This paper examines how the inequalities created during the colonial period, through the sugar industry, are still impacting London’s geography. Thanks to research based mainly on secondary sources, it focuses on the emergence of a set of economic and social inequalities during the colonial period. The dissertation argues that the emergence of those inequalities is the result of the rise of capitalist ideology. It was at the same time that sugar, a commodity consumed by all, began to be produced in large quantities. The evolution of its industry has followed the capitalist movement and thus makes it possible to trace back the disparities generated by the latter. It is argued that, the inequalities described are the products of history and are still crystallised in London’s geography. This paper attempts to demonstrate that cultural institutions, such as the Tate Modern, participate in their fixation in the urban space. The dissertation takes the example of this famous art gallery, named after the sugar giant Henry Tate, to illustrate its impact. The paper attempts to demonstrate that, through the use of philanthropy, capitalists are trying to erase the violence by which they have accumulated their economic capital with translating it into cultural capital.
Chapter 1: Introduction
” I do not know if coffee and sugar are essential to the happiness of Europe, but I know well that these two products have accounted for the unhappiness of two great regions of the world: America has been depopulated so as to have land on which to plant them; Africa has been depopulated so as to have the people to cultivate them” (Bernadin de Saint Pierre, 1773 in Stinchcombe, 1995:9). As Saint Peter pointed out, cane has been associated with inequalities since the beginning of European conquests (Menard, 2006). The production, export/import of sugar and its mass consumption has made this industry a central point to explain the industrialisation of Great Britain and the creation of many accompanying inequalities.
Before the 15th century, sugar was of no importance in world trade. Sugar production has always been destined for Europeans and North Americans. Its consumption was only substantial (Mintz, 1985). However this product is widely democratised to become today an everyday product. Today, 175 million tons of sugar are consumed worldwide per year (Planetoscope, 2018). Thus, this convenience and what underlies it becomes very interesting since are part of the everyday life of all the planet and all these inhabitants.
The history of sugar cane production and the development of its consumption have produced different consequences. Sugar participated in various economic processes such as the beginning of industrialisation, the intensification of international trade and the development of capitalism. At the social level, this trade has also generated a large number of inequalities. Thus, tracing the history of the sugar industry allows to identify the power relations between different countries of the globe (Mintz, 1985 Morgan, 2000 ; Menard, 2006 ; Parker, 2011 ; Ahluwalia, Ashcroft, Knight, 1999).
Thus, sugar becomes the product of globalisation (Dockès, 2011). In order to meet the incessant demand from Europe, the Empires began to create large plantations in their colonies, essentially Caribbean, and to export the sugar harvest to the refineries of the motherland. In order to make these large plantations function, the owners resorted to slavery. “It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe” wrote Voltaire (1759). This cheap, mainly African labour has enabled the sugar industry to establish itself and prosper. It was by collecting slaves in Africa, producing in America and consuming in Europe that the sugar industry participated in the interconnection of continents (Mintz, 1985).
Sugar, through its production and its history, establishes a link between capitalism and inequality. This convenience perfectly illustrates the excesses of capitalism and its potential to generate precariousness. Sugar production led to the enslavement of an entire population and the “expropriation” of the inhabitants of the colonies. These consequences of the enrichment of the Empires had the effect of slowing down or even stopping the development of the former colonies (UNESCO, 1978).
Inequalities are still perpetuated today by the sugar industry. Although slavery has long been abolished, new forms of forced labour have emerged. Man’s exploitation of man has therefore not come to an end. Many families are still being expropriated for the land needs of the giant sugar factories. Moreover, these inequalities are also represented by geography (Harvey, 2003; Wells, 2007). The geography of the world was influenced by the period of colonisation and is still influenced by capitalist ideology and the spread of different flows. Thus, it makes it possible to trace inequalities and their impacts (Harvey, 2003, 2005, 2011). Beyond world geography, urban geography in turn crystallises its inequitable power relations and still perpetuates today these multiple inequalities created and perpetuated since the beginning of the 15th century (De Certeau 1984 ; Lefevbre, 1991 ; Benjamin, 1999 ; Wells, 2007).
Cultural institutions are an example of this. Tate Modern, through its links with Henry Tate and its sugar company Tate ; Lyle Sugar, is involved in the crystallisation of inequalities in London’s geography. Tate & Lyle sugars is the result of the merger of two companies, Tate’s Cubed Sugar led by Henry Tate and Abram Lyle ; Sons led by Abram Lyle. These two great sugar magnatess had their respective specialities. Tate was the first to mass produce cubed sugar. Lyle, on the other hand, manufactured the famous “Lyles’s Golden Syrup” which is still produced today. At the time of the merger in 1921, Tate ; Lyle refined 50% of English sugar (Tate ; Lyle PLC, 2018). The company is still in operation today. Tate ; Lyle PLC is considered as the leading sugar supplier in Europe (www.tateandlylesugars.com, 2018).
However, as Andrea Stuart (2012) reminds us, behind this successful venture lies a dubious past. The company is linked to the use of slavery. As Wells (2007) explains, it is impossible to separate Tate and Lyle’s fortunes from slavery since sugar production was based on the exploitation of slaves (Thompson, 1996; Miles, 1996; Newman, 2002). Although the link between Tate’s personal fortune and slavery is not direct, the fact remains that, having made a fortune from sugar, and the sugar industry then dependent on the use of slavery, the accumulation of wealth was made through the violence of forced/ free labour. Tate has decided to invest part of his wealth in art and culture. Is Tate, through the use of philanthropy, trying to erase the origins of his success? The link between the company Tate ; Lyle sugar and the Tate Modern does not go through founding. Even though the connection is tenuous, it still exists though the name that was given to both the company and the Art Gallery. They were named after the same person, Henry Tate. It then links them together trough the commodity of sugar and the violence associated to it.
Thus, it can be asked how the inequalities created during the colonial period, through the sugar industrie, are still impacting London’s geography.
I answer this question by addressing the sugar industry’s participation in Britain’s uneven economic growth. Then, I discuss the social aspect of the inequalities by talking about triangular trade and its consequences. Then I try to demonstrate that cultural institutions, like Tate Modern, still crystallise these inequalities today. Chapter 2: Literature Review
The British empire, through the process of the Great Discoveries and Colonisation, was comprised of over a quarter of the world’s population and covered 22% of the land mass by 1922 (Bainville, 1938). The growth of this empire is due to the combination of different factors. However, Britain’s first goal wasn’t a territorial conquest. The aim was for the kingdom to take possession of resources and markets other than a territorial ambitiousness (Wood, 2005).
The early British colonisation was accompanied by a strong “re-export” of exotic products such as sugar. It allowed the country to increase its foreign trade and thus create the powerful growth (Davis, 1954). In addition, the transition from mercantilist doctrine to that of liberalism in the 18th century secured the acceleration of its economic advantages (Davenant, 1695). However, this economic success hides important social consequences.
From the beginning of the Victorian era to the present day, the economic history of the Empire can be traced by this everyday necessity, Sugar. Like Mintz details (1985), this commodity allows to go back to the creation of some inequalities still present today dye to the development of capitalism and liberalism.
In order to draw an overview of the relationship between capitalism, sugar and inequalities, the literature review consists of three parts. First, it establishes that the relationship between capitalism and colonisation is a factor of inequalities. Then, the link between the sugar industry and the enrichment of these inequalities are further explored. Finally, it is demonstrated that these inequalities are still present in the everyday life.
I-The relationship between capitalism and colonisation as creator of inequalities
There is a strong connection between capitalist economy and colonisation. Foucault’s work gives us an understanding of the implications of such a system on the social and economical development of society. For those in favour of the capitalism (Rand, 1966; Friedman, 1962), the economic growth generated by it would allow wealth to be shared for the “collective good” (Venn & Terranova, 2009). In other words, poverty would not be the consequence of a failure of the system but rather would be inherent in the shortcomings of the actor concerned. As Adam Smith (1812) states, it is by leaving the market to regulate itself alone according to its “natural tendencies” that the economy would reach “fair”, “just” prices. It is this equilibrium which would subsequently ensure the “mutual enrichment” of the actors and thus benefit society as a whole. However, since its inception, the functioning of the capitalist economy has produced disparities in the distribution of wealth. As Stiglitz (2001, 2002) and Mann (2003) point out, this system produces a zero-sum game between winners and losers. The only way to return to balance is through state intervention. In order to obtain an equal distribution of wealth, the state must intervene. However, as Stiglitz (2001, in Polanyi 2001:8) points out, “Today, there is no respectable intellectual support for the proposition that markets, by themselves, lead to efficient, let alone equitable, outcomes”. The unequal nature of capitalism and liberalism and its broader consequences will be discussed in Chapter 1.
