Although it might be conventional wisdom that Western colonialism no longer exists, this is a dangerous myth. Colonialism persists in the form of the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples worldwide. Moreover, when it comes to the relationship of Europe and the US to the Global South, the old system of direct colonial rule has actually been replaced with financial control over many of the same countries that were colonized. The onerous financial conditions placed on many developing nations through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- including austerity measures and spending requirements for goods from developing nations -- represent the colonialist notion of knowing what's in the best interest of other countries. Like colonialism, it also happens to financially benefit the former ruling powers.
The globalization of exploitative labor further reinforces the relationship of capitalism to erstwhile colonialism. The squalid working conditions and meager wages of many workers in the Global South is the focus of a revealing book by John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis, which is this week's Truthout Progressive Pick. Capitalism provides the vehicle for much contemporary imperialism, but is often not perceived as such because it is not as directly visible as, say, an occupying army (although, of course, the US and Europe still occupy countries militarily as well). Colonialism used to be dependent upon direct rule of areas and countries by agents, bureaucracies and militaries representing the colonial power. Now, colonialism largely consists of financial dependencies and labor markets characterized by poverty....
The social power of capital is enforced through the so-called rule of law, which exalts the sanctity of private property and negates the sanctity of human life. Any people that dares to defy laws protecting capitalist property, e.g. by defaulting on debts or by expropriating assets, is subject to the most severe economic penalties, and, if that is not sufficient, is threatened with subversion, terrorism and invasion. The transition from colonialism of yesteryear to the neocolonialism of today is analogous to the transition from slavery to wage-slavery, and merely signifies that capitalism has largely dispensed with archaic, pre-capitalist forms of domination and exploitation, while taking great care to preserve its monopoly of military force for use in cases of revolutionary challenge to its rule.
Colonialism hasn't ended; it has just morphed into a less visible form.