Thursday, January 28, 2016

Integrating or Ghettoising the Gender Question?

Issa Shivji's Clarifying Points about Integrating the Gender Question within the Political Economy of Neoliberalism

I'm glad that this debate is beginning to pick up. I wish there was a greater interrogating of the theoretical framework I proposed in the initial posting. I'm sure it is on the way. There are a couple of preliminary points, though, I would like to clarify.

1(a). Both Chambi's and Deborah's critique is that my intervention is too abstract; that it doesn't take into account empirical facts on the ground. Of course, it is ABSTRACT. By definition, a theorisation is an ABSTRACTION from the mass of empirical data and observations to make sense of it; to understand and explain the reality. A theory, therefore, is neither descriptive nor prescriptive - it is by its very nature argumentative and cognitive. The context in which the "Quick Note" was written was to try and integrate the gender question within the bigger picture of the system of neo-liberal political economy as it currently operates in our countries. The idea was how do we move away from the usual "tokenism" paid to the gender question by add-ons or tag-tos to other questions etc - in other words, to move away from the now too-often a practice of "ghettoising" the gender question. 

(b). The "Quick Note" focussed on the forms of exploitation of wo/man labour as producers of value (surplus value) on the one side and the character of accumulation (primitive accumulation) on the other. The colonial migrant system (manamba) was given to illustrate how capital penetrated the agrarian sector in its quest of primitive accumulation, which was the dominant form of accumulation in the colonial period. (In the interregnum, the immediate post-colonial or the nationalist period, I argued, CA and and PA were in tension as various policies were to install CA, which attempt was defeated) and went on to argue that the dominant character of accumulation under neo-liberalism IS primitive accumulation taking on new forms and producing and reproducing new social groups (including Deborah's precariat) etc. One would have liked to know if that theorisation does or does not capture - in the meaning of explaining and understanding - the existing neo-liberal reality on the ground. Unfortunately, neither Chambi nor Deborah address this central premise of the "Quick Note". 

2. Chambi saw this as a REPLAY of the debate of the late 1990s following MacAuslan's draft law quoting in extenso Dzodzi's narration of the arguments. I don't think it is a REPLAY at all. That was the debate of a different order. In fact, there was no attempt at all to theorise in terms of political economy. One theoretical point made in passing by the Land Commission - contrasting accumulation from below to accumulation from above - was never taken up. The debate was much more at the level of advocacy and lobbying of law-makers etc. To be honest, at the time, we hadn't even realised the extent of the intensity of neo-liberalism - we were still at the level of opposing SAPs on merit (rather demerit!), so to speak. Dzodzi well summarises the arguments/positions in the debate but, understandably, does not touch on the underlying political economy nor politics of it. (As an aside, it would be interesting for researchers to return to that debate and unearth the politics behind it, particularly the role played by the so-called "donor community"). Of course, there is a link between what we are debating now and what we were debating then, but that does not mean it is a replay.

So we continue ... ....!


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