As for Foucault’s analysis of liberalism, it sheds more light on the understanding and consequences of the capitalist economy. According to him, “poverty is the result of a production process of the poor” (Venn ; ; Terranova, 2009:208). In other words, poverty is produced by pre-established mechanisms. The latter are defined as “capture devices” (Deleuze ; Guattari, 1988). They generate the zero-sum games of winners and losers mentioned above. To regulate this phenomenon, Foucault recommends that economies should be governed by predefined rules. Moreover, Foucault innovates by establishing a link between political economy, bio-politics and the notion of power (1975, 2004, 2004). This work allows to understand the rise of modern European power. And thus, to trace the creation of inequalities created over the colonial period. Foucault’s work reveals “the dynamics linking forms of political rationality to systems of appropriation and accumulation of wealth and to biopolitics as a social government” (Venn & Terranova, 2009:208). Thus, Foucault (1975) justifies the use of colonial dispossession as a growth factor. The use of the latter justifies a more general form of economy of inequality and violence (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988). ??Foucault inserts one of the cardinal concepts, that of security, population, circulation, liberalism, biopower and biopolitics. These concepts allow, by making the link with the colonial period, to better understand our post-colonial present. This idea will be explained in Chapter 3. Foucault (1975) gives crucial, though insufficient, arguments that recognise the influence of colonialism in the changes it perpetuates. The author (Foucault, 1975) gives the example of “political and legal weapons” that perpetuated racism and the “colonial genocide”. Going back to the historical beginnings of liberal capitalism, the purpose of this dissertation is to show that this system, through colonisation, has always generated a zero-sum game making the rich richer and the poor poorer (Stiglitz, 2001; Joxe, 2002; Harvey, 2005). Moreover, colonisation, beyond increasing the gap between rich and poor has also hit bottom by subjugating and objectivising the human species (Mintz, 1985; Harvey, 2005). The use of workers as trading facilities will be discussed in Chapter 2. Above all, the conception of Capitalism as an effective system of redistribution of wealth is most importantly an ideology made possible by the oblivion of a “counter-history of pauperisation” (Venn & Terranova, 2009).This will be discussed on Chapter 1. Colonisation can therefore be seen as an ideological manoeuvre put in place to safeguard accumulation meanwhile perpetuate a large number of disparities (Chapter 1,2 and 3).
II-The colonial inequalities, as a result of sugar industry practices??
The period of colonisation accompanied by the beginnings of capitalism completely renewed the modes of production while leaving behind a large number of inequalities.
It is established that unequal accumulation of capital and colonisation are bounded. England, and more generally Europe, had much to gain from the discovery of America. On the contrary, this period of colonisation contributed to the destruction of those new colonies (Smith, 1812 ; Jalée, 1981 ; Amin, 1976 ; Emmanuel, 1972 ; Todorov, 1992 ; Arrighi, 1994). Smith already announced that the discovery of these new territories would greatly enrich Europe’s wealth. From this observation, it is possible to link the conquest of America to the emergence of mercantilism (Venn ; Terranova, 2009 ; Mintz, 1985). Finally, it was the expansion of the territory by colonial conquest that made possible the consecration of liberal capitalism (Arrighi, 1994; Braudel, 1986; Polanyi, 2001). For example, in his work Braudel (1986) refers to the vital importance of the plundering orchestrated by Britain in mid-18th in Bengal, without which, English power would have had more difficulty prospering. Here is was mercantilism. As Arrighi (1994) points out, the new colonies having become new external economic spaces becomes the main source of revenue for British firms.
The overproduction in colonised territories was followed by the establishment of free trade, assured by military violence (Colley, 2002; Newsinger, 2006; Semmel, 2004). In addition, technical progress coupled with the maritime innovation of steamboats, the creation of railways allowed the kingdom to become rich massively at the expense of the colonies. For example, sugar cultivation, involving different colonies in Africa and America, has enabled Great Britain to find in them a new market abounding with profit (Higman, 2000).
One of the commodities that allowed the enrichment of Great Britain is the cultivation of sugar. This everyday product even gave its name to a revolution, the sugar revolution (Higman, 2000). The sugar revolution began in the 17th century in the Caribbean with implications throughout the Atlantic. Sugar processing, unlike other products such as potatoes, coffee or rice, is highly processable. The basic product, sugar cane, can be exploited in many different ways. Thus, no other product than sugar has been so attractive in terms of its great potential for processing (Salaman, 1949). The sugar trade has brought about a great deal of change, particularly in agricultural management. Sugar production has led to a shift from diversified agriculture to monoculture. Higman (2000) identifies three major changes. First, the transition from small-scale farms production to large plantations. Then, the status of the workers went from being free and self-employed to precarious jobs. Most plantation even used slave workers. The increasingly common use of slavery will be explored in greater detail in Chapter 2. Finally, the transition from low prices and consumption to increasingly high prices and consumption (Mintz, 1985). But the consequences of sugar trade do not stop there. It encouraged triangular trade and was at the origin of a redoubling of the slave trade. The sugar revolution has thus contributed to the violation of the human rights of the peoples of its colonies. As Higman (2000:213) explains, the sugar trade “gave a massive boost to the Atlantic slave trade, provided the engine for various triangular exchanges, changed nutrition and consumption in Europe, increased European interest in tropical colonies and, more controversially, made a vital contribution to the industrial revolution”.
Of course, not all the causes and consequences of the sugar revolution are explained here. Over the years and its dispersion, the sugar revolution has been transformed, revealing other factors and making others disappear. However, the latter are now an integral part of the mainstream of world economic history and especially of the development economy (Landes, 1999; Cannadine, 1984). The sugar revolution has brought massive social and economic changes. With a discontinuity compared to the old models, “Inaugurating a completely new order” (Baker, 1990).
III-The colonial inequalities still persisting nowadays.
From the beginning of capitalism until today, certain inequalities inherent to colonisation have continued to exist (Rodney, 1972 ; J.P. Chauveau, 1985 ; Mamdani, 1996 ; Goldman, 2001 ; Davis, 2002 ; Kothari, 2006 ; Persaud and Walker, 2001). Empires have, since the beginning of colonisation, generated inequalities through the system of power and governance established in the colonies (Crowder, 1968; Bertocchi ; Canova, 1997; De Sousa ; Lochard, 2009). This will be discussed further in Chapter 1. Even after their independence, the former colonies seem to remain under foreign domination. For example, with the creation of Commonwealth of Nations, all former British colonies consent to freely pledge allegiance to the British Crown while enjoying full sovereignty. Using London as an example, Karen Wells (2007) traces the history of some images that surround us. She emphasises that it is possible to identify the power relations and hidden inequalities behind certain monuments or commodities. Beyond being reproduced, the inequalities created during the colonial period are staged and embedded in London’s urban landscape. This process will be discussed in Chapter 3.
This system of influence still dominates certain economic practices (Bertocchi & Canova, 1997; Davis, 2002). For example, Bertocchi and Canova (1997) study shows that, despite decolonisation, British influence still hinders the economic growth of its former African colonies. Rodney (1972) and Davis (2002) explains how colonialism and capitalism, in several developing countries especially in Africa, expanded indigence while economic policies increased hungers. This aspect will be detailed in Chapter 3. Although Rodney has, in my opinion, valid arguments, particularly with regard to the definition of development and the impact of the withdrawal of a large part of the African working population due to slavery, his theory has weaknesses. It is difficult to argue that Europe is solely responsible for Africa’s stagnation as Western African trafficking and slavery would not have been possible without the active collaboration of Africans (N’Diaye, 2015). More, while Rodney seems to describe Africa as a passive victim of Europe, impossible to develop because of the European invasion, he describes African progress and acknowledges its development before the arrival of Europeans (Matunhu, 2011). It is clear that Africa has the opportunity to develop. In the end, although Rodney’s analysis gives an interesting perspective on Africa’s underdevelopment, it is nonetheless true that his work remains open to criticism.
