- The Thought of Walter Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
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- Walter Rodney's "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa"
- How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Again, an outflow of wealth. Trade has existed for several centuries; colonial rule began in the late nineteenth century and has almost disappeared [in the early s]; and the investment in the African economy has been increasing steadily in the present century. Throughout the period that Africa has participated in the capitalist economy, two factors have brought about underdevelopment. In the first place, the wealth created by African labor and from African resources was grabbed by the capitalist countries of Europe [and the U.
Corruption, etc. And the frequent military coups and constant political instability have had an adverse impact on African development as they did in Latin America. Includes some good ideas, too. Before , the techniques of agriculture in most of Africa were not quite as advanced as in Europe and other regions. Because of the absence of classes. In Europe, for example, it was feudal landowners and, later, capitalist farmers who were responsible for the development of advanced techniques of production. In contrast, under communalism every African was assured of sufficient land to meet his own needs by virtue of being a member of a family or community.
For that reason, and because land was relatively abundant, there were few social pressures or incentives for technical changes to increase productivity. In Asia, on the other hand, where much of the land was communally owned, it was the state that initiated tremendous advances in certain types of farming. Of course with military conquests, too, relations of domination and subordination developed.
All these regions and more were well on the way to sprouting full-fledged feudal kingdoms. But then Europe got in the way. European technical superiority did not apply to all aspects of production, but the advantage which they possessed in a few key areas proved decisive. Very true. Europeans had better killing-technology, and they were better at producing practical goods, as opposed to luxuries.
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He gives many examples of how trade with Africa contributed to the economic development of Europe. And James Watt, who invented the steam engine, was financed by slave owners. Of course the U. Aside from the slave trade, contact with Europe led to the stagnation of industry. Trade with Europe ultimately remade the African economy so that it was dependent on Europe. Even to do business with each other, local economies tended to become reliant on Europeans as intermediaries because of their command over the sea, which was an efficient way of trading. The former integration of African markets thus deteriorated.
The main point is that trade with Africa stimulated production in Europe and America. Africa became oriented to mere trade, not production, exchanging raw materials for manufactured goods. It should be emphasized, however, that until the s, when Europe began to conquer Africa militarily and to dominate its politics, African countries and communities were by no means mere colonies of Europe. Politico-military structures were, on the whole, still independent. Evolution towards mature feudalism continued in many regions, with social structures and ideologies remarkably similar to those of European and Japanese feudalism.
But in the late nineteenth century things changed, because European capitalism had become so dynamic that it had to invest in undertakings outside the home market. The domestic scope for expansion was too limited; higher profits could be realized by investing abroad, controlling raw material supplies, and finding new markets. Consider Egypt under Mohammed Ali who ruled from to and afterwards. British and French industrialists wanted to see Egypt not as a textile manufacturer but as a producer of raw cotton for export, and an importer of European manufactures.
European financiers wanted Egypt to be a source of investment, and in the second half of the eighteenth century they turned the sultan of Egypt into an international beggar, who mortgaged the whole of Egypt to international monopoly financiers. Finally, European statesmen wanted Egyptian soil to serve as a base for exploiting India and Arabia. Therefore, the Suez Canal was dug out of Egyptian soil by Egyptians, but it was owned by Britain and France, who then extended political domination over Egypt and Sudan. In some areas of the world, such as Latin America and Eastern Europe, political sovereignty was left in the hands of the local population even during the imperialist era.
Not in Africa, though. European capitalists came to the decision that Africa should be directly colonized. There is evidence to suggest that such a course of action was not entirely planned. But, firstly, there was disagreement over who should suck which pieces of Africa especially since Germany wanted to join the grabbing ; and, secondly, the moment that one European power declared an area of Africa as a protectorate or a colony, it put up tariffs against European traders of other nationalities, and in turn forced their rivals to have colonies and discriminatory tariffs.
One thing led to another, and soon six European capitalist nations were falling over each other to establish direct political rule over particular sections of Africa. Rodney also points out that racism played a large role in motivating Europeans to seek political domination over Africa. Economics, after all, is not the only causal factor in human affairs. To repeat, the main theme of colonialism was the expatriation of surplus produced by Africans out of Africa and into Europe.
Europe was developed in the same proportion as Africa was underdeveloped. In addition to this, the exploitation of African workers was incomparably worse than that of European workers, so much so that Africans had to supplement their wages with subsistence farming just to survive. Therefore, the profits that mining companies, for example, made from African labor were astronomical.
The African working class under colonialism, however, was very small. It is far from possible to treat each of the following aspects of the strategic importance of HEUA with any degree of detail.
