Enslaved African labour in the Americas : from primitive accumulation to manufacture with racial violence

Higginbottom, Andy (2018) Enslaved African labour in the Americas : from primitive accumulation to manufacture with racial violence. Revista de Estudos e Pesquisas sobre as Americas, 12(1), pp. 22-46. ISSN (online) 1984-1639

Full text available as:
Higginbottom-A-43047-VoR.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (635kB) | Preview


The paper addresses the gap between two conventional Marxist readings of the relation between capitalism and the enslavement of Africans. The first reading sees slavery as part of the process of primitive accumulation of capital, the ‘original sin’ of dispossession. The second reading sees capitalism as such as exclusively based on the exploitation of ‘free’ wage labour as its general condition. The paper provides a third interpretation that sees enslavement as a racialised mode of exploitation with a division of labour similar to manufacture. This paper reconceptualises Marx’s value theory in an analysis of the enslavement of African Americans as a part of the capitalist mode of production with its own special characteristics. The violent working to death of enslaved Africans on the sugar plantation was a matter of calculation by the slave owner, weighing value produced against the costs of purchase and maintenance. Moreover the cost of slave purchase relied on the supply of Africans seized from their home continent. This approach demonstrates continuities as well as changes from sugar plantation slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean on to cotton slavery in the US South.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: slavery; mode of exploitation; African enslavement; primitive accumulation; manufacturing
Research Area: Economics and econometrics
Politics and international studies
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law, Social and Behavioural Sciences
Depositing User: Andrew Higginbottom
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2019 13:25
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2019 13:25
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/43047

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page