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History of Racial Capitalism in Africa: Violence, Ideology, and Practice

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Abstract

The ascendancy of the global capitalist regime in Africa ushered in by colonial capitalist modernity altered the continent’s political, social, economic, and power relations through violence, plunder, and dispossession. This chapter asks the following question: what kind of society was produced when Africans were incorporated in the specificities of the global capitalist regime? The aim of this chapter is to advance a theoretical understanding of the evolution in Africa by revisiting the social science debates in Africa’s twentieth century. This quest is not a novel task, as classic Marxists, neo-Marxists, and liberals have debated this age-old question. While such scholarship emphasized class struggle as a sine qua non to overthrow bourgeois societies, the chapter draws on a discursive idea of history and analogy from critical radical pan-Africanist scholarship. Central to capitalist expansion and colonial modernity was the extension of property rights and commodification of the African body. The chapter argues that capitalism needs to be understood as a violent ideology, which was cemented when European societies shifted from feudalism to a new mode of production in the 1500s. Capitalism was further entrenched as ideas of social Darwinism gained momentum throughout its evolution. Capitalism as a world system is predicated on anti-Black racism and dismemberment of Africans from the global human canon, which has ramifications for Africa’s contemporary political economy of development.

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Phiri, M.Z. (2020). History of Racial Capitalism in Africa: Violence, Ideology, and Practice. In: Oloruntoba, S., Falola, T. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of African Political Economy. Palgrave Handbooks in IPE. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38922-2_4

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