Beyond the economic aspect, the colonial past has direct impacts on the social organisation of society. Kothari (2006) explains that colonialist ideas would, and especially in the racial field, continue to influence development practice. By reproducing what it was influenced by, practice would replicate inequalities, engendering a vicious circle. For Goldman (2001), this process of racism and racialisation is contained and reproduce by some of the knowledge references in the world of the development such as the World Bank. Kothari (2006) analyses the example of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), by referring to ‘visible minorities’, the Agency self-imposes the inequalities created around race within its own institution.
Moreover, the impact of colonialism on current practices calls into question the discourse of development itself. The connexion between colonialism and development highlights the link between the notions of power, culture and development (Dirks, 1992 ; Mamdani, 1996). Perhaps the practices and interventions made in the name of Development are, to some extent, the continuation of colonial policies (Chauveau, 1985; Dirks, 1992; Spivak, 1993; Ahmad, 1995; Mamdani, 1996; Kothari, 2006). The insight given on the relationship between development practice and the colonial period underlines the importance of the historical contextualisation in order to understand it. This will be discussed in Chapter 3. As J.P. Chauveau (1985:143) pointed out, “What developmental theories often forget, even those most open to the legitimate specificity of the” developed “is that development is already part of the historical experience of these populations.” This will be further discussed in Chapter 3.
It can therefore be argued that there is a strong connection between the colonies, sugar and capitalist economy. Foucault’s work gives an understanding of their implications on the social and economical development of society. Foucault’s concepts and linking the colonial period allows to better understand the present.
The period of colonisation accompanied by the beginnings of capitalism completely renewed the modes of production while leaving behind a large number of inequalities. From the beginning of capitalism until today, certain inequalities inherent to colonisation have continued to exist. Beyond the economic aspect, it has direct impacts on the social organisation of society. The impact of colonialism on current practices calls into question the discourse of development itself.
Chapter 3: Methodology
I-Ontology, Epistemology and Theoretical Perpective
This study is based on a pragmatic Ontology and an Interpretative Epistemology.
Its Onthology, reality is perceived as negotiated, discussed, and interpreted according to its interest in new situations (Boltanski, Thévenot, 1991). This approach to French pragmatic sociology highlights the forms of domination that are perpetuated in current organisations (Boltanski, Chiapello, Elliott, 2018). It is the fact for actors to use moral values to legitimise an action or a word. When for example Henry Tate appealed to art, supreme value and grandeur to justify his accumulation of capital made at the expense of moral values (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1991, p. 167). Thus, reality can only be perceived when it is situated and contextualised.
Epistemology is interpretative. It sheds light on the hidden meanings of this or that situation. To reach the reality one can know the lived experience. The subject and what it studies are dependent on each other. The intension of the individual influences, acts on his experience, on what he studies (Heideger, 1962; Sandberg, 2005; Yanow, 2006).
In order to access reality, the essay follows a critical theoretical approach. Based both on a Marxist approach and on the Foucauldian theory. The Foucaudian theory uses of ‘genealogy’ emphasises the importance of studying the discourses of the past in order to be able to understand the present with precision and clarity (Foucault 1970, Foucault 1972). Thus, to understand the social environment, it is necessary to analyse the discourses that become a source of information.
The Marxist theory is based on a dialectical approach. It shows that society is built by opposition. These oppositions are the result of the dynamic of society. Society, imbued with capitalist ideology, ensures modes of domination and exploitation. The evolution of society does not put an end to this dynamic, it only changes its organisation. The phenomena that make up society exist only by their contradiction (Marx, 1867; Fuchs, 2015). In a capitalist society, these contradictions are the problem. In order to safeguard the capitalist dynamic, what Hegel and Marx call “sublation” occurs. These contradictions are sublimated to perpetuate capital accumulation.
The Methodology chosen is a qualitative methodology using Ethnography. It makes it possible to start from a subject of interest, from a specific case more than from a hypothesis. It also allows to study an event in its context through observation or information analysis (Silverman, 2011). The qualitative method has different ways of analysing information. This essay uses ethnography. This approach allows to study a culture as a whole. One possibility is to related to the material observation of objects such as monuments and statues. Their observations should be analysed as symbols in a particular system specific to the culture and practice (Geertz, 1973; Cléret, 2013). This project analyses books and articles about inequalities created during the colonial period. Then, I look more into the literature concerning social geography and the meaning of object. Their combination shows that the inequalities created over the period of industrialism are still embedded into London’s geography.
This work is based on the analysis of secondary sources, scholarly, journal articles, case study or monuments website. In class, I covered areas related to Critical Social Geography, Globalisation, Development Discourses and Political Economy of Aid. I have been able to develop an interest for the relationship between capitalism and its power to shape its social and geographical environment. In order to collect the information, I first relied on the readings relating to these four subjects. I focused in particular on Sydney Mintz’s book (1985). This reading allowed me to understand the importance of the historical heritage of capitalism. Mintz traces the beginning of British industrialisation back to the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean colonies. Sugar appears as a revealing actor in the history of capitalism and the power relations it creates. Mintz’s study is based on a historical approach showing that sugar consumption and production have contributed to the changes in the industrial world. Then, in order to deepen some elements of his thoughts, I approached his bibliography. I have adopted the same search system for all my sources. I found other sources in the bibliographies of the books I read. ?
As for the Tate Modern, I had already been there as a tourist but decided to go twice after doing some researche. My perception of the place was very different. The facade and architecture of the building directly refers to a former factory. The interior reflected the origin of the place at the beginning of industrialisation. The place was very busy with a various type of visitors: pupils, families, friends, couples, elderlies. The Gallery is huge and shows many diverse pieces of art. However, the cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops remain very present as they are dispatched around the gallery. The immensity and steep, highly industrial structure of the buildings reflected both a feeling of freedom and of oppression. Apart from its name, I have not seen anything visible that does link the Tate Modern with its founder or its company. While leaving the gallery, I always had to go through the souvenirs shop.
As I don’t do any interviews, the data generated is generalised. I have not been to all the places I am talking about. The research is based on the conclusions and observations of other researchers, and thus is submitted to their complete interpretation. However, the data gathering, especially for the beginning of industrialisation, is not possible in another way. Since I have based my data collection on the bibliography of authors I have read, most of the arguments I have assembled are going in the same direction. By reading similar authors in their reflections, my work lacks a critical dimension. The topic is extremely wide and so calls for a lot of informations and different perspectives that are sometimes difficult to gather. More, because the topic is broad, it calls for a lot of different interpretations and research that I couldn’t fit into my dissertation.
Chapter 4: How the primary commodity of sugar has participated to the strong but unequal Britain’s economic growth.
The period from 1660 to 1800 was very promising for Great Britain. England witnessed the “Americanisation of overseas trade” (Morgan, 2000). United Kingdom began, and then intensified, trade with America. The Empire abandoned its pre-industrial economy to develop its new form, the industrial state.
?The transition to the period of industrialisation finds its source in foreign trade, more particularly in the transoceanic trade of the 18th century. Although Britain had begun to colonise other territories in the 11th century in the Mediterranean and Middle East areas, it was the conquest of the “New World” that gave the impetus for British economic growth (Solow, 1987; Morgan, 2000). It bring the Empire new economic markets (Higman, 2000). The conquest of new territories and the desire to exploit the colonies reinforced the use of forced labour (Mintz, 1985). These slavery practices were particularly prevalent in North America and the Caribbean in sugar cane plantations. It is essentially due to these combined reasons that the British economy was able to developed and generated industrialisation (Morgan, 2000).
Sugar trade, as it evolved, traced and linked the emergence of modernity and industrialisation to that of triangular trade (Sheridan, 1973; Mintz, 1985; Stinchcombe, 1995; Sandiford, 2000). This chapter intends to show how, through the sugar industry, England has created strong but unequal economic growth.
British economic growth has been possible through state intervention. However, the impetus factor of growth is debated. Although growth has had beneficial effects for the mother land, it has been very uneven in the distribution of wealth since it has generated inequality in the colonies.
I-Economic growth, a government effort and the financialization of trade.
England’s economic growth has been enabled by the creation of new banking institutions and state intervention. The sugar industry has encouraged these innovations by producing and trading internationally. It has secure a strong and stable economic growth for Britain.
A) Economic growth, a product of British foreign and administrative policy
Thanks to its foreign policy based on the consolidation of its navy, the creation of the tax system and the development of the administration, the British government has succeeded in securing trade routes and encouraging economic growth. The conquest of new territories has opened new markets for English companies. Although economic growth was generated by the participation of private companies, the British government itself played an important role in securing these exchanges.
