What happened to the theory of African capitalism?

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Economy and Society, p.9 - 35 (2021)




<p>I examine the reasons for the impressively consistent disinterest in African economics that runs through all the schools of comparative political economy that Economy and Society has published over the last three decades. These theoretical movements can be helpfully arranged in reverse chronological order: Callon&#39;s economization, Soskice and Hall&#39;s varieties of capitalism (VoC), Boyer and Jessop&#39;s regulationism and Foucault&#39;s governmentality. Each of them shows an intriguing indifference to the question of whether African evidence matters for their arguments. What makes this interesting was that in its first decade, between 1971 and 1981, Economy and Society was obsessed with the problem of the comparative theorizing of the African economy and its transformation. Indeed, it is not too strong to say, as I show, that theorizing African capitalism was the journal&rsquo;s raison d&rsquo;etre. What happened to kill off that curiosity? Reconstructing debates within the journal, the paper explores the shifts, in comparative political economy and in African studies, between 1970 and 1990 that account for the collapse of comparative interest in the features of capitalism on the continent.</p>