Patrick Bond: Samir Amin’s diagnosis of worst-case racial capitalism

“Nothing has changed, South Africa’s sub-imperialist role has been reinforced”. Published 11 November by Patrick Bond on CADTM. //

Samir Amin’s critiques of both apartheid-era and post-apartheid political economy contributed to his scathing view of the crucial ‘semi-peripheral’ layer of the world system, a perspective typically ignored in binary formulations of Global North and Global South. Amin’s 1977 article “The future of South Africa” was among his first statements of how, using that era’s dependency theory language, “South African capital requires an outward policy of expansionism, so that ultimately, internal colonialism becomes coterminous with sub-imperialism.” From 1974 he began to deploy the latter theory, drawing upon the ideas of Brazilian dependencia theorist Ruy Mauro Marini. Ever since, Amin labeled South Africa sub-imperialist because of the domination of ‘monopoly capital’ in the extractive-industry circuits and because below-survival-level wages that long shaped the economy’s structure. Pretoria also imposed continent-wide neoliberalism through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) network – both of which proved incapable of transcending neoliberal economic policies insisted upon by contemporary imperialism. Following the 2023 Johannesburg BRICS summit’s failure to advance delinking (especially ‘de-dollarisation’), Amin would have nodded, knowingly, when hearing the slur ‘sub-imperial’ applied to the bloc – and looked for inspiration instead to grassroots campaigners.

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