British growth was based on Atlantic trade. These long-distance exchanges involved many risks, particularly on the high seas. As Morgan (2000: 16) makes explicit, “the great circle of trade was supported by the protection on the high seas offered by the Royal Navy and privateers during the many years of war between 1660 and 1800”. These wars were the product of colonisation and stemmed either from the conquests of rival powers or from wars of independence. In view of the attacks suffered by the English colonies, state intervention was cardinal to secure trade. Britain was built as a very strong naval force and asserted its dominance against its rival powers (Jones, 1988 ; Pares, 1936). This is one of the reasons why England has suffered far fewer economic disasters than the French (Rodger, 1998).
The English navy was able to maintain its dominance thanks to the introduction of a substantial tax, without which, the navy would not have been able to ensure the commercial routes (Brewer, 1989; O’Brien, 1998). As Morgan (2000:17) notes, “taxes collected increased by a multiplier of 14.4 during the period 1688-1815” due to war efforts. Thanks to this taxation system, the administration developed, allowing the creation of new departments such as the customs service or the Chamber of Commerce (Morgan, 2000). The creation of these new offices has enabled British commerce to be organised and make itself more productive and efficient (O’Brien, 1994).
B) Economic growth, the product of the financialization of trade
The English economy grew thanks to the development of stable financial institutions that are still present today. Their creation facilitated trade mainly between British and colonial counterparts (Williams, 1944; Morgan, 2000). The financialization of trade through bills of exchange and credit has facilitated and boosted the national economy (McCusker, 1978; Neal, 1994, Morgan, 2000).
One of the ways in which the UK has allowed its trade to continue to grow is by innovating its financial system. For example, through the introduction of the bill of exchange, merchants could make money transfers to different receivers in different cities or parts of the world. Financial exchanges, both between motherland and the colonies were greatly facilitated. The flexibility of these transfers allowed for greater movement of goods and facilitated credit allocation for companies (McCusker, 1978; Neal, 1994). Many traders used the bill of exchange in the slave trade (Sheridan, 1958).
The second pillar of this financialization of trade is the creation of the credit system. For example, before American independence, a total credit of £9 million (around £1.3 billion, adjusting for inflation) was injected into colonial trade bound for West Africa – North America – North America – Caribbean (Price, 1980). The credit system was omnipresent in British trade relations. Bowen (1996) even refers to Britain as a “credit empire”. The use of credit has mainly taken place on the international scene. Due to the multinational nature of the sugar trade, the suppliers and traders were not of the same nationality or even occupied the same country. As Morgan (2000) notes, the sugar trade, using the slave trade and triangular trade, has made extensive use of credit. Although the credit system carries risks, it has allowed investment to be made in the colonies and has brought flexibility to the financing of sugar cane plantations to enable their development.
II-Economic growth, product of the colonisation process and the beginning of capitalism.
The question that must be asked is what were the economic benefits of Britain’s export to the other side of the Atlantic. It is appropriate to link British economic growth with the capitalist system?
Debate on the importance of settlements as a factor for economic growth
The answer to this question has been contested. Adam Smith has asserted that the colonies were only an economic burden for Britain (cited in Sheridan 1973). According to him, the profits generated by farms in the colonies are profitable only to a limited group of individuals, especially private individuals, and do not benefit the State in view of its administrative and defence costs. On the contrary, Edmund Burke ensured that the exploitation of the colonies allowed the pure and simple growth of the British economy. In 1775, English exports accounted for 1/3 of colonial trade. The preservation of the colonies is thus obligatory for the Empire.
For authors such as Deane and Cole (1967), Lee (1986) and Habakkuk and Deane (1963), it was foreign trade maintained for the colonies that drove growth and gave Britain the impetus it needed to create “autonomous” economic growth. As Deane and Cole (1967) note, despite fluctuations due to various wars, trade increased by 7.7% between 1700 and 1800 with “a rate of growth faster than that of total production”.
However, the link between colonisation and British economic growth did not seem to be unanimously accepted. In the light of Smith, other authors such as Finn (1966) believe that the internal market has played the role of economic engine and foreign trade. As Thomas and McCloskey (1981) explain, the profits from slavery and other types of foreign trade did not increase as much as the per capita income, so, according to them, “the strongest effect between foreign trade and industry in the country was from industrialisation to trade, not the other way around. Trade was the child of industry” (Morgan, 2000:27). Foreign trade was not at the origin of British industrialisation and its growth, but rather developed in parallel with it (Kindleberger, 1975).
The link between colonisation and economic growth has been controversial. It is difficult to know the economic importance of slavery and its role for British industrialisation. However, while its importance can be qualified, it is impossible to deny the strong link between colonisation, economic growth and industrialisation. Moreover, it is possible to trace the beginnings of capitalism by focusing on the sugar trade of the 18th-19th centuries.
B) A strong link between colonisation, economic growth and the beginning of capitalism.
According to Mintz, it is possible to trace the beginning of the capitalist system with the sugar trade. In his book, Mintz identifies, from the beginning of the 18th century, all the characteristics of capitalism. Although it was as early as the 18th century, the economy began to be governed by a capitalist doctrine. It was at this time that the global trading system was conceived. It was from that time on that the world trade was intensively conducted. As Mintz (1985:67) says “It (the creation of a system of world trade) also involved the creation of colonies, the establishment of experimental economic enterprises in various world areas, and the development of new forms of slave-based production in the New World, using imported slaves-perhaps Europe’s biggest single external contribution to its own economic growth.” The Caribbean region brought together all its aspects and allowed Europe to import raw materials such as sugar and export its manufacturing products. During the 18th century, “English exports combined to the North American and West Indian colonies expanded by 2 300%” (Mintz, 1985:39).
Mintz, through the different status of workers in plantations shows the beginnings of the new global organisation of labor. The division of labour in
plantations can be summarised as follows. There were two types of workers, free workers and slaves. Free workers could sell their labour power while slaves, considered as objects, had nothing to sell but their market value was related to their work capacity. The link between slaves and free European workers is that both had nothing more to bargain for than their labour power. As Mintz (1985) said, “The linkage between Caribbean slaves and European free labourers was a linkage of production and hence also of consumption, created by the single system of which they were both parts”. This simplified version of work in Caribbean sugar plantations outlines the process of change towards the modern international division of labour.
Thus, with the phenomenon of colonisation of the New World, the intensification of exchanges with the colonies and a new system of work organisation, the period of the 18th century saw the birth of the premises of capitalism (Mintz, 1985). Although it can be argued that the adoption of the capitalism has a link with British economic growth, it should not be forgotten that this growth has given rise to many inequalities.
III-Economic growth for the mother land at the expense of its colonies?
The colonies have been subject to an unequal distribution of wealth. The allocation of land in settlements is one of the sources of its inequalities. ?
Economic growth, an unequal distribution of wealth
The exploration and exploitation of the colonies by the British allowed the “mother land” to develop. However, the colonies themselves did not benefit from this economic growth. During the same period, unlike in England, the intensive exploitation of wealth created inequality in the colonies (Williams, 1944; Sokoloff and Engerman, 2000; Morgan, 2000; Lange, Mahoney and Hau, 2006; Frankema, 2010). The primary goal of the British for the conquest of new territories lives in the will of exploitation of new wealth in territories with a weak demography and thus little defended.
All the colonies had in common their high level of manpower due to forced immigration. As Eltis (2000) points out, in the 18th century, more than 60% of the total American population were Africans forced to be sold into slavery. The other inhabitants were essentially social scum (Mintz, 1985). As noted by Sokoloff and Engerman (2000), African workers were highly productive in these areas as they were acclimatised to its hot and arid climates (Fogel, 1999). This was not the case for European workers. The slaves were thus very “prized” to go and work in the colonies. “The proportion of slave migrants has steadily increased from about 20% before 1580 to nearly 75% between 1700 and 1760. “(Sokoloff and Engerman, 2000:29). Alongside the high number of slaves in the colonies, land settlements have also exacerbated the already rising inequality (Mintz, 1985; Frankema, 2010). Only a few people had access to property in the colonies. It could essentially only be the elites. With few landowners, the plantations were very large and controlled by the elites.
Due to technological progress, the development of international markets for the sale of slaves and the control of land by a small number of privileged people being the source of unequal distribution of wealth (Sheridan 1974; Mintz 1985; Knight, 2000; Morgan 2000; Sokoloff and Engerman 2000). Two categories were then opposed, the rich landlord against the slaves or proletarians. Moreover, as Sokoloff and Engerman (2000) point out, the foundation and power of aristocracy has also been enabled through an elite political and influence system in order to maintain their power in the long run.
