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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the deep structural problems affecting nonwhite racialized workers in the core and periphery. Yet, many social scientific analyses of the global political economy, at least in the pre-COVID era, are race neutral or willfully indifferent to the persistent racial pattern of global inequalities. This piece seeks to understand how the unremitting super-exploitation of Black and other nonwhite racialized labor in the core and the periphery persisted throughout the COVID-19 crisis through the lens of Black radical scholarship on racism and capitalism. It historicizes the pandemic within the long arc of racist capitalist labor super-exploitation at the birth of capitalism and in its subsequent unfolding. It also shows the mechanisms by which COVID-19 has exacerbated the already existing, structural racial and colonial inequalities that undergird the global economy. White capital and European and North American states have deemed Black and other nonwhite racialized labor “essential” to maintaining profits and called upon these workers both within North America and Europe and in the global periphery to ensure continued production and profits in almost every realm. These workers were seen as essential but expendable; compelling them to continue laboring during the deadly pandemic increased the precarity and danger they faced and exacerbated racial and economic inequalities both within and between countries. At the same time, neoliberal racist states are further marginalizing these very workers by excluding them from much needed social protections to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 on their health, income, and overall well-being. The piece also illuminates why, despite the dire social and economic conditions threatening the lives and livelihoods of workers writ large, white workers continue to refuse to join a multiracial antiracist movement for liberation from imperial and racial capitalist exploitation. The author ends by reflecting on what it means to “return to normal” within the architecture of racial capitalism and the pursuit of a different path to justice and freedom.
There have been numerous studies done on social media or communication in general. However, most of these studies have neglected a recent and critical element of social media- Social Media Commerce. The present book is one of the first books to focus strictly and solely upon this phenomenon of social accumulation of profits through promoting commercial activities on social media. In this regard, the book presents itself to be a pioneering study within Digital Capitalism Studies.
The introduction will lay out the basics of how communication is being used by capitalism to further oppression and exploitation. It will primarily talk about digital capitalism and the relationship which digital capitalism shares with labour within the society. The introduction will provide a basic framework within which the subsequent chapters can be located. Some of the concepts and ideas which will be highlighted in the introduction are:
- Digital Capitalism
- Usage of Communication as a means of production
- Societal Alienation within digital capitalism
- The element of “Accumulation” within digital capitalism and its importance within capitalism.
The introduction will also provide an overview of Marxist-Humanist theory along with a brief history of its formation. The chapter will initially highlight some of the aspects of the work of Raya Dunayevskaya, the pioneer of the Marxist-Humanist theory. Taking cue from that, the chapter will then mainly discuss Henri Lefebvre, Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, especially the aspects of their work relevant to current book. The chapter will also point out theoretical advances made by contemporary Marxist-Humanists like Kevin Anderson and Peter Hudis.
The first chapter looks at the element of social media commerce in general. It will, at first, explain the fundamental aspects of “Social Media Commerce” and its differences with other modes of digital commercial activities such as e-commerce websites and used-goods-digital storefronts. It will present a chronological description of the evolution of social media commerce, specifically ‘Facebook marketplace’. The chapter will explore the political economic perspective of this mode of commerce and its intersections with the revenue model based on targeted advertisements. The chapter will introduce some of the central concepts used in the book, namely:
- Social Media Commerce
- Real Subsumption
- Social Media as a techno-social system
The second chapter will emphasise the theory of ‘property’. It will highlight the various theories regarding how property has been conceptualised.
This chapter will lay out the differences between personal and private property within capitalist social structures. The chapter will take references primarily from Marx’s Capital (All 3 Volumes) along with some of Engels’ works. In addition, the chapter will also provide an overview of the anarchist idea of property, mainly focusing on Proudhon and his debate with Marx and Engels. The final section of this chapter will also outline a theory of ‘digital and information’ property, which will be engaged with in details
The third chapter will focus on the usage of social media commerce within the Global North, primarily focusing on the study conducted by the author in Aotearoa New Zealand. The chapter will talk about how social crisis and human needs play a part in making these practices popular within the non-capitalist classes. Apart from the general results of the study which has used volunteer sampling and in-depth interviews to gather the qualitative data, two detailed accounts of social media commercial sellers will also be included. One of the two subjects of the study is an immigrant from the east, which will aid in establishing the relationship between race and social media commerce.
The chapter will emphasise the concept of “Property” within capitalism and the relationship between personal and private property from a political economic perspective. The chapter will analyse the relationship between these digital platforms and the other tangible methods of profit accumulation within capitalist and semi-capitalist economies. Finally, the chapter will put forward how under real subsumption, contemporary capitalism has transformed itself by inventing new modes of accumulation, which hinge upon dissolving the differences between personal and private property holdings.
