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Publication Details

Guy, Jeff (2006) 'no eyes, no interest, no frame of reference': Rosa Luxemburg, southern African historiography, and pre-capitalist of modes of production.. Centre for Civil Society  Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-15.

In a rousing and provocative treatment of South Africa in the historical section of The Accumulation of Capital 1 Rosa Luxemburg applied aspects of her theoretical arguments on the necessary structural links between capitalist and non-capitalist systems, to the contemporary imperialist world. She described the destructive impact of mining capital on Boer small-commodity producers, who had themselves ‘built their peasant economy like parasites on the backs of Negroes…’2. These writings, together with Rosa Luxemburg’s earlier studies of the impact of capitalist forms of production on non-capitalist societies, and the imperatives which structure their interaction,3 are especially interesting to those of us who have studied the dynamics of the impact of capitalism on pre-capitalist societies, and tried to apply these studies to the writing of historical narratives. In addition to this, the recent application by radical commentators of the idea of primitive accumulation to contemporary manifestations of imperialism 4 allows Luxemburg’s work to reach across the century that has passed since she used her remarkable talents so courageously to analyse, and change, her world. In this paper I examine some of her ideas and their application, in the context of the historiography of the relation between capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production in South Africa, and suggest some of the reasons why we should revive this important debate and extend it beyond the walls of an increasingly confined academy.

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 Relevant Publications
 The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 27: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURAL ECONOMY: Rosa Luxemburg 
 Capitalism & cheap labour power in South Africa: Harold Wolpe 
 Labour Market Discrimination and its Aftermath in Southern Africa Guy Mhone 

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