American Sociological Association

Post-Colonial Africa and the World Economy: The Long Waves of Uneven Development Fouad Makki

The aim of this article is to examine the interactive dynamics of "Africa" and the "world economy" over the past half century. By relating the overarching developmental trajectory of the continent to the long-wave rhythms of the world economy, the article identifies three relatively articulated periods in the political economy of postcolonial Africa. The first, from circa 1960 to the late 1970s, was a period of state-led developmentalism enabled by the long postwar boom in the world economy and the embedded liberalism of the Bretton Woods system. A second period from circa 1980 to the turn of the new century was conditioned by the long downturn in the world-economy and a neo-li beral regime of accumulation that sought to re-structure and re-integrate Africa into a deregulated world market. The turn of the new millennium constitutes a new period in which neither the deep structural springs of the long downturn nor the neo-liberal project as such have been overcome; but their impact on Africa has been relativized by the emergence of East Asia as the new center of accumulation in the world economy. The resulting de-synchronization of the long-wave rhythms of the world economy has permitted a modest economic expansion in Africa within a largely extractive regime of accumulation and a wave of new enclosures that are profoundly reconstituting the social universe of Africa's primary producers.


Fouad Makki





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