How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

"How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" is a book written by Walter Rodney in which he portrays the view that Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by European colonial regimes.

Rodney argues that a combination of power politics and economic exploitation of Africa by Europeans led to the poor state of African political and economic development evident in the late 20th Century. In the book's preface, Rodney praises the state of Tanzania, which had pursued the sort of Marxist political ideology that Rodney advocated.

Written in 1972, the book was enormously influential in the study of African history. In the late 1990s many academics became more sharply critical of the book's central thesis and argued that the book oversimplifies the complex historical forces surrounding the colonial era.

This book was groundbreaking in that it was among the first to bring a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. Rodney's analysis went far beyond the heretofore accepted approach in the study of Third World underdevelopment and it was met with heavy criticism.

Rodney had determined that the only path to true human development and liberation for the majority of the people of his country was through the transformation of their own lives in a struggle to replace and reshape the neo-colonialist government that dominated their society and prescribed their existence.

Rodney on the book's basic message

"The question as to who, and what, is responsible for African underdevelopment can be answered at two levels. Firstly, the answer is that the operation of the imperialist system bears major responsibility for African economic retardation by draining African wealth and by making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the continent. Secondly, one has to deal with those who manipulated the system and those who are either agents or unwitting accomplices of the said system. The capitalists of Western Europe were the ones who actively extended their exploitation from inside Europe to cover the whole of Africa. In recent times, they were joined, and to some extent replaced, by the capitalists from the United States; and for many yearsnow even the workers of those metropolitan countries have benefited from the exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa." (27-28)"

"None of these remarks are intended to remove the ultimate responsibility for development from the shoulders of Africans. Not only are there African accomplices inside the imperialist system, but every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow." (28)"

Topics undertaken

*Some Questions on Development
*What is Development?
*What is Underdevelopment?
*How Africa Developed before the Coming of the Europeans -Up to the Fifteenth Century
*Africa's Contribution to European Capitalist Development -The Pre-Colonial Period
*How Europe became the Dominant Section of a World0Wide Trade System
*Africa's Contribution to the Economy and Beliefs of Early Capitalist Europe
*Europe and the Roots of African Underdevelopment - To 1885
*The European Slave Trade as a Basic Factor in African Underdevelopment
*Technical Stagnation and Distortion of the African Economy in the Pre-Colonial Epoch
*Continuing Politico-Military Developments in Africa 1500 to 1885
*The Coming of Imperialism and Colonialism
*Africa's Contribution to the Capitalist Development of Europe -The Colonial Period
*Expatriation of African Surplus under Colonialism
*The Strengthening of the Technological and Military Aspects of Capitalism
*Colonialism as a System for Underdeveloping Africa
*The Supposed Benefits of Colonialism to Africa
*Negative Character of the Social, Political, and Economic Consequences
*Education for Underdevelopment
*Development by Contradiction

Rodney on Power

"The decisiveness of the short period period of colonialism and its negative consequences for Africa spring mainly from the fact that Africa lost power. Power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one's interests and if necessary to impose one's will by any means available. In relations between peoples, the question of power determines maneuverability in bargaining, the extent to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity. When one society finds itself forced to relinquish power entirely to another society, that in itself is a form of underdevelopment."


* 1972, Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications (ISBN 0-9501546-4-4)
* 1974, Howard University Press (ISBN 0-88258-013-2)
* 1981, Howard University Press (ISBN 0-88258-096-5)
* 1982, Howard University Press (ISBN 0-88258-105-8)

External links

* [ Full text of the book]

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