ineffective at Global level

Show Answer

Ans: b) There is an inherent legitimacy for not obeying the law

3] Which of the following statements in not true regarding dependency theories?
a) There are two types of state—core and perphery
b) Core countries are developed countries
c) These states are interlinked due to ‘World System’
d) Peripheral states can develop only in this state of dependency

Show Answer

Ans: d) Peripheral states can develop only in this state of dependency

4] According to Hamza Alvi, Pakistan state is
a) Underdeveloped
b) Military state
c) Overdeveloped
d) Failed state

Show Answer

Ans: c) Overdeveloped

5] Which of the following statements is correct?
a) Colonialism is a liberal-intellectual discourse
b) The states once colonised are commonly called Third World countries
c) Modernists believe post-colonial countries can never develop in globalized economy
d) Pt. Nehru coined the term ‘neo-colonialism’

Show Answer

Ans: b) The states once colonised are commonly called Third World Countries

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why bonapartism: it should be state led dev model


In my opinion, state led development model implies the economic model followed, however, we want to define the role played by the state in a wider sense. Hence used the term bonapartism, meaning, state did not favour any particular class, rather, similar to the example of Pakistan given by Hamza Alvi, our state (bureaucracy) had relative autonomy and took sides with feudal class, capitalist class, workers, etc according to the need and circumstances

Last edited 1 year ago by Yogesh Kumar


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