Debate from ROAPE Volume 7 Number 17
Kenya: What Does ‘Dependency’ Explain?

Kenya: What Does ‘Dependency’ Explain?
Vol.7 No.17 (Spring 1980), pp108-113
Kaplinsky's argument brings out unusually clearly the empiricist and a-historical character of dependency theory. After fairly summarizing the main elements of the argument which I put forward, he criticizes not this, but five ‘hypotheses’ which, he thinks, may be drawn from what I and others have said; and what is most significant is that, in the end, much of what he says might be true, without affecting the validity of the argument which I put forward. The reason for this is that Kaplinsky, like all dependency theorists, does not grasp conceptually the historical process of capital accumulation and class formation. His view of Kenya starts and finishes with appearances, as they present themselves at a more or less fixed point in time; and the most palpable and pervasive of these, in the context of his own recent work (a follow-up to Who Controls Industry in Kenya) is the preponderance of foreign capital in manufacturing and large-scale tourism, its manifestly superior financial and organizational resources, its technological and market monopolies, etc. The obverse of this appearance is the relative weakness of indigenous capital; hence it is conceived of as ‘dependent’ , ‘auxiliary’ , ‘petty’ , etc., and as such incapable of playing a significant role in expanding the forces of production.