The final pre-conclusive chapter attempts to provide an overview of how accumulation proceeds through social media within the Global South. This chapter will be primarily based on the study conducted by the author within the city of Hyderabad in India, with questions similar to those used in the case of the Global North. This chapter will emphasise upon the concept of “freedom” from a Hegelian-Marxist perspective and its manipulation within social media commerce by capitalism. The methodology adopted for the chapter will remain same as that of the previous chapter, i.e., volunteer sampling along with in-depth interviews, a rationale for which will be provided.
The chapter will analyse, or rather evaluate, the various elements of socio-economic crisis and human needs, as laid out in the previous chapter, within the context of the Global South. In doing so, this chapter will present a comparative analysis of social media commerce and its associated processes within the Global North and the Global South. The chapter will emphasise the various aspects of social structures, which play a pivotal role within capitalist accumulation processes. Specifically speaking, the third chapter will be about creating an intellectual dialogue between the Global North and the Global South, in terms of the relevance and usage of social media commerce by capitalism in both the contexts.
The conclusion will start with putting forward the importance of digital spaces within the general social space. Taking cue from this, the conclusion will talk about how abject alienation within the social spaces renders the alienation within these digital spaces invisible. The chapter will mainly focus on the perspectives developed by Raya Dunayevskaya and Henri Lefebvre, in putting forward a Marxist-Humanist account of contemporary capitalist exploitation within digital capitalism. The conclusion will bring out the importance of human subjectivity in addressing the questions of capitalist exploitation.
The conclusion will also focus on the factors of the successes of models like AIRBNB, in the Global North, and Oyo Rooms, in India. By doing so the conclusion will present a causal relationship between social alienation and the success of these models of capitalist exploitation. At the end, the conclusion will proceed towards analysing the usage of established communicative networks by capitalism to exploit the working class both digitally and physically, and the need of addressing this mode of exploitation from a Marxist-Humanist perspective, which takes an adequate cognisance of both human subjectivity and political economy.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Marxist-Humanist Theory
Chapter 1 Social Media and the Commerce Therein
Chapter 2 The Theory of Property
Chapter 3 Accumulation in the Global North
Chapter 4 Accumulation in the Global South
Conclusion: Marxist-Humanist Approach to the Issue
A piercing historical explanation of poverty and inequality in African societies today and the social impact of resource-driven growth, Extracting Profit explains why Africa, in the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century, has undergone an economic boom. Rising global prices in oil and minerals have produced a scramble for Africa’s natural resources, led by investment from U.S., European and Chinese companies, and joined by emerging economies from around the globe. African economies have reached new heights, even outpacing rates of growth seen in much of the rest of the world. Examined through the lens of case studies of the oil fields of the Niger River Delta, the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline and the East African infrastructure boom, this period of “Africa rising” did not lead to the creation of jobs, but has instead fueled the extraction of natural resources, profits accruing to global capital, and an increasingly wealthy African ruling class.
Extracting Profit argues that the roots of today’s social and economic conditions lie in the historical legacies of colonialism and the imposition of so-called “reforms” by global financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The chokehold of debt and austerity of the late twentieth century paved the way for severe assaults on African working classes through neoliberal privatization and deregulation. And while the scramble for Africa’s resources has heightened the pace of ecological devastation, examples from Somalia and the West African Ebola outbreak reveal a frightening surge of militarization on the part of China and the U.S.
Yet this “new scramble” has not gone unchallenged. With accounts of platinum workers’ struggles in South Africa, Nigerian labor organizing and pro-democracy upheavals in Uganda and Burkina Faso, Extracting Profit offers several narratives of grassroots organizing and protest, pointing to the potential for resistance to global capital and fundamental change, in Africa and beyond.
And in an updated Preface, the author analyses the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating climate emergency, as both the crises and resistance to extraction accelerate across the continent.
“Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit – Imperialism, Neoliberalism and The New Scramble for Africa is at once historical and contemporary. It unpacks ongoing resource crimes by analytically exposing its historical roots and pointing to ways by which the oppressed can cut off the bonds that lock in their subjugation.” —Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation
“Lee Wengraf provides an important reminder that Africa’s position within the world economy is heavily determined by its unequal insertion into the global capitalist system and ongoing manifestations of imperialism.” –James Chamberlain, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute
“Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit provides a breathtakingly detailed account and analysis of some of the major socioeconomic ills that have been plaguing Africa for centuries. Amongst the host of issues she tackles, arguably the most consequential are mass poverty in African societies, their indefensible economic inequalities and the steady plundering of the continent’s resources, starting from the slave-trade era up till the present-day.” –Remi Adekoya, Review of African Political Economy
“Extracting Profit offers several narratives of grassroots organizing and protest, pointing to the potential for resistance to global capital and fundamental change, in Africa and beyond.” –Developing Economics
“Evidently, this book is well-researched and it contributes to the expansion of the frontiers of Marxist scholarship on Africa’s development dilemma within the global capitalist order. This book lends credence to the pioneering works of such notable radical scholars as Andre Gunder Frank, Walter Rodney, and Samir Amin among several others. It should be read by students and teachers of political economy, development studies, Marxism and philosophy.” –Marx & Philosophy Review of Books
“Extracting Profit provides a great arch of scutiny from the earliest carve-up of the African continent, through colonialism, war, imperialism, to the recent neoliberal takeover. The book demonstrates the continued importance of Marxist analysis on the continent, asserting the centrality of class analysis and a project of revolutionary change. Wengraf provides us with a major contribution, that highlights contemporary developments and the role of China on the African continent that has perplexed and baffled scholars. An indispensable volume.” —Leo Zeilig, author of Frantz Fanon: The Militant Philosopher of Third World Revolution
“The history of resource frontiers everywhere is always one of lethal violence, militarism, empire amidst the forcing house of capital accumulation. Lee Wengraf in Extracting Profit powerfully reveals the contours of Africa’s 21st century version of this history. The scramble for resources, markets, and investments have congealed into a frightening militarization across the continent, creating and fueling the conditions for further political instability. Wengraf documents how expanded American, but also Chinese, presence coupled with the War on Terror, point to both the enduring rivalry among global superpowers across the continent and a perfect storm of resource exploitation. Wengraf offers up a magisterial synopsis of the challenges confronting contemporary Africa.” —Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley
“One of the most well-known stylized facts of Africa’s recent growth experience is that it has been inequality-inducing in ways that previous growth spurts were not. Lee Wengraf, in her new book Extracting Profit , expertly utilises the machinery of Marxian class analysis in making sense of this stylized fact. Along the way we learn much about Africa’s historical relationship with imperialism and its contemporary manifestations. This book should be required reading for all those who care about Africa and its future.” —Grieve Chelwa, Contributing Editor, Africa Is A Country
“In recent years countries in the African continent have experienced an economic boom—but not all have benefited equally. Extracting Profit is a brilliant and timely analysis that explodes the myth of “Africa Rising,” showing how neoliberal reforms have made the rich richer, while leaving tens of millions of poor and working class people behind. Lee Wengraf tells this story within the context of an imperial rivalry between the United States and China, two global superpowers that have expanded their economic and military presence across the continent. Extracting Profit is incisive, powerful, and necessary: If you read one book about the modern scramble for Africa, and what it means for all of us, make it this one.” —Anand Gopal, author, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes
“Thorough and thoughtful, Wengraf’s book has a radical depth that underscores its significance. It’s definitely a must-read for anyone who cherishes an advanced knowledge on the exploitation of Africa as well as the politics that undermines Africa’s class freedom.” —Kunle Wizeman Ajayi, Convener, Youths Against Austerity and General Secretary of the United Action for Democracy, Nigeria
“Extracting Profit is a very important book for understanding why the immense majority of the African population remain pauperised, despite impressive growth rates of mineral-rich countries on the continent. It continues the project of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. And in several ways, it also goes beyond it, capturing the changing dynamics of global capitalism 45 years after Rodney’s magnus opus.
In this book, Lee Wengraf debunks the myth of “Africa Rising” and the supposed expansion of an entrepreneurial middle-class, revealing “reforms” imposed by international financial institutions as mechanisms for fostering imperialism in an era of sharpening contradictions of the global capitalist economy. The adverse social, economic, political and environmental impact of these are elaborated on as a systemic whole, through the book’s examination of the sinews of capital’s expansion in the region: the extractive industries.
But, Wengraf does not stop at interrogating the underdevelopment of Africa. Her book identifies a major reason for the failures of national liberation projects: while the working masses were mobilised to fight against colonial domination, the leadership of these movements lay in the hands of aspiring capitalists, and intellectuals. The urgency of the need for a strategy for workers’ power internationally, she stresses correctly, cannot be overemphasized.