The Thought of Walter Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
However, the outline below ought to demonstrate its strategic significance. Rodney was very conscious of the role of knowledge and information in both oppression and in liberation. HEUA thus threatens the intellectual empowerment of the Afrikan masses in their own name, as a necessary basis for the journey towards the liberation and development of the foundational continent of the planet. By making the advances it does in methodology, vision and scope, HEUA positioned the study of Afrika for further significant advances. HEUA is not a primer on how to undertake the reversal of western European oppression and underdevelopment and launch the development of Afrikan people and their land.
However, its comprehensive explanation provides the intellectual basis for the necessary vision and activism that are imperative for the human, economic and social liberation, development and transformation of the continent of Afrika. The military violence deployed by western Europeans to conquer and subjugate Afrika, the Americas, the Caribbean and elsewhere was not the only kind of violence they unleashed in their subjugation of large parts of the world and the peoples who live in these lands.
In HEUA, Rodney maintains a critical dialogue with the intellectual defenders of the oppressive system and points out the weaknesses in their arguments. This approach is a tremendous aid to the demystification of learning and the word that is so necessary to counteract the Eurocentric tradition of education and scholarship, which Rodney recognizes as education for underdevelopment. Revelation of this world renders it easier to liberate and transform. It provides a model and an example of the importance of the intellectuals and other trained people in underdeveloped societies where people suffer from diminished opportunities because of underdevelopment.
As Rodney often stressed and Fanon, Mondlane, Cabral, Che, Fidel and a host of others also demonstrated with their lives, that in the fight for a better world, every vocation is an occasion for liberation. At first glance the idea of updating such a massively impressive, magisterial and continually relevant work may appear adventurous.
So comprehensive is HEUA that almost every intellectual departure is likely to be a development of something explicit or implied in this text. Yet it is true that at almost any given point in time there are contradictions that are recognized but not yet politicized. In addition, the advance of struggle, and the clarity this usually dictates, almost always reveals new perceptions, new understandings and new frontiers of conflict; different battle lines and battlefields and fresh territory to be won as the ongoing war for the liberation and development of Afrika and its peoples around the world continues to unfold.
But Rodney could not explore fully or at all everything that lies beyond each door he opened. So formidable is the text and so vast is the field of knowledge, that it is impossible for a single scholar in a single text to explore fully all its possibilities in the study of Afrika. One area of concentration that has become increasingly popular in the study of Afrika since the publication of HEUA is the concept of mental enslavement and its logical objective of mental liberation. Rodney commented on the role of the European Christian church, missionaries, Eurocentric scholarship and Eurocentric education in the mental enslavement of Afrikan people, though he did not employ this terminology.
The increasing attention to Afrocentric education is a direct consequence of the awareness that HEUA undoubtedly helped to promote. The mental enslavement of significant sections of the Afrikan population and the social control that has been its consequence occurred on the back of the genocide, fully or partly, of Afrikan culture. This distortion and destruction of Afrikan culture and histories, of indigenous traditions, destroyed or distorted vast storehouses of millennia worth of knowledge, information and technique, of different ways of knowing.
Knowledge and information accumulated over uncounted generations of observation, trial, error, distillation and inspiration have been endangered or lost in this criminality of the greatest proportions masquerading as science, scholarship, Christianity and even as civilization.
This destruction and endangerment as well as the knowledge and awareness stimulated by HEUA and other sources, have influenced a renewed interest in indigenous knowledge systems among Afrikan scholars and other groups. The re-embrace of Afrikan culture by some groups and individuals has led to renewed interest in Afrikan culture among scholars and a growing number of Afrikans around the world, but especially in the west.
The increasing practice of Afrikan rituals such as Libation, Marriage Rites, Naming Ceremonies and Transition Rites is predicated upon growing consciousness and conviction among significant sections of Afrikans on the continent and its Diasporas. Western wrong-doing has occasioned a growing movement among Afrikans for Reparations, which includes repatriation. This latter is popular among Rastafari. Quite apart from compensation, a very large part of Reparations is the repair and restoration of the Afrikan self.
An often-neglected aspect of the intellectual violence of western Europeans is epistemology. Although the influence of power relations upon language is a part of his analysis, p. Recent developments in this area of scholarship will render some of the terminology in HEUA to be obsolete. However, it is not possible to fault the general intent and accomplishment of the text on this or any other grounds. There is an epistemology of oppression and an epistemology of liberation.
A key to the continued functioning of the oppressive system Rodney reveals is the continued imprisonment of the Afrikan mind; a key to the liberation of Afrika is the unlocking of the Afrikan mind. The ultimate meaning of HEUA lies in the use of this information to promote awareness, empowerment, organization, struggle, and victory for Afrikans.
