Editorial from ROAPE Volume 30 Number 95
Africa, Imperialism & New Forms of Accumulation
The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilisation lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked (Karl Marx in Engels & Marx 1979).&break;Marx's quotation is telling and relevant. Capitalism has always acted as a global system, working across or between nation-states (Wood, 1999; Burnham, 2002). The ever-present imperative to produce profit has pushed capital from its historic heartlands in northern Europe to all societies. But, as Marx implies, the process of expansion has not been a homogenising one: the bourgeoisie has double standards, or perhaps multiple standards as it negotiates its presence in a wide variety of locations. The standards that most would define as minimally acceptable (social democracy) have been a product of specific historical and material conditions: a result of the emergence of institutionally robust and interventionist states (Polanyi, 1957) and the political demands of working classes (Rueschmeyer et al. 1992). But, these historical conditions are part of the same conditions that produced very different states and economies in sub-Saharan Africa: the colonial states of the 'scramble' of the late 1880s are themselves part of the same capitalism which produced the 'civilisation' that Marx ironically attributes to late Victorian England. The hypocrisy is that bourgeois civilisation in Europe, plus plunder, primitive accumulation and famine (Davis, 2001) in the colonial world were part of the same over-arching liberal ideals.