Life After Colonialism

Linked with Mandisi Majavu – South Africa.

Published on Znet, by Mandisi Majavu, September 19, 2007.

3 excerpts: … Many decolonisation projects in Africa did not produce the results we fought, dreamt and hoped for simply because, among other things, we did not have a clearly articulated and liberatory alternative system to replace the old colonial order. I use the word ‘liberatory’ in a ‘Bakuninian’ sense. According to Bakunin (1998), liberty is the only context in which people’s intellect, dignity and happiness can increase and grow, as opposed to the formal liberty doled out, measured and regulated by the State. Further, Bakunin reminds us, it is important to keep in mind that the State, as we know it, represents and is there to serve the interests of the privileged few in reality.

Post-colonial thinkers have yet to conceptualise a liberatory State structure that does not facilitate a mere replacement of the old colonial ruling class with the new post-colonial ruling elite. We have yet to come up with a political and economic vision of life after colonialism. In many post-colonial countries, economic life became slightly different in the sense that the ownership of workplaces and resource was transferred from the hands of colonial masters to the hands of a new black elite. Old bosses were chased away, but new bosses emerged. The same pattern can be seen taking shape in post-apartheid South Africa …

… Self-management:


Decolonised Africa did not usher in a different and better way of organising a workplace. Instead workplaces are still characterised by the same hierarchical and authoritarian structure of the old colonial order. In post-apartheid South Africa, the workplace consists of managers who transform job roles according to the dictates of market competition (Albert, 2003).

Such an approach can only facilitate an environment where technical and critical decisions are made by ‘experts’ who belong to the coordinator class. And that, as Albert points out, can lead to an increase of the fragmentation of work, and in turn bloat managerial prerogatives, and in the end substitute expert’s goals for those of people. Once such a process is in motion, Albert argues that it is not long before a burgeoning managerial class of ‘coordinators’ begins to increase their influence on society as a whole and to search for ways to preserve their own power …

… Conclusion:

The advantages of a participatory economy are that Parecon values diversity, and instead of the State or the elite making decisions regarding production and consumption, workers’ councils and neighbourhood councils will decide what is good for society. I seriously think we should consider Parecon as one theory that we can use or refine to meet our needs and goals as we search for a better life after colonialism.

Mandisi Majavu is a postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town. He is with the Africa Project for Participatory Society and has contributed a book chapter to the forthcoming “Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century,” edited by Chris Spannos (AK, April 2008). He can be reached by e-mail.

(full long text).

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