Forgetting Cairnes: The Slave Power (1862) and the Political Economy of Racism
  • Gordon Bigelow
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics book series (PSLCE)


This chapter considers J. E. Cairnes’s The Slave Power in relation to emerging research in economics and history. Published during the American Civil War, it delivered significant insights on the dispossessive logics of slavery and anti-black racism. These insights were inconsistent with dominant framings of capitalism in the twentieth century and were typically marginalized. Historians and economists have recently returned to consider the relationship of slavery to capitalism. Many of these arguments were there long before in the work of black scholars and activists, but their emergence in predominantly white academic circles is significant, calling for a reevaluation not just of received ideas about the economic impact of racism, but of the knowledge enterprises that produced and reproduced them, and, in turn, of Cairnes’s book.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon Bigelow
    • 1
  1. 1.Rhodes CollegeMemphisUSA

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