On a blissful, summer day I found etched into history a profound statement for the ages.  In his second inaugural address during the midst of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln courageously proclaimed: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us not judge, that we be not judged.”[1]  Upon reading those words, I began a period of cogitation in my life that bore much fruit from contemplative struggle.  A desire for economic gain and power through our capitalist system caused the horrendous atrocity of enslavement of Africans in the United States of America.  While slavery in the United States may have ended, oppression is still alive and flourishing. Under the powerful capitalist world-system that is neocolonialism or neo-imperialism a great many are left suffering and without agency.

Immaunuel Wallerstein explains that the world is currently under a capitalist world-system.  It thrives on exploitation by giving priority to “the endless accumulation of capital.”[2]  Due in large part to modern advances in technology, neo-colonialism has immense global reach.  According to Wallerstein, the world can be divided into three basic categories consisting of core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral states.[3]  The core states have the greatest power.[4]  The peripheral states are the least developed; they are exploited by the core states for their raw materials, cheap labor, and agricultural products.  The semi-peripheral states, exploited by the core states, exploit the peripheral states.[5]  The core states, having great economic, political, and military power, gain capital accumulation in the world economy through unequal rates of exchange with semi-peripheral and peripheral nation states.[6]  Through their great power, core states pay unfair prices for raw materials from peripheral states, and they keep them from making adequate profit from their resources.  Core states pay workers miniscule and often non-livable wages so that their states can maximize profit.[7]  Adding to the exploitation of the resources of periphery states as well as the exploitation of labor, the core states construct political limitations, such as patents and trade barriers.[8]  This system of corruption causes great oppression in the world.  The poverty, caused by the corruption of this system, is overwhelming and heart-breaking.

A theologian, named Franz Hinkelammert, brings to light what he regards as serious exploitation resulting from prevalent capitalist theory.  Hinkelammert pays particular attention to exposing the corruption behind the ideas of Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist, who advised world leaders, such as President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.  His theory that drives capitalism often views basic human rights as an impediment to the market.[9]  Everything and everybody is turned into a commodity and worth only relates to capital production.[10]  Machines are often valued as more important than humans because women and men have needs and rights.[11]  Friedman’s theory views human freedom and basic human needs as cumbersome to the production of wealth and as “an imperfection in the capitalist market.”[12]  Accumulation of wealth is the primary focus of the capitalist market so that everything and everyone is a commodity potentially leading to wealth production.  Hinkelmmert argued that Friedman worked to develop, “a world vision in which anything whatsoever is subject to being made a commodity; there is no free zone either within the person or outside.”[13]  In other words, instead of viewing human life as a priceless gift, Friedman’s capitalist theory removes all sacred value from life because of capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for wealth and power.  Capitalism focuses only on the monetary value or lack thereof of each human being.  It does not aim to improve people’s quality of life, but capitalist markets aim to exploit the majority to pad the wallets of the few.

Prominent liberation theologians view the world economy as dominated by a capitalist Empire.  For instance, Nestor Miguez writes about this Empire: “The only freedom that survives is the freedom of the market, where the human being either remains subject to the dominant interests or is expelled.”[14]  In this Empire, also known as neocolonialism, people are manipulated into wanting material goods.  Joerg Rieger also holds that advertising “represents the most sustained effort at shaping subjectivity and desire at the level of the unconscious.”[15]  Rieger asserts that, unlike needs, desires are infinite.  Accordingly, “unlimited desire provides the basis for unlimited consumerism.”[16]  Due to this desire which drives the market, our limited resources are not put to use for fulfilling basic human needs but instead for producing more wealth for the few through manipulation.  Advertising drives consumerism and people are manipulated into desiring the latest and greatest that capitalism offers.  This manipulation, based in greed, receives priority whereas the interests of the poor and suffering are not valued.  The marginalized become voiceless and “inaudible”.[17]  Miguez explains: “In a nutshell those who do not have money do not have a right to the resources that make life possible; in other words, they do not have the right to exist.”[18]  Under neocolonialism many toil and struggle in a world that does not hear their voices and cries.

Neocolonialism’s impact on the marginalized LGBTQ community is intensely powerful.  Teresa Hornsby maintains that capitalism “produces not only heteronormative human sexuality but all those sexualities that we call ‘subversive’ or queer.”[19]  Hornsby emphasizes that, evolving from industrial capitalism, neocolonialism is based in technology and “as the needs in the form of capitalism change, as populations grow and mix, and as technology reduces the need for sexual reproduction” the “production of a compulsory sexuality becomes less important since fewer bodies are needed.”[20] Since businesses are no longer reliant on quantities of laborers, as they once were, non-procreative sexualities are losing their deviant status.  Thus, even as we celebrate that the world is becoming more affirming of the LGBTQ community, we are left with the haunting power of neocolonialism/neo-imperialism.

Anonymous Student

[1] Abraham Lincoln The Inaugural Address of the President of the United States March 4, 1865

[2]Immanuel Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004), 24.

[3]Ibid., 28.

[4]Ibid., 17.

[5]Ibid., 29.

[6]Ibid., 17.

[7]Ibid., 31,35.

[8]Ibid., 26.

[9] Franz Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986), 36, 82-83.

[10]Ibid., 83.

[11]Ibid., 83.

[12]Ibid., 36.

[13]Ibid., 81.

[14]Nestor Miguez, Joerg Rieger, Jung Mo Sung, Beyond the Spirit of Empire (London: SCM Press, 2009), 18.

[15]Ibid., 33.

[16]Ibid., 38.

[17]Ibid., 9.

[18]Ibid., 12.

[19]Teresa J. Hornsby, “Capitalism, Masochism, and Biblical Interpretation,” in Bible Trouble, eds. Teresa J. Hornsby, Ken Stone (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 137.

[20]Ibid., 140.


Hinkelammert, Franz. The Ideological Weapons of Death. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986.

Hornsby, Teresa J. “Capitalism, Masochism, and Biblical Interpretation.” In Bible Trouble, eds. Teresa J. Hornsby, and Ken Stone, 1-7. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Miguez, Nestor and Rieger, Joerg and Mo Sung, Jung. Beyond the Spirit of Empire. London: SCM Press, 2009.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. World-Systems Analysis. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004.