Spanish American Colonialism

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GL3101 Book Review Paper Name: Siew Hui Hui Constance Book: Mahoney, James. 2010. Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. Word count without headers and footnotes: 1096 Total word count: 1056 Date: 25 September 2016 Introduction This paper will critically review Mahoney’s Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective. Mahoney’s research question is why and how different “modes of colonialism” arose within certain states, and how these modes contributed to differentiated socioeconomic outcomes for these states in the longrun. He hypothesizes that variations in the level of colonialism, both rooted in and in conjunction with…show more content…
One of the book’s crucial independent variables however is the fit between the institutions of the host society and that of the coloniser’s, where the “institutional complexity of precolonial societies are crucial for understanding why European colonizers with similar political economies follow contrasting modes of colonization”. Given how central the author deems this variable, the onesidedness of the sources depicting the landscape of the host societies’ institutions calls into question the validity of his argument: firstly, there could have well been complex institutions in place in the precolonial societies, but they simply were not recorded. Particular nonacknowledged forms of complexity of institutions in these societies could well have been a source of significant confounding variables. This thus casts doubt on the strength of causality the supposed complexity of precolonial societies had on the type of colonial regimes imposed on them, and subsequently longterm patterns of development. Assumption of unit…show more content…
Mahoney asserts that “ [t]he kinds of institutions (mercantilist or liberal) that were imposed in colonized territories interacted with the extent to which they were imposed (level of colonialism)”, eventually shaping “longrun levels of development”. Was what was classified as liberal/mercantilist really uniform in substance, with the only difference across territories being the differences in level at which they were implemented? Critics have argued for example, that the Bourbon reforms did not actually bring about a genuine form of liberalism, as Mahoney asserts, but rather the pushing of mercantilism to a “new level of efficiency” 5. The prevalence of such hybridity calls into question Mahoney’s assumption of the unit homogeneity of the bifurcated categories of the colonial institutions. Conclusion This paper has thus far considered multiple aspects of the book’s research design, considering both its strengths and its weaknesses. While its methodological advantages lie in its approach to data, these are also tempered by counterfactuals, the questionability of the validity of its sources, the strong possibilities of confounding variables and its fundamental assumptions regarding the unit homogeneity of its independent
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