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Masondo, David  (2006) Revisiting the Relationship Between Capitalism and Racist Forms of Political Domination and Post-1994 South African Policy Alternatives. Centre for Civil Society Colloquium on the Economy, Society and Nature: 1-19.


The diagnostic theses and propositions on the South African social formation and its crisis have also informed or influenced normative policy perspectives in the post-1994 South Africa. The South African social formation has been characterized as Colonialism of a Special Type (SACP: 1962 and ANC: 1985) and racial capitalism (Saul:) . The articulation of modes of production (Wolpe :), racial Fordism (Gelb :), uneven development (Bond :), Mineral-Energy-Complex (Fine and Rustomjee : 1996) and fraction of capital (Davies, Kaplan) were used to show the mechanisms through which the South African social formation was reproduced and maintained. Flowing from each conceptualization different theorists and activists reached different conceptual, strategic, tactical and conclusions on the South African social formation. The post-1994 policy alternatives were also influenced by these perspectives. This is not to deny some common normative conclusions reached through different conceptual schemas.

The South African political economy has been pre-occupied with the relationship between racist and patriarchal forms of political domination and capitalism. This issue is not only a contentious between Marxists and non- Marxists, but also within Marxists and non-Marxists. At the heart of the scholarly debate is the extent to which racial domination; in particular Apartheid was functional for capital accumulation. Put differently, the debate is on the extent to which the racist forms of political domination were functional or beneficial to capitalism.

The paper argues that liberalism took a dualist perspective of the South African social formation. It argued that the economy was divided into two. The first economy (capitalist), which was a desirable model for development and the pre-capitalist, was as traditional and backward to be obliterated. It was argued that the two modes were unconnected modes of production. The pre-capitalist was backward and traditional. In its teleological conception of social change, it assumed capitalism will swallow the pre-capitalist forms of production. The demise of Apartheid in liberal circles is celebrated in these terms, that is, capitalist growth has undermined racist rationality was imposed itself on the rationality of the free market (O’ Dowd: 1996). In the post-Apartheid South Africa, any form of regulation of the capital is seen as undermining this rationality.

The paper shows that the Marxist political economists took an organicist conception of the connection between racism and capitalism and pre-capitalist modes of production. The pre-capitalist and racism and capitalism were seen as organically connected, and the functional relationship between the two was systematically theorized in Wolpe’s work (1975). The liberals only conceded to the organicist connection between racism and pre-capitalist mode of production, but maintained that racism was dysfunctional for capital accumulation. The Marxist political economists, in their early works did not stretch the dialectical method enough for they would have theorized the relationship between race and capitalism as contradictory and always leading to contemporary resolution and new contradictions, but without the Hegelian totalizing dialectic. This has opened the early Wolpe (1975) to theoretical attacks for his functionalism.

Given the contingent relationship between capitalism and racist forms of political domination, we argue that there is no necessary functional relationship between racist forms of political domination and capitalism, and therefore the destruction of the former does not necessarily mean the end of the latter. In other words, the end of national and gender oppression does not mean the end of capitalism. While the paper refutes the functional relationship between racist forms of political domination, it argues that the relationship between capitalism and racism was contingent upon the historical evolution of the capitalist system and opportunities and threats offered by the racial structure. In other words, South African capitalism had an opportunistic with racist political domination, but it became dysfunctional due to the working class struggle and the rise in organic composition of capital.

The paper argues that technological determinist or vulgar Marxism and modernization theory have provided conceptual basis for neo-liberalism. The racial Fordism thesis (Gelb and Saul), has provided firm foundation for the Keynesian policy alternatives. The CST and its strategy NDR, is used to justify the current neo-liberal and incorporation of the emerging black bourgeoisie into structure of capital accumulation. However, the current neo-liberal and creation of black capital policy paradigm was not inscribed in the NDR itself.

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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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