Bruce Gilley

American political scientist, economist, journalist, author and professor

Bruce Gilley (born July 21, 1966) is a Canadian–American professor of political science and director of the PhD program in Public Affairs and Policy at the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. He is the founder and President of the Oregon Association of Scholars, member of the Heterodox Academy and founding signatory of the Oregon Academic Faculty Pledge on Freedom. Gilley gained international acclaim but also a storm of criticism for his highly controversial peer-reviewed article The Case for Colonialism, published in an advance online edition of the scientific journal Third World Quarterly in 2017. Fifteen members of the journal's board resigned over Gilley's article.

Appearance of Correspondent Bruce Gilley on September 23, 2002, testifying before a congressional committee on the current and future leadership of the Communist Party in China, future succession issues, and the Chinese political system.

Quotes edit

  • Of course colonial governance can only return with the consent of the country in question. The nationalist leaders in developing countries are probably not eager to see this happen. But the people- given those decades of ‘anti-colonial disaster’- possibly are.

The Case for Colonialism: A Response to My Critics (2017) edit

The Case for Colonialism: A Response to My Critics, Gilley, 2017
  • After I failed to win consideration for inclusion in the special issue, the Third World Quarterly editor Shahid Qadir sent my article for normal peer review. It received one positive and one negative review. Qadir, as was his prerogative, decided to run it but as a “viewpoint” rather than “research” article, with my consent.
    • p. 2
  • Research that is careful in conceptualizing and measuring controls, that establishes a feasible counterfactual, that includes multiple dimensions of costs and benefits weighted in some justified way, and that adheres to basic epistemic virtues often finds that at least some if not many or most episodes of Western colonialism were a net benefit, as the literature review by Juan and Pierskalla shows. Such works have found evidence for significant social, economic, and political gains under colonialism: expanded education, improved public health, the abolition of slavery, widened employment opportunities, improved administration, the creation of basic infrastructure, female rights, enfranchisement of untouchable or historically excluded communities, fair taxation, access to capital, the generation of historical and cultural knowledge, and national identify formation, to mention just a few dimensions.
    • p. 5
  • Eminent scholars repeatedly make the logically contradictory claim that colonialism was both too disruptive and not disruptive enough.
    • p. 5
  • Any claim about…the level of colonial violence, requires not just assumptions about the scale of violence that would have occurred absent colonial rule but also a careful measure of that violence relative to the population, security threat, and security resources in a given territory. One is hard-pressed, to take a prominent example, to find a single example of such care in measurement in the vast critical cholarship on the British counter-insurgency campaign against the Mau in Kenya from 1952 to 1960…At the very least, it is incumbent on scholars to show that the brutalities unleashed by the British in this campaign were not the likely result of a proportionate response given the context and scale of the threat. If this supposedly solid case is wobbly, what does it tell us about the lesser ‘violence’ often cited as invalidating colonialism?
    • pp. 17-18
  • One main challenge of this research is to properly enumerate the things that matter and then to assign them weights, weights that presumably varied with time and place.
    • pp. 17-18
  • Millions of people moved closer to areas of more intensive colonial rule, sent their children to colonial schools and hospitals, went beyond the call of duty in positions in colonial governments, reported crimes to colonial police, migrated from non-colonized to colonized areas, fought for colonial armies, and participated in colonial political processes – all relatively voluntary acts. Indeed, the rapid spread and persistence of Western colonialism with very little force relative to the populations and areas concerned is prima facie evidence of its acceptance by subject populations compared to the feasible alternatives... In most colonial areas, subject peoples either faced grave security threats from rival groups or they saw the benefits of being governed by a modernized and liberal state.
    • p. 23
  • At least in the initial phases, legitimacy will be demonstrated not by the holding of a plebiscite or by the support of organized and broadly representative groups but simply by the ability of the intervening state to win compliance from key actors and get the job done.
    • p. 29

