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Immanuel Wallerstein – Africa In A Capitalist World Notes

History Notes > Slavery and Abolition Notes

This is an extract of our Immanuel Wallerstein – Africa In A Capitalist World document, which we sell as part of our Slavery and Abolition Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick (MA) students.

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Immanuel Wallerstein - Africa in a Capitalist World??

A capitalist world economy is based on a division of labour between its core, semiperiphery and its periphery

Exchange between the sectors is unequal but each is dependent on the others, economically and politically

Peripheral state structures are weakened by exchange and core states are strengthened

Each sector develops different modes of labour control, because highest relative wages are paid in the core sectors and lowest relative wages in the periphery
Plantation slavery is a form of capitalist wage-labour (labour offered for sale as a commodity on a market) in which the state intervenes to guarantee a low current wage (the cost of subsistence)
o But the purchase of the slave is an additional cost
-This means that if the slave is produced within the worldeconomy, the real cost is not just the slave price but the opportunity cost of failing to use his labour under other wage conditions at presumably a higher level of productivity
-Under these conditions, slaves are too expensive i.e.
they don't produce enough surplus to compensate for their real cost

Given this, the only way to make plantation slavery viable in a capitalist system is to recruit slaves outside the world-economy
-In this case the opportunity cost is borne by some other system
From 1450 - 1750 West Africa was the external arena of the European world-economy

In this period the bulk of trading was 'rich trades' (goods that each seller values low for goods that each buyer values highly)
But 1750-60 marked the inception of England's industrial revolution, and a shift in the European world economy

The industrial revolution expanded enormously the demand for sugar and cotton ----- this expanded the demand for slaves and raised their price ----- this led to 'an atmosphere propitious to the creation of large state-structures'; hence a great spurt in Africa state building 1805-1820

England eliminated France as a competitor

The European world economy expanded hugely, incorporating
Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania
-Hence Africa became peripheral, not external
-This meant that slave trading became too costly; it involved an even higher purchase cost and an opportunity cost within the system

Britain had the most to gain from a proper functioning of the world-economy, hence it

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