B) Land inequality, the cornerstone of inequalities generated or produced by economic growth.
Ewout Frankema (2010:15) explains that “Land inequality is one of the crucial underpinnings of long-run persistent wealth and asset inequality”. Land allocation is a central issue as it subsequently determine who will have the highest standard of living. This means who will have access to the best care and services. These considerations are vital for long-term, stable and equal economic growth. The unequal allocation of land makes it possible to explain certain disparities concerning the distribution of wealth and the standard of living, which continue to exist today.
The accumulation of land in the hands of a small part of the population, the elites, is a condition that has fostered disparities in economic development in the British colonies. The World Bank (1993) demonstrates that with a more egalitarian land distribution policy, long-term growth is more stable and strong than in the opposite case. Thus, unlike the former British colonies of the New World, the former Asian colonies performed better in this field. The same process occurred in North America and led to a more egalitarian state and more stable and balanced development over the long term (Sokoloff and Engerman, 2000). As Sokoloff and Engerman (2000) explain, inequality in the British colonies in South America has developed around unequal land distribution. This state of affairs has led to “institutional arrangements” built to ensure this uneven distribution. Although the majority of the research focuses on the geographical conditions of a country to explain its development, their colonial direction remains extremely relevant for explaining inequalities.
Two different sources of power are seen as institutions for securing unequal land distribution (Frankema, 2010). The first is the local influence of elites who, affecting land allocation, may, for natural considerations, constrain and influence the value of land and those who own it. For example, by selling one piece of land or another, elite landowners may decide to expand the ownership of one piece of land or to make another piece of land inoperable. Local elites thus have a direct role in creating inequality within the colonies. They are one of the reasons why mother land has seen high economic growth when colonial countries have not seen the benefits of that growth. The second factor would be that relating to “metropolitan institutions”. That is, the institutions of the empire transplanted into the colonies. Aboriginal or “pre-colonial” institutions are replaced by new ones (Engerman, Haber and Sokoloff 2000). However, in the case of British sugar plantations, this system has not been used extensively. It would appear that he made much greater use of the “perspective endowments” system (Frankema, 2010; Easterly, 2005). Easterly (2005) explains this. A distinction must be made between “structural inequalities”, inequalities due to the use of force and power, in other words the use of coercive institutions, and “market inequalities”. Rather, market inequalities are due to inequality in economic forces. For example, the redistribution or appropriation of land from the colonised to the colonised. The consequence is a free but constrained economic market.
C) The continuation of land appropriation in the sugar industry.
This phenomenon of land acquisition by violence does not seem to have stopped. In 2013 Oxfam conducted a study showing that sugar cultivation has generated the acquisition of land on a large scale at the expense of local producers and their families. As the NGO notes, in Cambodia, these massive land acquisitions, 4 million hectares since 2000, have sometimes been made in violation of human rights. They have also led to the impoverishment of a population now in difficulty to feed itself. Although large refineries such as Tate & Lyle do not own the land themselves, they buy all their raw material from it.
As reported by Oxfam (2013), in 2006, a bit more than 18,000 hectares of land were cleared by KSL in Cambodia for sugar cane planting. On these lands almost 500 families lost their land. These families claim that they have neither given their consent nor been informed of the transaction. Today they have lost their livelihoods and, unlike before, find it difficult to survive without the income they earned from ancestral farming on their land. For example, many families can no longer send their children to school. Despite this disastrous situation, there is no indication that the foreign company that bought the land did anything to improve the situation. The 200 families deprived of their livelihoods have challenged Tate & Lyle before the UK Supreme Court (Sugaronline, 2013 in Oxfam, 2013) and have also taken action through Bonsucro’s grievance mechanism which is an “industry initiative aimed at reducing the negative impacts of sugar production” (Oxfam, 2013:12). It found the company guilty and suspended Bonsucro’s Tate & Lyle. Tate & Lyle’s business reach is enormous as it is one of the two largest sugar suppliers in the world and supplied to companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
The notion of capital accumulation is verified since only a small number of companies control the sugar market and are willing to put people’s lives at risk for personal enrichment (Wells, 2007; Oxfam, 2013). This market thus becomes extremely oligarchic by establishing a strong monopoly of European companies still today (Wells, 2010). This example also shows that, still today, the supplier chain is neither transparent nor egalitarian.
England’s economic stable growth has been enabled by the creation of new banking institutions and state intervention. The sugar industry plays a major role since, by producing and trading internationally. There is a strong link between colonisation, economic growth, industrialisation and sugar. With the phenomenon of colonisation of the New World, the intensification of exchanges with the colonies and a new system of work organisation, the period of the 18th century saw the birth of the premises of capitalism. Although it can be argued that the adoption of the capitalist has a link with British economic growth, it should not be forgotten that this growth has given rise to many inequalities. It will be discussed in detail in Chapter 2.Chapter 5: The British Empire, through the sugar industry, impacted negatively Africa because of the slave trade.
“Those who invented neither powder nor electricity are, however, willy-nilly at the origins of this extraordinary impulse of economic life that produced modern technical civilisation, and we can say with the poet that without them the Earth would not be the Earth”. (Aimé Césaire in Mahtar M’Bow, 1978:18).
As Mahtar M’Bow (1978) points out in paraphrasing Aimé Césaire, from the 15th to the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries, enslaved Africans who were then deported to America against their will was an economic pillar of the British industrial revolution. The sugar industry involved a significant amount of this trafficking, notably through the Asiento, meaning a contract between the Spanish Crown and an individual, a company or a State, giving them a commercial monopoly, in particular over the sale of black slaves in America.
The Atlantic trade began in 1510 with Spain which for the first time brought 250 slaves back to the homeland. Then, pushed by the government for economic reasons and justified by the Catholic Church, Spain began to spread the slave trade until it became common practice by all empires. By withdrawing its labour power, the deportation of slaves in America has impacted the economy, social and cultural life and even politics of Africa. Inequalities created during this period still impact the continent and its population.
The British Empire was thus a factor of inequality, not only at the economical level (see Chapter 1), but also in the social field. Thus, it becomes interesting to see how, through the sugar industry, the British Empire participated in the slowdown of Africa because of the slave trade. ?By basing a part of its economy success on slave trade, the empire ensured sustainable growth. The cheap labour taken from African countries participated to make England successful. However, British economic growth has come at a high price for Africa. Moreover, in order to justify the use of slavery, the Empire generated racism that still affects the African population today.
I-Slavery or the construction of an Empire
The use of slavery allowed both the exploitation of colonies and domestic growth. Due to a lack of manpower in the colonies to work in the plantation, without the alienation of the African population, the sugar industry could not have been prosperous at the time.
A) The alienation of men as the cornerstone of the prosperity of colonial empires
As explained in Chapter 1, from the second half of the 16th century onwards, the colonial policy of empires was accentuated. With the rise and prominence of capitalism, the empires had more and more interest in exploiting their colonies. In the middle of the 17th century, after a period of prosperous colonisation in America and Africa, the great colonial empires such as France, Holland and the United Kingdom were formed. All that remained for these empires was to exploit their newly conquered territories. Sugar cane plantations developed more and more, requiring more and more labour. It would have been impossible for the colonies of the New World to develop so much without the contribution of cheap labour (Abramova, 1978). Great Britain and America resorted to slave trade intensively. Until its abolition between 1807 and 1808, the slave trade was considered as a trade in its own right. It was, like any other exchange, one of the sources of national enrichment. Milking was even described as ” the foundation of everything else, the main spring of the machine that sets all the other wheels in motion” (Williams, 1998:81). For Karl Marx, during this period Africa was reduced to a pool of cheap workers (Marx, 1887).
As Donnan (1930: 507) noted, “the African slave trade of the early 17th century was the foundation on which colonial industry and trade in European countries were based. He determined the relations between the countries of Western Europe and their colonies; he was one of the most important factors in the wars of this century; he played a considerable role in the management of the internal affairs of the nations concerned”. This contract made huge profits from the delivery of slaves. For example, the slave trade enabled Great Britain to develop its ports and boost its maritime innovations (Abramova, 1978). Moreover, during discussions for the abolition of slavery, two British parliamentarians, Tarleton and Young, opposed it, explaining that it would ruin England (The parliamentary history of England in Abramova, 1978).
