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The political economy of imperialism, decolonization, and development

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  • Erik Gartzke
  • Dominic Rohner

Abstract

Nations have historically sought power and prosperity through control of physical space. In recent decades, however, territorial empire has largely ceased. Most states that can take and hold territory no longer appear eager to do so, while the weak are unable to expand. Have powerful countries become 'kinder and gentler', or has something fundamental changed about the logic of empire? We offer a theory of imperialism and decolonization that explains both historic cycles of expansion and decline and the demise of the urge to colonize. Technological shocks enable expansion, while military technology gradually disseminates, diluting imperial advantage. At the same time, economic development has led to a secular decline in the payoffs for appropriating land, minerals, and reluctant labor. Once conquest no longer pays for great powers, the systemic imperative to vertically integrate production also becomes archaic.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 466.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:466

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Keywords: Imperialism; decolonization; development; democracy; mercantilism;

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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2013. "The geography of inter-state resource wars," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 51548, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Francesco Caselli, 2012. "The Geography of Inter-State Resource Wars," 2012 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 1174, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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