Prof. Bruce Gilley, King Hochschild’s Hoax (2023) edit

Prof. Bruce Gilley, King Hochschild’s Hoax, The American Conservative, 17 April, 2023.
  • Congo reformers like Morel, much to the annoyance of Hochschild, advocated either German or British colonization of the area (Congo). Morel’s view, according to Hochschild, speaking ex cathedra from the hallowed seat of modern California, “seems surprising to us today” and was among his “faults” and “political limitations.” Quite the opposite. The moment the Belgians colonized the Congo in 1908, a miraculous improvement was noted on all fronts. Seeking to debunk colonialism, Hochschild’s book demonstrates the opposite. This is the first and biggest lie at the heart of King Leopold’s Ghost.
  • By 1891, six years into the attempt to build the EIC, the whole project was on the verge of bankruptcy. It would have been easy for Léopold to raise revenues by sanctioning imports of liquor that could be taxed or by levying fees on the number of huts in each village, both of which would have caused harm to the native population. A truly “greedy” king, as Hochschild repeatedly calls him, had many fiscal options that Léopold did not exercise.
  • The rubber quotas imposed on natives in this 15 percent of the territory were enforced by native soldiers working for the companies or for the EIC itself. In many areas, the rubber came with ease and the natives prospered. The rubber station at Irengi, for instance, was known for its bulging stores and hospitable locals, whose women spent a lot of time making bracelets and where “no one ever misses a meal,” noted the EIC soldier George Bricusse in his memoirs. Elsewhere, however, absent direct supervision, and with the difficulties of meeting quotas greater, some native soldiers engaged in abusive behavior to force the collection. Bricusse noted these areas as well, especially where locals had sabotaged rubber stations and then fled to the French Congo to the north. In rare cases, native soldiers kidnapped women or killed men to exact revenge. When they fell into skirmishes, they sometimes followed long-standing Arab and African traditions by cutting off the hands or feet of the fallen as trophies, or to show that the bullets they fired had been used in battle. How many locals died in these frays is unclear, but the confirmed cases might put the figure at about 10,000, a terrible number.
  • Even taking Sanderson’s pessimistic estimate as correct, does this mean that Léopold’s rule “killed” 500,000 people? Of course not, because, in addition to the misplaced personalization of long-term population changes, the rubber regions, as mentioned, experienced both population increases and declines. Even in the latter, such as the rubber-producing Bolobo area in the lower reaches of the Congo river, population decline was a result of the brutalities of freelance native chiefs and ended with the arrival of an EIC officer. More generally, the stability and enforced peace of the EIC caused birth rates to rise near EIC centers, such as at the Catholic mission under EIC protection at Baudouinville (today’s Kirungu). Population declines were in areas outside of effective EIC control. The modest population gains caused by EIC interventions were overwhelmed by a range of wholly separate factors, which in order of importance were: the slave trade, sleeping sickness, inter-tribal warfare, other endemic diseases (smallpox, beriberi, influenza, yellow fever, pneumonia, dysentery, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and venereal disease), cannibalism, and human sacrifice.
  • Belgium had no prior history in the slave trade, nor of African slaves. Léopold could fight against slavery without any hint of hypocrisy, even of the ahistorical type advanced by Hochschild. And it was slavery, not rubber operations, that contemporary observers viewed as the biggest threat to the people of the Congo.

Quotes about Bruce Gilley edit

The Case for Colonialism: A Response to My Critics (2017) edit

The Case for Colonialism: A Response to My Critics, Gilley, 2017
  • Not only should we not accept Gilley’s general pro-colonial explanation of the poor performance of many post-colonial African nations since he provides us with no good reason to do so, we do have good reason to believe that their poor performance is a legacy of their colonial subjection.
    • p. 8
  • Whatever we think about Gilley’s article, then, the idea that colonialism can be summarized by reference to a gruesome picture of a Congolese peasant, a trite ‘what if it happened to you’ scenario, and the cheap trick of its ‘tantamount to’ holocaust denial is absurd.
    • p. 14, T. Young, 2019, p. 333
  • The problem with Gilley’s case for colonialism is the lack of rigor, his inability or unwillingness to vigorously and transparently challenge his own beliefs, his own values and his own fears – in a word, his perspective.
    • p. 9, Rodriguez, 2018, p. 258
  • He must be treated with utter disgust, with unsurpassed revulsion. He must be ostracized, publicly shamed and humiliated.
    • p. 32, Dabashi, 2017
  • The overwhelming consensus among our colleagues who are experts in history and political science that Gilley’s research is not merely unpopular but rather discredited.
    • p. 32, PSU-AAUP, 2021

External links edit

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