B) The alienation of the African population to compensate for a lack of labour in the colonies.
Despite a very strong economic attractiveness, campaigns for the abolition of slavery grew exponentially towards the end of the 18th century. This protest movement did not please everyone. In an attempt to justify the use of trafficking of blacks, their advocates put forward different theories. The most prominent was the one based on climate considerations (Harris, 1971). According to its defenders, the arid and tropical climate in the plantations would make Europeans incompetent which would prevent them from working in the plantations. Unlike Europeans, Africans being of origin used to these climatic conditions, would be particularly effective there. Thus, the abolition of slavery would have had dramatic consequences on the exploitation of plantations and thus ultimately on British economic growth.
The reality was quite different. After massacring the Indians of the Americas, France and England began by sending white slaves to the plantations (Harlow, 1900). These slaves were essentially political prisoners or common criminals but could also be individuals kidnapped on the streets of London or Bristol and then sold as slaves to the New World (Harlow, 1900; Mintz, 1985). Those wight workers had the same status as black slaves. White slaves were perfectly capable but their numbers were not sufficient to meet the growing demand for workers on the plantations (Mintz, 1985; Abramova, 1978). At that time, Africa was a virtually inexhaustible source of cheap labour.
As Cairnes (1863:73) points out, “It was West Indian agriculture, which produced fabulous wealth for centuries, which engulfed millions of African men.” Although the period of colonisation coupled with triangular trade and the beginnings of capitalism allowed the Empires to accumulate much wealth, this accumulation had important consequences on the African population and its continent. The economic development of the great metropolises was allowed by the Africans who were decimated at the start of terrible living conditions in the plantations.
II-Strong consequences for Africa
The colonisation coupled with the intense exploitation of sugar colonies by the empires devastated Africa economically but also socially. These consequences, such as the continent’s capacity to develop as a country and as a population are still visible today.
A) Africa deprived of its productive forces
Africa suffered enormously from colonisation and the will of the Empires to exploit the colonies en masse. As a result, Africa has lost a large share of its working mass. This makes it unable to progress and develop. It was through the campaigns for the abolition of slavery that this aspect of the triangular trade was best exposed. The commitment to end slavery had spanned several years. Campaigns for the abolition of the slave trade travelled the world, giving rise to an international movement. The abolition of slavery in Britain, followed by the adoption of laws sanctioning it, was the product of civil campaigns coupled with the decline of the colonial economic system that hit the slavery system hard (Ragartz, 1928; Williams, 1944; Drescher, 1976).
At the time, the arguments for the abolition of slavery were humanitarian. Benezet (1788). Clarksonet and Wilberforce explained the slave trade was crushing Africa with all its forces. This trade initiated by the Empire with Africa had been a factor of an excessive chaos on the continent. Slavery had been the organ of violent wars and manhunts. The constant and growing search for more and more slaves in Africa has been a factor of conflict. Great Britain and more generally Europe was responsible for this chaotic landscape. As Abramova (1978:28) notes, “Africans had not fought as often before the slave trade and their losses had been fewer because they were unaware of the use of firearms. Moreover, the whole life of Africans was now organised around slavery. Alongside the local chiefs who “organised” the selection system for future slaves, traffickers made their appearances. This new class of traffickers has become extremely rich through trafficking. Africa had become increasingly dependent on the slave trade.
Beyond the disastrous conditions caused by this trafficking on the continent, abolitionists also denounced violence and the cruelty of slavery. In particular, they denounced the catastrophic conditions slaves had to endure during their transport at sea. The voyage decimated the population on board. Thus, the researchers of that time showed that they allowed loss of labour was also within “their own camps”. Even their own workers were somehow objectified, at least to some extent, since profit was prioritised over their life. Europe suffered significant losses in its labour on board slave ships. Abolitionists were eager to show that, on all sides, there was suffering from the slave trade. The intellectuals of this period, although admitting the inferiority of African slaves to settlers, attested to the causal link between the intensive slave trade and the lack of development on African territory. Abramova (1978:29) explains, “Placed in the same conditions, Europeans would have remained at the same intellectual level.
B) Slavery and racism, a damaging causal link for the African population.
Slavery and racism are inextricably linked since it was the former that enabled the Empires to justify the latter. Like Abramova (1978), racism was only incidental. It was built with the sole purpose of legitimising the fact that, because of their race, Africans were inferior to Europeans and therefore were destined to remain under their orders and work in the plantations.
Racism is a new theory since it only appeared at the beginning of the 19th century with the beginning of the protests against colonial regimes. As Florence Gauthier (2016) explains, racism is the product of a particular historical context, that of the revolution in the French colonies of Santo Domingo and Haiti, and then spread to America. Haiti’s revolt had conglomerated the notions of anti-colonialism, independence and total and complete equality among all human beings. The Empires wanted to find a solution to prevent the revolt from becoming gangrenous and affecting other colonies. With the creation of the concept of “race”, they were able to control the abolition of slavery but without losing control over the colonised territories. In other words, without access to independence for the colonies concerned. As Gauthier (2016:45) points out, “thus ‘racist’ ideology became an indispensable ingredient in this policy, transforming slaves, emancipated by their masters, into labour subordinated by colour, establishing a new form of aristocracy of the epidermis that would take the name of ‘racism'”.
Until Haiti gained independence, there was a hierarchy between masters and slaves. The masters despised the slaves and the slaves were afraid of them. As Meillassoux (1975:45) points out, “This contempt had a class character proper to slave societies, which existed in all places and in all times, and still exist”. When the revolution and the anti-colonialist currents were born, the settlers promptly sought to contain them and even try and crush them. Thus, racist ideology was created and inked and then justified with pseudo-scientific arguments. It was essentially argued that there exists a hierarchy among human races. Racism therefore based its argument on a factor of physical origin. Political action had the effect of reinforcing these prejudices by granting all whites, whatever their social rank or level of wealth, the right to dominate within this hierarchy. Political action could therefore build a social “justification” through scientific and physical justification. This scientific argument was then transformed into belief and habit (Gauthier, 2016). The theorisation of racism has made it possible to qualify and even counterbalance European barbarism and to establish and strengthen the idea that we must oppose ‘civilisation’ and barbarism’. The creation of racist theory has had a heavy impact on human rights since it has broken the ideas of equality, universality and unity of humankind. Racism has had the consequence of questioning all the work done since the Middle Ages through the ideas of enlightenment and rebirth. As Gauthier (2016:45) sums it up very well, “To believe that ‘racism’ has always existed, that it would thus be ‘natural’ and therefore ‘eternal’, is a prejudice from the second period, that of 1492 to 1804”.
III-Modern slavery, continuity of the colonial past or inherent factor of the capitalist system?
It can be considered that the condition of slave, despite its abolition, still exists today. However, what is called modern slavery exists in very different forms from those experienced during the colonial period. This calls into question the postulate that modern slavery still continues despite being abolished in the beginning of the 19th century.
A) The existence of slavery still present today despite its abolition.
As explained above, states have resorted intensively to slavery. It has become a common practice and codified by law. However, since the end of the 18th century, this system has been internationally challenged until its abolition. However, although slavery has been made illegal, these practices have not completely disappeared (Lenguellé-Tardy, 1999; Cooper, Holt, Scott, 2000; Guillaud, 2003; Cottias, 2003; Botte, 2013). Even though the process of slavery as understood at the time of the Atlantic slave trade has disappeared, many authors, like those previously mentioned, continue to adapt its concept to today’s times. The term slavery is now replaced by terms such as “forced labour”, “extreme forms of dependence”, “modern slavery”, and many others. Thus, the appropriation of work did not end with the abolition of slavery.
As Botte (2013) points out, the law is capable of abolishing a legal status but cannot abolish conditions of existence. For this reason, new forms of labour exploitation are emerging (BIT, 1993). The question then arises whether, despite a context of “economic openness”, forced labour is inherent in the capitalist system? Whether coercion of “free labour” is a necessary condition for our economic development system? In this case, the General Act of the Brussels International Conference (1889-1890) and the resolutions of the Berlin Conference establishing the abolition of the slave trade put an end only to the displacement and movement of slaves. However, these international conventions do not seem to put a complete end to the condition of slaves in itself. Although these texts allow for progress, their essence continues to consider Africans as servile and inferior (Botte, 2003). Thus, even other forms close to slavery have developed. For example, bonded labourers under contract, recruited in Africa and deported, promoted extremely low wages and perpetuated forced labour. Botte (2013) gives the example of Liberia, which did not see a radical break with the slavery system since slavery was not abolished there until 1930, 70 years after the United States. Liberian legislation codified different types of forced labour, both for the State at the public works level and for private individuals. The American company Firestone used it to recruit its workers in its plantations (Pollaud-Dubian, 1967).