It is here that the reader will benefit by reading Rodney in company with other intellectual and political giants such as Fanon, Diop, Cabral, Nkrumah and others who contributed a context of scholarship in the struggle for the liberation of a people and their world around the world. Today, close to half a century after its publication, this text is still relevant, in fact it is still urgently necessary. That is a damming reference to the fact that the system of exploitation laid bare by Rodney is still dominant in Afrika and in the lives of Afrikans.
The forces that oppressed and colonized large parts of the world invested heavily in scholarship that upheld and perpetuated the values, attitudes and practices of the colonizers, usually by validating and even valorizing its best examples in master narratives that subvert truth. Walter Rodney fought against these forces with his scholarship as well as with his political activism. HEUA is his grandest intellectual endeavor. It shows both the scholarship of Rodney and the aim of his scholarship as a contribution to the liberation of Afrika and Afrikans.
But Rodney wanted, demanded more that just relevant scholarship. His understanding of human work is fundamentally as a social contribution towards greater and greater liberation from limitations of all sorts. But he also recognized that much useful scholarship is imprisoned in the ivory towers of European style universities and Eurocentric education. It is this realization that helped to instruct his direct involvement in the tasks of political liberation and advancement that is the second aspect of his scholar-activist personality and the concept and tradition of the organic intellectual to which HEUA belongs.
He lived to survive the distortions of his training and the crippling ambivalence of his class" George Lamming . Every now and again in history, a scholarly enterprise emerges that breaks new ground and provokes an impact that exceeds the confines of narrow academia. Its publication and reception exemplified the strains and fissures in the scholarship focused on the continent at the time.
We could say the environment that produced HEUA began in its modern manifestation among many other forms of resistance on the ground with the refutation of racism and empire in the late 19 th century Caribbean. Anthony Froude, a British journalist and writer wrote a book called the English in the West Indies , where he purported to understand the Caribbean better than its own denizens after visiting ten Caribbean territories. Froude was the epitome of scientific racist sentiment and ideas.
His activism at the University of the West Indies in two iterations the early s and post PhD in , brought his name on to the stage as an iconoclastic, radical intellectual figure. Rodney embraced both the epistemological and political trends in academia. His embryonic development and work as a scholar was subsisted at every turn by his political and social activism.
By the early s the philosophy of Marxism had retained a strong influence in various countries in the colonial world.
This would dramatically lead to a political explosion in Jamaica in after he was banned from re-entering the country a direct consequence of this fusion of politics and professional history. His careful analysis was sensitive to the complexity of the Upper Guinea coast and provided several examples contrasting the levels of economic and political development among certain African kingdoms. But it was the chapters dealing with the slave trade and the economic activity around slave trading that were more important for the historiography of Africa. Some scholars and commentators concur that the inspection of this theme gained Rodney a reputation as a leading authority on the subject.
More importantly the analysis of the slave trade was significant for the manner in which he parted company with the method of European scholars who had tended, up to that point to examine and measure the slave trade from the vantage point of its repercussions on Europe and the Americas. In direct contrast Rodney's emphasis was clearly the impact of the slave trade on Africa especially in the West Coast and interior. He dissected the ways in which these traditional African societies were weakened in economic, social, political and cultural terms.
Rodney compiled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa from extensive archival research systematically identifying causes and outcome of the historical turbulence on the African continent. In doing so he identified the world capitalist system, both mercantile and modern, as the principal agency of underdevelopment of the African continent for over five centuries. The positivists consider humanities or the natural and social sciences as solely derived from sensory experience.
Consequently, the logical and mathematical treatment of any data is seen as exclusive and authentic. Positivism, which prevailed in the humanities, and in the social and natural sciences, remained dominant until historians like Rodney, the feminist movement and oral history advocates, among others, punctured its limitations and pretensions. But even in its preliminary stage the book faced some resistance. Lewis cited as evidence of this a letter Rodney wrote to his hesitant publisher on the eve of its publication. It clearly demonstrates his modus operandi as well as his philosophical outlook.
An excerpt states:. After its publication, the book led to a veritable revolution in the teaching of African history in the universities and schools in Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Rodney compiled his work from the basis of extensive archival research and systematically identified the perturbations on the African continent placing the world capitalist system, both mercantile and modern, as the principal agency of underdevelopment of the African continent for over five centuries. At the base of his thesis in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was the observation of a dialectical relationship between the underdevelopment of Africa and the development of Europe.
More specifically the relationship between local economies and the world capitalist system.
Walter Rodney's "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa"
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa also made an impact on a social science paradigm that had developed by this time, namely dependency theory as framed by Andre Gunder Frank. In short Rodney was recognized as the historian who applied Latin American dependency theory to African history . They would learn about the Alps and the river Rhine but nothing about the Atlas mountains of north Africa or the river Zambezi.
