As a distinct historical epoch, neo-imperialism is currently characterised by the globalisation of finance and the financialisation of monopoly capitalism.
Neo-imperialism is the dominance and hegemony over others through formalised and nominally free legal agreements, economic power, and cultural influence, as opposed to the more traditional forms of imperialism and colonialism, which are characterised by conquest and direct rule of the conquered territory, and sometimes migration and residence there.
The current global activity of intergovernmental organisations shows both encouraging and alarming tendencies.
One cannot deny the importance of intergovernmental organisations in maintaining peace and facilitating cooperation between nations in the modern era. However, to exert global control, such groups frequently operate in secrecy. They take advantage of developing countries in the name of progress. They employ a wide range of tactics, the vast majority advancing their own agendas at the expense of those they claim to be aiding.
Let us look at the countries that hold permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. We can see that their decisions are always treated as final and they maintain a dominant position in international affairs.
The United Nations is led by significant imperialist countries and can only take action with their consent. France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States hold a veto over any deployment of United Nations soldiers in the Security Council. In a military operation, the chances of all five countries being on the same side are limited.
Simply put, the permanent members of this organisation use democratic rhetoric to impose their decisions on other countries while concealing imperialist motives.
The Security Council of the United Nations presents itself as protecting universal human rights, even though it employs a double standard when evaluating the human rights violations of leading member nations.
The USA's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, which the United Nations supported, is an instance of such a double standard.
The initial purpose of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was to help countries in economic distress manage their balance of payments and regulate exchange rates internationally. The IMF can lend money to impoverished nations because the quota system allows its members to pool their resources. The IMF allegedly operates on the premise that there is a fault in the global financial system, which results in less economically developed countries facing disproportionately large barriers to progress.
However, the IMF imposes "conditionalities" or "structural adjustment programs" in exchange for nearly all of its loans to allegedly discourage governments from wastefully spending the loan money.
Typical of Third World countries ruled by a postcolonial elite, Sri Lanka's government is using its citizens as bargaining chips in the pursuit of power, for example in the bailout loan issue. In such circumstances, human rights are frequently compromised in the name of profit, and imperialism is often imposed on or intensified in countries via the IMF in the name of the free market.
Industrialised nations like the USA, Japan, China, Mexico, Singapore, and India are investing in the manufacturing sectors of developing nations primarily to take advantage of the cheap labour and simple factory setup available there.
Multinational corporations based in industrialised nations can extract maximum surplus value through the exploitation of labourers in developing nations, which is the true meaning of a cheap cost of production.
Moreover, multinational corporations repatriate their profits rather than using it to increase the standard of living in the developing nations whose labour made those profits possible.
Since capitalist societies in the developing world allow for the establishment of enterprises and the influx of foreign investment, the market appears to be free. Although this infrastructural expansion makes the market look free at first glance, it benefits the industrialist countries, which can invest more and make the most significant profits.
There is no company or organisation capable of competing with that industrialist country, a profit difference that defines monopoly capitalism. Therefore, it can be argued that intergovernmental organisations like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and associated countries foster imperialism by encouraging monopoly capitalism in investment.
The biggest proponents of the free market are the First World Western countries, but they stopped importing Venezuelan and Iranian oil in the allegedly free market. Those with oil resources such as the USA do not allow certain nations' oil to enter the market by means of imposing sanctions on them, such as the recent sanctions on Russia that effectively ban small countries from buying oil from Russia.
NATO and the G7 can play a unique role in imposing these sanctions, promoting neo-imperialism under the guise of free markets and democracy.
Recently the United States took measures such as imposing full blocking sanctions on the most prominent Russian financial institutions, banning new investment in the Russian Federation and imposing full blocking sanctions on vital important Russian state-owned enterprises.
As the first prime minister and president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah demonstrates in his book "Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism," African state sovereignty is undermined by external policy involvement and economic domination.
The possibility of wrongdoing by African elites, such as corruption, nepotism, and human rights abuses, should not be denied. On the contrary, in order to maintain profitable economic relationships we must recognise and place malgovernance cases in the context of the frequent facilitation and encouragement of such misbehaviour by foreign donors and multinational corporations.
Moreover, let us not forget the EU's and Africa's trade and development ties as they pertain to the "freeing" of markets through Economic Partnership Agreements. EU aid acts as a sweetener for unfavourable trade treaties that encourage neo-imperialism.
Debjyoti Sarkar is a LLM student in Law Discipline at Khulna University.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.