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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

By reconstructing the pioneering work of political economists and social theorists associated with the New World Group at the University of the West Indies and the Dar es Salaam School at the University of Dar es Salaam, this chapter recovers the theorization of the plantation as a modernizing institution that produced a distinctive colonial modernity. Between the 1960s and 1970s, George Beckford and Lloyd Best theorized the Caribbean as a pure plantation society in which the forms of economic exploitation and idioms of sociality that emerged in the context of plantation slavery continued to structure islands states like Jamaica. While primarily associated with slavery in the Americas, Walter Rodney conceptualized the colonial plantation as a form of economic and social organization that traveled to contexts like Tanzania and continued to structure postcolonial legacies. Through south/south comparison, the use of conceptual innovation and lateral extension, this cohort of social theorists offered a distinctive mode of thinking through modernity as a site of convergence and divergence. Their comparative historical, sociological, and economic studies of the plantation highlight the uneven and differentiated ways in which societies in the global south had been radically transformed by imperial imposition. In the jettisoning of north/south, West/non-West axes of comparison and in the effort to attend to the specificity of postcolonial political and economic forms, this episode of comparative theorizing can inform contemporary projects of globalizing political theory.

Keywords: plantation, modernity, colonial, development, New World Group, Dar es Salaam School

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