Labour and Politics, 1830–1945: Colonisation and Mental Colonisation

  • Emmet O’Connor


Mental colonisation is what happens when a people reject their own values as ‘backward’ and try to fit themselves into the ‘modern’ paradigms of the metropolitan country. It is not the same as external influence. The mentally colonised do not adapt ideas to their own reality: they try to live in other people’s reality. The process is most effective when underpinned by the economic integration of a colony into the metropole, and that in turn is most effective when the metropole has developed a capitalist economy. Whereas political colonisation may incorporate a native elite, capitalist colonisation generates economic inducements for the assimilation of the masses. Paradoxically, capitalist colonisation may also be so complete, or so ruthless, as to create major differences between the economic development of the colony and that of the metropole, and thereby intensify political resistance to colonialism. Such was the case with Ireland under the Union, when anglicisation and nationalism both consolidated, and in no organisations was the paradox more evident or more dysfunctional in its consequences than in the trade unions.


Industrial Relation Labour Party Irish Union General Strike Trade Union Movement 
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© Emmet O’Connor 2005

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  • Emmet O’Connor

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