B) A new form of slavery in discontinuity with colonial slavery, refusing the principle of property rights.
Thus, although slavery appears distant, it is in fact a contemporary issue. The concept of slavery seems to persist. One of the common characteristic to the different forms of slavery over centuries and countries is property rights. A human being is considered a slave when it is assimilated to a good. It can therefore be sold or acquired. However, defining slavery on the basis of property rights has become obsolete since it denounces practices that have essentially disappeared (Botte, 2013). For example, notions arising from inequalities in social relations, for example between “slaveholder” rather than “slaveowner”, are forgotten (Bales, 2004). In other words, slavery cannot be punished since it is possible to enslave an individual, to control him, without possessing him. As Bénot (2003:7) explains, “laws concerning indebtedness vary greatly in time and space; yet debt slavery is one of the sources of the permanence of the institution, one of the few where one encounters cases of ‘voluntary’ slavery, i.e. imposed by poverty.” Thus, as Terray (1999), Guillaud (2003), Bénot (2003) and Botte (2013) point out, due to the tightening of legal migration laws, “illegal labour falls into “informal” exploitation”. (Botte, 2013). Labour relations are becoming much more precarious and are giving way to a new form of slavery that is no longer based on property rights.
Thus, the generalisation of the precarisation of work calls into question the postulate that “contemporary slavery” is an inherent condition of capitalism.
The use of slavery enabled the Empires to build, develop and establish global dominance. It allowed both the exploitation of colonies and domestic growth. All this would not have been possible without the alienation of the African population due to the terrible lack of manpower in the colonies. The colonisation coupled with the intense exploitation of sugar colonies by the empires devastated Africa economically but also socially. These consequences are still visible today. Racism was built with the sole purpose of legitimising the enslavement of the African population.
It can be considered that the condition of slave, despite its abolition, still exists today. However, what is called modern slavery exists in very different forms from those experienced during the colonial period. Thus, while the quality of slave is based on the notion of property, these new forms are detached from it. The widespread appearance of these new forms of slavery calls into question the postulate that modern slavery is inherent to capitalism.
Chapter 6: The crystallisation of the inequalities detailed in Chapters 1 and 2 maintained through cultural institutions in London
The Tate Modern claims to be “the most popular museum of modern art in the world” (tate.org.uk, 2001 in Harvie, 2009:204). In 2016-2017, 8.4 million visitors visited the 4 Tate museum sites (tate.org.uk; 2017). Despite these achievements, the Tate museums have not been free of controversy and criticism (Harvie, 2009 ; Dean, Donnellan & Pratt, 2010 ; Kracauer, 1995). The experience that the visitors would have of the museum, although pleasant, would also make them accomplices of the capitalist ideology carried by its founder, Henry Tate (Harvie, 2009 ; Kracauer, 1995).
Culture, art representations, the city and everything that makes it up, allow us to understand the power relations that structure the urban organisation and thus our life within the city. Thus, the physical description of urban spaces counts as much as its population (De Certeau 1984 ; Lefevbre, 1991 ; Benjamin, 1999 ; Wells, 2007). Through the analysis of the latter, it would be possible to conclude that the capitalist ideology bearing within it a certain number of inequalities would be maintained. Capitalist ideology is conveyed through cultural institutions, in part, including some museums such as the Tate Modern in London. The inequalities described in chapter one and two are inscribed in contemporary cultural institutions as I show in this chapter.
My argument is based on the theory of Jennifer Harvie (2009). In her chapter Agency and complicity in’a special civic room’: London’s Tate Modern Turbine hall, she argues that the visitor of the Tate Modern, when entering the gallery, becomes an accomplice of capitalist ideology. I begin with the same assumption in my analysis. However, Harvie explains it by the visitor’s experience and perception of space only. For my part, I deepen the theory by arguing that what makes Tate Modern complicit in capitalist ideology is also found in its history. London, being one of the largest old colonial empires, has been a driving force behind globalisation. This historical centre of power continues to attract capitalist venutures (companies) for its influence. It is in this sense that Tate Modern crystallises the inequalities created during the colonial period and thus makes its visitor an accomplice of capitalist ideology.
I-Capitalism as structuring and the widening of contemporary geographical inequalities.
According to Harvey’s theory, capitalism structures space. More importantly, it amplifies geographical inequalities following the center/periphery phenomenon. Those theories allowing geographical disparities are justified and solidified by the development discourse.
A) Harvey’s center/periphery theory as explaining the uneven geography.
According to Vieillescazes (2018), contemporary geography is the product of the history of capitalism. Capital movements generate the interactions of social classes that would structure space (Harvey, 2003).
The capitalist model shapes space unevenly because of the intervention of two factors, the ‘capital accumulation’ and the ‘overaccumulation’ (Harvey, 2003). Those two factors would lead to recurrent crisis. In order to restore a situation of balance and avoid an internal crisis when the surplus is not purchased, a region will try to export its oversupply to other territories. This is what he calls a « spatial fix », a fixation in space, a precarious solution. Harvey reuses the “center/periphery” theory. It was the countries of the North, the former Empires, that held the capital and continued to expand at the expense of the peripheries, the former colonies (Harvey, 2011). This would create an unequal relationship between the center and the periphery which, instead of creating a homogenisation of the territories, would lead on the contrary to the widening of geographical inequalities and thus an unequal development of spaces. According to Harvey, the North-South or old Empires/Colonies relationship and the question of development would not represent the countries of the South as having a simple delay in integration into the capitalist accumulation process but as being the result of an unevenly desired geography. It is here that David Harvey introduces the notion of “uneven development” to characterise the organisation of today’s world, an unequal development of spaces that can be traced up to the development of early capitalism (Vieillescazes, 2008).
B) The Development discourse as an imperialistic ideology justifying capitalistic interventions of the sugar industry.
Capitalism is the product of history and still conveyed by different networks and spaces. It is also deeply embedded in public policies and in the imagination. Relations between former empires and former colonies are not limited to strictly economic relations. It goes as well through the spectrum of development discourse. Development is a buzzword that wants to advocate moral values and allow the qualitative and quantitative improvement of the daily life of people in poor countries. However, this aid is ingrained with capitalist ideology. As J.P. Chauveau (1985) pointed out, there still seems to be an intimate relationship between development practices, the persistence of poverty and the perpetuation of the colonial period.
Development discourse and colonisation appear to be both sides of the same coin. As a number of authors have shown such as Rist (2007), Cornwall (2007), Utting (2006), the term development has no precise definition. However, it refers to a standard, an honorable value that would be defined as doing « the good ». It is as well under the aegis of the term development and its “virtue” that the colonising power was justified or at least explained at the time. As Crush (1995: 5) says, “the texts of development have always (…) promoting, licensing and justifying certain justifying certain interventions and practices”.
Development as buzzword and poverty seem to be two interrelated notions as well. As Rits (2007) argues, although the term development has no real definition, the term development had as its first goal, poverty reduction or at least improvement of living conditions in poor countries (Hayter, 2005). Thus, all the policies pursued by the international community were supposedly beneficial and so they remained unquestioned. However, this term, in the context of reducing poverty seems to be openly criticised. Indeed, instead of minimising indigence, development policies could, on the contrary, increase poverty (Rits, 2007). Thus, government practices held on behalf of ‘development’ would essentially hide imperialist drives instead of social ambitions (Escobar, 1995). Seabrook (1998) tries to demonstrate the structural problem that underpins the vague definition given to development in relation to poverty. The application of capitalism and its system of mass consumption and accumulation ends up giving off a feeling of shame, guilt, or disgrace. As he said, poverty is understood as « a form of illness ». By relying on a vague and supposedly beneficial meaning, the goal of development policies would appear to be to increase the benefits of the countries or donors who are the source of them, thus making, in practice, their usefulness unnecessary. Inequalities are reproduced and transcribed even in the discourse of intellectuals.
II-The material study of the city as crystallising the inequalities due to the beginning of capitalism.