This trait would carry him throughout his life. Walter Rodney was assassinated in but this work, published 8 years before his demise continued to make shockwaves in both academia and the world of positive activism. The moment that the social scientist begins to reflect too closely on the present, he or she is subversive in the Third world. It is safer to be with the mummies and the bones. Now 47 years after the HEUA was first published what is the global reality, especially on the African continent? What is the situation today, in ? And why is the text still relevant?
A look at the world today is obviously remarkably different from the excitement on social response to global racism and underdevelopment and poverty in the s and s. In the decades of the s through to the s with a decline in the s there were a plethora of movements, institutions and international bodies tied to nation states at the global level that afforded activists like Rodney space in which to agitate for a more equal world order and freedom and justice for the poor and to challenge imperialism and colonialism on many fronts.
Many of these organisations and global organisations have either fractured or were dissipated by the updated onslaught of neo-liberal and laisse faire capitalism in recent decades. Internecine wars still prevail in sections of the African continent. The continuing civil war in the Sudan, and insurgent groups in Mali, are but two examples.
European and US imperialism are still very active in Africa. Surveillance drones, bomber aircraft, economic exploitation, political manipulation, bribery, support for insurgent groups are all part of the ensemble of Western intervention. The rise of mass migration to powerful metropoles is evident in Africa as in other parts of the world. And the rejection of these refugees and immigrants by former colonizers is steeped in the history of colonial racism and white supremacy. That struggle continues against many obstacles.
Democratic challenges in Sudan and elsewhere also provide some hope. This leads to the question — where are the revolutionaries today challenging the modern world capitalist system? The world capitalist system is by no means monolithic yet it manages time and again to put down any challenge to its global economic domination. As this article was being written we notice the Caribbean led reparations movement has succeeded in convincing at least one British institution in providing a form of reparations.
But his overall thesis would stand. In short, Europe and North America continue to interfere with the politics and exploit the natural and economic resources of a continent rich in human and natural resources. We have to push back this age of social media with a counter narrative of imperialism and laissez faire capitalism that has prevailed across the world —inclusive of new actors in the form of China. We already witness the horrors of global warming in Africa as exhibited by the shrinking of Lake Chad. Horace Campbell identifies some of these perils in an email describing a visit to the area:.
It has shrunk from over 25,sq km to less than sq km. In essence the new economy that is being put in place is that of financing young jihadists and the counter terror business. I saw this vividly where a fish processing facility was turned into a barracks. A powerful counter-narrative that incudes reparations, social and economic justice and decolonization of education have to go forward, the latter, the decolonization of education is an unfinished project. Despite its origins in the s, HEUA remains a powerful tool of research, extrapolation, explanation, and change.
And not only in academia. HEUA - one book: one huge, persistent impact. Reprinted in M. Makinde, ed. Mukherji and C. Sengupta, eds. Thousand Oaks, Sage. Readings From Reading. African Renascent Press, Darkar. Hereafter HEUA. All references are to this first edition. April 18, Second Edition, Revised. New York: Vintage Books, p. Translated by Asselin Charles. Publishing Company Limited, p. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick.
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, socialism, welfare capitalism, and libertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. Racial Contract. Lewis, Rupert. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, Hamburg: University of Hamburg, Walton Brown-Foster Copy Editor brownw ccsu. Haines Brown Adviser brownh hartford-hwp.
For more information concerning Africa Update Contact: Prof. Introduction It is true now, in this era that we have learnt to call modern, and perhaps it has always been so, that power always seeks to dominate knowledge and information, as well as the production of knowledge and information, and to convert them to its own purposes; to use them in its own interests. He taught from that assumption.
He wrote out of that conviction. And it seemed to have been the informing influence on his relations with the organized working people of Guyana. New Departures since HEUA At first glance the idea of updating such a massively impressive, magisterial and continually relevant work may appear adventurous. Indigenous Knowledge Systems The mental enslavement of significant sections of the Afrikan population and the social control that has been its consequence occurred on the back of the genocide, fully or partly, of Afrikan culture.
Reparations Western wrong-doing has occasioned a growing movement among Afrikans for Reparations, which includes repatriation. Conclusion The ultimate meaning of HEUA lies in the use of this information to promote awareness, empowerment, organization, struggle, and victory for Afrikans.
He lived to survive the distortions of his training and the crippling ambivalence of his class" George Lamming  Every now and again in history, a scholarly enterprise emerges that breaks new ground and provokes an impact that exceeds the confines of narrow academia. It is an ideological challenge. They will have to judge whether it makes sense in the light of present conditions in Africa. How would Rodney reconfigure the work in light of modern experience? Very few now mouth any hope for socialism or pan-Africanism as the way forward for Africa. Capitalism and Slavery.
London: Andre Deutsch Limited. British Historians and the West Indies. Port-of-Spain: P.