Reading Extracting Profit would be exceedingly beneficial for any change-seeking activist in the labour movement within and beyond Africa.” —Baba Aye, editor, Socialist Worker (Nigeria)
Uniting scholars and practitioners from around the world, this book will address white saviorism as one of the perennial underbelly challenges of the global development aid industry. The introduction by Kanakulya and Sondarjee will first develop the conceptual building blocks to understand white saviorism in international development. Section 1 will then address various theoretical issues such as false consciousness of white saviors, epistemological marginalization of black expertise, Islamophobia, and the links between whiteness and patriarchy. Section 2 will present personal accounts of how practitioners in the Global South have experienced white saviorism first-hand. The conclusion, written by Themrise Khan, will explore the implications of white saviorism for the future of international development practices. Overall, this book will analyze how development practices can undermine voices in the Global South and perpetuate a harsh myth of white superiority. The innovative chapters it encompasses will serve as a basis for more empirical work on white savior practices in international development.
Section 1: Sociological and Philosophical Perspectives on White Saviorism in International Development
Chapter 1. False Consciousness and the Phenomenology of a White Savior Dickson Kanakulya, Department of Philosophy, Makerere University
Chapter 2. Islamophobia as a White Saviorism Leila Benhadjoudja, Assistant Professor, School of Anthropological and Sociological Studies, University of Ottawa
Chapter 3. Generous but Exploitative: Exploring White Saviorism, Neo-colonialism and the Right to Natural Resources in Uganda Robert Karuru, Lecturer, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University
Chapter 4. The Matriarchy Complex. White Western Women in Development Themrise Khan, Independent Development Professional
Chapter 5. Smoking White Saviorism Out of Development Theoria and Praxis: Epistemological underpinnings and Emancipatory Insights Kizito Michael George, Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Kyambogo University
Chapter 6. Parallel Planet Destination for Donor and Recipients Interests Vianney Ahumuza, Lecturer, Department of Foundation Studies, Uganda Christian University
Chapter 7. Illicit Financial Flows and the Corrupting Effect of White Saviorism on International Trade Donald Omong Mark, Researcher at CED4, Systems Dynamics Group, University of Palermo
Chapter 8. White Saviorism in Aid Campaign, or how #KONY2012 Centered Western Experience Maïka Sondarjee, Assistant Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
SECTION 2: “We Don’t Need to be Saved” An Anthology of Voices and Experiences from Development Practitioners in the Global South
Chapter 9-16. Contributions from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa (TBD upon approval of the concept note by the publisher)
How to dismantle the White Savior Complex? Themrise Khan (ed)
By chronicling rural people’s struggles across diverse contexts, this collection gives us some signposts of emancipatory politics in the African countryside. Accessible and theoretically grounded, this exciting collection by leading African scholar-activists chronicles rural people’s struggles, from resistance to alternatives. Activists and scholars engaged with rural struggles need to read this book. —Ruth Hall, professor, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
A remarkable, well-argued and theoretically diverse collection of essays on the land question in Southern Africa, a topic as old as colonialism and as new as the newest impositions of global capitalism. Land struggles and resistance in a new and powerful light.
— Boaventura de Sousa Santos, author of The End of the Cognitive Empire, 2018
This book makes a powerful contribution to the existing and growing literature on land and agrarian questions in southern Africa. Empirically rich… the book is essential reading for scholars, intellectuals, students and activists involved in the everyday struggles and responses of those communities who are directly affected by neoliberal policies. Highly recommended. —Lungisile Ntsebeza, Emeritus Professor in African Studies and Sociology in the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.
Co-publisher: Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies
In recent years southern Africa has aroused the interest of domestic and foreign investors targeting several sectors. The agrarian and extractive capital has been the most penetrating in the countryside, causing land conflicts, displacement of local peasant communities and in worse cases, deaths. Being mostly neoliberally oriented, SADC states have positioned themselves in favour of capital. This collusion results in State measures that are hostile to the peasantry of their countries. The measures taken by the States, both in policies and in repressive actions, are endorsed by of high-level government officials, Ministers, Presidents, Kings and traditional Chiefs. As far as traditional chiefs are concerned, even in situations where the presence of capital is dangerous, ‘feudal’-type power relations prevail, oppressing mainly young people and women.
The peasantry and rural people in general have not, however, been passive in this process. Alone or in alliance with non-governmental organizations and activists, they have positioned themselves strongly against such dynamics and have raised their voices questioning developmentalist logics that are imposed on them, but that take away their means of production and violate their rights. In fact, resistance movements to capital are taking place throughout the region, even if the response to this has been repression by the states.
This book, which takes a scholar-activist stance, is written by authors, men and women, who critically study the dynamics of agrarian and extractive capital in southern Africa. In their academic and activist work, they seek to bring useful theoretical, conceptual and practical contributions to the struggles of agrarian and rural movements that represent the ‘subalternised’ rural and urban people. The book brings contributions in forms of chapters from DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, eSwatini (Swaziland), Mozambique, and Madagascar.