Difference Wiki

Colonialism vs. Neocolonialism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 29, 2024
Colonialism involves direct political control over a territory and its people, while neocolonialism exerts influence indirectly, often through economic or cultural means.

Key Differences

Colonialism historically involved the direct political and territorial control by one nation over another, often involving settlement and exploitation of resources. Neocolonialism, on the other hand, operates through indirect means, such as economic pressure and cultural influence, rather than direct military or political control.
The colonial era saw European powers establishing colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, with the colonizers imposing their governance, culture, and economic systems. Neocolonialism, in contrast, is characterized by former colonial powers or new global powers maintaining economic dominance over former colonies through mechanisms like debt, trade agreements, and cultural dominance.
In colonialism, the colonizing country often justifies its control with a civilizing mission or burden, bringing its own culture, religion, and social structures to the colonized. Neocolonialism, while less overt, still perpetuates a form of dominance, often manifesting in the global influence of multinational corporations, the spread of Western culture, and the economic policies dictated by international institutions.
Colonialism often resulted in the creation of settler colonies, where large numbers of colonizers lived and ruled over indigenous populations. In contrast, neocolonialism usually does not involve significant migration of people but maintains influence through economic and political pressures exerted from a distance.
The end of colonialism was marked by countries gaining independence, often after struggles or negotiations. Neocolonialism, however, is subtler and more pervasive, making it more challenging to identify and resist, as it often operates within the framework of globalization and international relations.

Comparison Chart

Nature of Control

Direct political and military control
Indirect economic, cultural, or political influence


Historically during 15th to 20th centuries
Post-independence era, particularly post-World War II


Establishment of colonies, direct governance
Economic policies, cultural influence, multinational corporations


Civilizing mission, spreading culture and religion
Economic development, globalization


Physical occupation, settler colonies
Influence without physical occupation

Colonialism and Neocolonialism Definitions


Colonialism is the practice of acquiring full or partial control over another country, occupying it with settlers.
The British Empire's colonialism extended over many parts of Africa and Asia.


Neocolonialism is the use of economic, political, and cultural pressures to control or influence a country.
Many African countries face neocolonialism through economic dependence on former colonial powers.


It involves exploiting the colonized country's resources and imposing the colonizer's culture.
Colonialism in India led to the widespread influence of British culture and institutions.


It often operates through international institutions and trade agreements.
International loan conditions can be a form of neocolonialism, imposing economic policies on borrowing nations.


Colonialism often justified itself as a civilizing mission.
European powers used the idea of a civilizing mission to justify their colonialism.


Neocolonialism maintains influence without direct political control.
Neocolonialism in Latin America is evident through the influence of American economic policies.


It typically results in economic and social structures benefiting the colonizing nation.
The colonialism of the Dutch in Indonesia established a trade system favoring the Netherlands.


Neocolonialism can perpetuate a form of cultural dominance.
The global spread of Western media and lifestyle can be viewed as a form of neocolonialism.


Colonialism can lead to significant cultural and political changes in the colonized region.
Colonialism in Africa drastically altered the continent's political landscape.


It involves a dominant country using economic leverage over a less powerful country.
Neocolonialism can be seen in the way certain multinational corporations dominate local economies.


The policy or practice of a wealthy or powerful nation's maintaining or extending its control over other countries, especially in establishing settlements or exploiting resources.


The policy or practice of a wealthy or powerful nation in extending its influence into a less developed one, especially in exploiting that nation's resources.


The policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance.


The control or domination by a powerful country over weaker ones (especially former colonies) by the use of economic pressure, political suppression and cultural dominance.


A colonial word, phrase, concept, or habit.


Control by a powerful country of its former colonies (or other less developed countries) by economic pressures. In contrast to colonialism, in which one country controls another territory by military force.


Colonial life.


Control by a powerful country of its former colonies (or other less developed countries) by economic pressures


The state or quality of, or the relationship involved in, being colonial.
The last tie of colonialism which bound us to the mother country is broken.


A custom, idea, feature of government, or the like, characteristic of a colony.


The colonial system of political government or extension of territory, by which one nation exerts political control over another nation, territory, or people, maintaining the colony in a state of dependence, its inhabitants not having the same full rights as those of the colonial power. The controlling power is typically extended thus by military force or the threat of force.


The political or ideological system of beliefs advocating or justifying colonial control of one nation over another nation, territory, or people.


Exploitation by a stronger country of weaker one; the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country


What was the main goal of colonialism?

To exploit resources and spread the colonizer's culture and governance.

What ended the era of colonialism?

The independence movements and decolonization after World War II.

Did colonialism involve settlement?

Yes, many colonies had significant settler populations.

Were religious conversions part of colonialism?

Yes, spreading religion was often a justification for colonialism.

Can neocolonialism be seen in media and entertainment?

Yes, through the dominance of certain cultural values and products.

How does neocolonialism affect countries today?

Through economic dependence, cultural influence, and political pressures.

Is neocolonialism more about economic control?

Yes, it primarily involves economic and cultural influence.

Does neocolonialism involve direct military intervention?

Rarely, it's more about indirect control.

Were all colonies settled by colonizers?

Not all, but many had significant settler populations.

Does neocolonialism affect international trade?

Yes, through trade agreements and economic policies.

Does neocolonialism play a role in global politics?

Yes, it can influence diplomatic relations and policy decisions.

Were there anti-colonial movements?

Yes, many colonies had movements fighting for independence.

How did colonialism impact indigenous cultures?

It often led to the suppression or assimilation of indigenous cultures.

Was colonialism always justified as a civilizing mission?

Often, but there were also other justifications like economic gain.

Can neocolonialism impact a country's sovereignty?

Yes, through economic and political pressures.

How does globalization relate to neocolonialism?

Neocolonialism can be a byproduct of globalization, influencing weaker economies.

Did colonialism lead to border changes?

Yes, it often redrew national boundaries.

Can neocolonialism be resisted?

Yes, through economic independence and cultural preservation.

How do multinational corporations contribute to neocolonialism?

By exerting economic influence and control in less powerful countries.

How did colonialism affect language and education?

It often imposed the colonizer's language and educational systems.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons