What happened to the theory of African capitalism?

Monday, 5 March, 2018 - 15:00

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In this paper I want to examine the reasons for the impressively consistent disinterest in African economics that runs through the four styles of comparative political economy that the journal Economy & Society – the most important forum for comparative economic sociology – has published over the last three decades. Arranged in reverse chronological order, these productive and influential theoretical styles can be identified as : Callon’s Economization, Soskice and Hall’s Varieties of Capitalism (VoC), Boyer and Jessop’s Regulationism and Foucault’s Governmentality. All of them show an intriguing indifference to the question of whether African evidence – and the linkages with African economies – matter at all for their arguments. What makes this interesting – and not the familiar story of decolonizing the disciplines – is the fact that in its first decade, between 1971 and 1981, Economy & Society was obsessed with the problem of the comparative theorising of the African economy and its transformation. Indeed, it is not too strong to say that theorising African capitalism was the journal’s raison d’etre. What happened to kill off that curiosity?

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