Samir Amin and Accumulation on a World Scale: Understanding Dependency and De-linking

Samir Amin, unlike A. G. Frank, is a renowned Marxist Dependency Theorist who takes up the characteristics of historical materialism to explain dependency theory. To understand the theory proposed by Samir Amin, we will have to first define certain assumptions that underpin this theory, namely

  • Historical Materialism: The role of economic factors underpinning the social and political processes
  • Capitalist World Systems: According to Amin, the world system is a reality, and it causes capital accumulation, the ultimate aim of capitalism, to take place on a worldwide basis, instead of a national basis.
  • Concept of Value: According to Amin, products derive their value from the abstract labor that is socially required to produce them
  • Centre-Periphery Relationship: The relationship between the periphery countries and the center countries are considered to be extremely exploitative. The prices and values of commodities differ between these countries so much so that it leads to center gaining while periphery loses
  • Economic Development: Development policies, according to Amin, can be successful only if it is auto-centred (producing goods and services to fulfil internal needs of a nation). Contrarily, an extroverted (outward looking through trade policies) does not lead to development

Features of Underdevelopment:

  • Distribution of productivities: the inequality in distribution of productive force unequally in periphery as compared to center
  • Disarticulation: It is the lack of linkages between different sectors due to periphery country’s focus towards the needs of the center
  • Economic Domination: central countries dominate the peripheries through international specialization and dependence of foreign capital

Key concepts:

Center: These are countries that are industrialized before the establishment of capitalist world system and have an overwhelming influence over the economic and socio-political processes of the developing and underdeveloped countries.

Periphery: periphery are countries that are exploited by the centers for the acquisition of resources and raw materials and act as a reservoir of deficit for the surplus in the center.

Capitalistic World System: It is a system that came into existence since the imperialist period, where all the countries were integrated in a single world system that is driven by the process of capital accumulation and unequal exchange of values favoring a few developed countries at the expense of the third world countries.

Underdevelopment: It is the other side of the coin of development and according to dependency theorists such as A. G. Frank and Samir Amin is a necessary condition for development in the center countries.

International Specialization: It I the process by which the periphery countries are made to adopt a culture of producing a single specialized commodity that is solely dependent on the needs at the center and creates more dependency.

Capital goods: These are manufactured goods that one business entity produces to enable the other business to produce consumer goods. Example: tools, machinery etc.

Surplus and Deficit: The capitalistic world system revolves around the concept of surplus and deficit. The system integrates new countries that has surplus of raw materials and integrates them through exploitation. The surplus is transferred to the center at a base rate and the manufactured goods made out of such surplus is channeled back to the peripheries at a much higher rate creating a deficit.

Characteristics of Periphery:

  • Agrarian Capitalism: This implies that there is an extensive class of large landowners who produce agricultural goods for the world market
  • Comprador Bourgeoise: These are the elite class in peripheries connected to the bourgeoise at the center but are dependent on them completely
  • Dominant Bureaucracy: Civil or military state systems who at times take over the role of periphery bourgeoise
  • Inequality: Extreme inequality in the distribution of income at the peripheries caused by the spread of unemployment and underemployment

Challenges to Periphery:

  • The outward oriented policies of the peripheries prevent them from pursuing autocentric development policies
  • The surplus produced in the peripheries does not benefit the local economy since they are taken by the center
  • The remaining surplus goes to the landowners who use it to procure luxury goods that do not stimulate local economy

Objective of Integration of periphery into Capitalist World System:

  • Enlarging markets and exploiting new regions
  • Reducing the cost of labour and constant capital

Actors in the world system:

Bourgeoise at the center: They are the primary exploiters of the periphery countries and seek to maximize their capital accumulation

Proletariat at the center: They are made complacent to the system by providing higher wages and living standards with social security and therefore are passive participants of exploitation

Bourgeoise at the periphery: They are the elites in peripheries who work with the bourgeoise in the center to facilitate the exploitation for their selfish interest

Proletariat at the periphery: They are the victims of this capitalistic world system since they are not paid living wages and overworked to produce goods that does not add value to their lives

Semi-periphery countries: These are countries who act as a buffer between center and periphery at certain times. They are exploited by the center and in turn they exploit the periphery and thus establishing a hierarchy of exploitation

Extroverted development: It is defined by the development policies in peripheries that focuses on export of commodities and outward dependent organization of economic system

Autocentric development: It is defined by development policies that places the internal needs of the periphery above the demands of the center

How the System Functions:

The key mechanism contributing towards the process of capital accumulation in the capitalistic world system is, according to Amin, the transfer of value from the periphery t the center. The process of accumulation specifically can be seen through the accumulation in the form of capital goods (machineries and tools that are required for producing consumer goods). Parallelly, the technological advancements take place primarily in the center countries.

Example of Africa:

Africa, according to Amin, was not backward compared to the rest of the world during the pre-mercantile period. The long-distance trade with the rest of the world took place in Africa, which exported gold, ivory and gum and imported luxury goods. However, during the mercantilist expansion period, there was a demand for slave labour, which reduced Africa to the function of supplying these slave labour for the plantations in America. Subsequently, Africa lost its autonomy, and it began to shape according to the requirements of foreign mercantilist. This resulted in the fragmentation of African communities and its effects could still be seen across the continent in the form of ethni cleansing and civil unrest.

Theory of Delinking: (Solution to dependency):

Theory of delinking is based around the concept of autocentric development. Since the rise of modern imperialism, no country other than japan has had an autocentric development. However, the precondition to such autocentric development is the process of periphery countries ‘delinking’ their economies from the world system. Samir Amin is skeptical about the effectiveness of moderate development policies such as increase of raw material prices, reduction of debts and the transfer of technology, and he believes that such policies would not reverse the transfer of value or achieve development for all. To restrict the flow of surplus as value from periphery to the center, according to Amin, requires drastic measures that would refocus the periphery economies to their internal needs rather than that of the core. However, Amin condemns the capitalist system which he believes to be serving only for the interests of the center and therefore there is a need to adopt a socialist political order. The internal system should be restructured in such a way that it favors the working class and focuses on satisfying the basic needs of the population at large rather than the luxury demand of the few elites. The final aspect of preconditions for delinking involves the presence of a democratic and participatory political system where the power is distributed among the people of the periphery countries, as well as participation of the working class in making economic decisions.

Conditions for Delinking:

  • Priority with regards to economic planning and development must be given to the agriculture sector
  • The industrial sector must produce those commodities that are beneficial for the agriculture sector, infrastructural work, preservation and processing of the produce
  • The production process must be subjected to national (state) and popular control, where the control is exercised by the working class (including peasants) on the one hand and the government on the other
  • Technology that is bought from the developed nations but must be modified to suit the needs and functions of the periphery country
  • Countries must abandon the extroverted policies such as import substitution and export-oriented strategies. Incomes should be brought in accordance with the needs of the worker rather than productivity

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