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Decolonization generally refers to a movement following the Second World War in which the various European colonies of the world were granted independence. It began with liberation of Pakistan and India in 1947. In other words, it is the process of emancipation of colonies. One could say that the process has still not ended to this day.
There is quite a bit of controversy over decolonization. The end goal tends to be universally regarded as good, but there is much debate over the best way to grant full independence.
Some say the post-World War II decolonization movement was too rushed, especially in Africa, and resulted in the creation of unstable regimes in the newly-independent countries.
Others argue that this instability is largely the result of problems from the colonial period, including arbitrary nation-state borders and lack of training of local populations.
The belief at the time was that by granting independent status to former colonies immediately, they would demand less of their former colonizers in terms of financial support. This assumption turned out to be incorrect.
In terms of economic theory, we cannot know whether the former Soviet countries would have been better off as a larger, ethnically-challenged bloc, (in other words, a Democratic Soviet Union) than as independent countries. We do know that many of these countries, particularly Hungary, experienced a capricious economic transition now known as shock therapy.
John Kenneth Galbraith argues that the post-WWII decolonization was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time, he writes, "The engine of economic well-being was now within and between the advanced industrial countries. Domestic economic growth—as now measured and much discussed—came to be seen as far more important than the erstwhile colonial trade... The economic effect in the United States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable. The departure of India and Pakistan made small economic difference in Britain. Dutch economists calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of domestic postwar economic growth. The end of the colonial era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens, was a strong current of economic interest—or in this case, disinterest."
See Also: Wars of national liberation
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