What is the Colonial Global Economy?

Colonial Global Economy - Lecture 1

Lecturer: Dr Paul Robert Gilbert, University of Sussex

2 Nov 2020

It is increasingly common for claims to be made about the incompatibility between capitalist ‘progress’ and the institution of slavery, and to frame colonisation as economically advantageous for the colonised.

Yet this overlooks the considerable scholarship, primarily from the ‘Global South’, which shows that industrial capitalism in Europe (and the UK in particular) would have been unaffordable without slavery, and that transfers of wealth from the colonies to colonial powers continue to shape contemporary inequalities.

In this sense, the global economy can be understood as a colonial global economy, shaped not only by the legacies of our colonial past, but by colonially-instituted arrangements and relationships which persist into the present.

This session will examine the colonial global economy as one which operates through racialized forms of exploitation, extraction and perverse inclusion, from the heights of international economic law, down to labour regimes in global supply chains.



Questions for discussion

  1. How are contemporary wealth transfers and inequalities shaped by colonial relationships in the present?
  2. What does it mean to understand the global economy as a colonial global economy?
  3. Why might dominant frameworks for understanding economic crises in the global economy neglect its colonial foundations?