On the basis of a material study of the city, it is possible to identify the forces of power hidden there. London is no exception. Henry Tate thanks to his fortune accumulated from the sugar industry and the beginnings of capitalism was able through patronage and monument building to justify his heritage. Beyond the decision to invest on public buildings, some reproduce in their core the capitalist ideology and the inequalities which accompanied it. This is the case with the Tate Modern.
A) The material study of the city, an efficient tool for understanding the forces of power
One way of reproducing and maintaining inequalities can therefore be through geography and more specifically through the city, its organisation and buildings, its monuments, its status (Certau, 1984; Lefebvre, 1991; Benjamin, 1999; Wells, 2007; Butcher and Dickens, 2017).
The analysis of the institutions, the buildings, the objects which surround us, makes it possible to analyse the relations of powers which remain in the city. Thus, in order to understand the link between the inequalities created during the colonial period and the city of London, it is necessary to focus on the city itself, its geography and not only on its inhabitants. As Wells (2007:138) explains, “The study of objects and images can contribute to unravelling the reification and fetishisation (in the Marxist sense) of urban life.” In La production de l’Espace (1991), Lefebvre explains that colossal buildings project political ambitions. In particular that of demonstrating its strength and power, its arbitrariness sometimes too. In the city, there is therefore a real ‘material culture’ that influences and shapes the daily life of its users. The construction of a monument is often dedicated to the timeless subsistence of a reign (Mookherjee, 2007). Government will decide to enact a monument in order to commemorate and affirm the power and timelessness of its passage (Wells, 2007).
Beyond embodying the link with politics, cities also have a close link with capitalism (Mitchell, 1987 ; Weszkalnys, 2007 ; Wells, 2007). If the construction of monumental monuments wants to affirm the political power of a government, the multiplication of shops and consumer centres in the city centres attests to the link of the city with capitalism. Indeed, Karen Wells (2007:138) explains it very well, “by asking how objects are produced, arranged and circulated and how their production, arrangement and circulation shapes people’s practices, we can begin to undo the fetishisation, in the Marxist sense, of objects”.
Although the importance of the State is undeniable in the construction of geography, the inhabitants and large landowners also had recourse to cultural capital (Lefebvre, 1991; Wells, 2007; Wells, 2007). Powerful landowners have also built statues or sponsored the creation of museums and libraries in order to create a benevolent image and leave their mark in urban geography which ultimately reshapes the public’s long-term perception. This is what one of the two founders of the sugar company Tate ; Lyle did. Tate has, in order to build himself and to build an image for his company far from any suspicion, built statutes, sponsored museums and libraries in his image. Thus, the geography of the city can become an extremely strong tool of power, propaganda and influence. It thus becomes a tool to understand how the inequalities created during the colonial period still reside in the geography of London.
B) The instrumentalisation of urban geography by Henry Tate to justify his capitalist heritage.
The large landowners also wanted to make use of the power of monuments. In the case of London, this will be illustrated with the example of Henry Tate. This early capitalist set up one of the two largest sugar refinery plants in the world today. However, as previously explained in Chapters 1 and 2, the sugar industry has created a large number of inequalities for its exploitation. Although slavery had already been abolished in England when his business was founded in 1859, it is very likely that the refined sugar in his businesses was the product of an exploitation using slavery (see Chapter 2). Among other things, Tate has erected statues of himself, a library, hospitals and sponsored a series of museums throughout London. The building of these various monuments had the aim of restoring the industry’s reputation. The study of urban geography allows us to trace Tate’s desire to hide behind art, knowledge and culture the inequalities created by capitalism (Wells, 2007).
As Annie Coombes (2004) describes, capitalist enterprises, like Tate, use art, cultural and symbolic capital to hide the “exploitative relationships” that allowed them to build their wealth. This transformation of economic capital into symbolic or cultural capital is covered by philanthropic practices. In other words, these big donations for good causes hide much more political ambitions. Tate, by promoting a free library and opening a series of museums has, through philanthropy, helped to revalue its industry. Beyond the patronage of libraries and museums, statues are drawn up with the effigy of Henry Tate in all London. As Karen Wells (2007) notes, one of these statutes was erected in Brixton in front of Brixton’s Tate Library. Today it is also located next to Brixton Town Hall. Brixton is a neighbourhood that, by its history, is considered multi-class and multi-racial. There was no bourgeois presence in this neighbourhood, and yet, there is a Henry Tate statue. The situation of this status proves the power of capitalism, through these benefactors, to shape and influence their symbolic environment. As Wells (2007:1997) concludes, “In this way, Henry and Amy Tate, his wife, have capitalism, and more specifically sugar production, on the London landscape under the sign of bourgeois culture”. Although the free library movement was aimed at educating the working class and thus at the creation of the middle class.
Thus, Tate’s patronage of various cultural projects gives a particular vision, a guided understanding of capitalism and tends to erase while maintaining the inequalities created by it. As Wells (2007:200) concludes, the benefactor intends to signify that “Wealth is not accumulated through the exploitation of nominally free labor but through the diligence, intelligence, thrift, and above all, the moral stature of the capitalist”. Tate use the power of philanthropy to magnify his image. He tried, through the investment of a “moral cause which is art”, to erase the violence with which he accumulated capital by partnering with Lyle who used slavery.
III-Capitalism as structuring and being reproduced by the Tate Modern
The art gallery, through its architecture and organisation, reproduces capitalist ideology. Moreover, its private sponsorship accentuates its complicity with capitalism.
A) The capitalist ideology reproduced by the Tate Modern itself.
In addition to embodying these inequalities, these buildings reproduce them. For example, when Tate had the idea of sponsoring the Tate Modern to the same author as the government, he intentionally left the mark of capitalism. But, beyond that, the gallery itself, through its collections and what it projects, reaffirms capitalist ideas a second time (Harvie, 2009). What happens inside the building also plays a role in preserving the capitalist ideology and its inequalities.
Although it is possible to consider the city as liberating by considering that the inhabitants model it in their image (Certeau, 1990; Tester, 1994), from the point of view of a material analysis the city becomes an oppressive institution. However, Foucault criticises the reflection of the social order based on constraint. The implementation of a liberal policy in the 18th century made freedom an essential condition for the organisation of governmental power. However, this freedom must not be understood in its current definition, a state of non-submission based on a higher ideology of human rights. On the contrary, this freedom is a method of power, a relationship between rulers and governed (Foucault, 1977-1978). To understand freedom as a technical condition of power implies both that freedoms depend on power. Secondly, this assertion also implies that freedom is a model of power since it ensures certain freedoms while supervising them, it is their guarantor (Grenier ; Orléan, 2007). Although the subject retains a certain autonomy in the current liberal economic system, the fact remains that he is not free in the first sense of the term. Freedoms are regulated and delimited by law. The law is passed by representatives of the people, but is decided by the agents of power. Thus, freedom becomes a component of the power system. It is to this extent that I think it is possible to argue that an illusion of freedom and satisfaction is given to the citizens. Thus, when entering the Tate Modern, the visitor thinks he is free to come and go, to have a consume or not. However, the visitor is conditioned by capitalism and liberalism to consume even within the art gallery. Liberalism acts as an external force, a kind of super structure that unknowingly pushes to consume. In this sense, liberalism is a culture that influences actions in the depths of our being. The Tate Modern perpetuates this logic by cleverly arranging cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops that will be freely assimilated as pleasure, satisfaction. The Tate Modern is a condition to purchase since, during my visits, I have never been able to take an exit without going through the souvenir shops. Souvenir shops and other coffee shops are strategically placed to reinforce this idea of semi-freedom and the possibility/need to buy.
Thus, the history of the creation of the Tate Modern, its structure, its environment would end up instrumentalising its users by projecting on them the dominant ideology of the place, liberalism (Kracauer, 1995). By transferring liberalist ideology to its visitors, the gallery configures them as consumers and not as free individuals (Harvey, 2009). Although practical and convenient, the presence of a restaurant, cafes and souvenir shops testify to capitalist ideology in a site supposedly entirely devoted to knowledge and modern art (tate.org.uk, 2018). Todd McGowan (2016), explores something different that liberalism, he explores the link between capitalism and its image of pleasure and satisfaction. McGowan exposes the capitalist grip on his subjects. The “freedom of choice” induced by capitalism and then reinforced by liberalism pushes consumption (and capital accumulation). This half-freedom, since controlled by the government as will be seen below, is reinforced by what the author calls the “psychic economy”. It refers to the structure of meaning. According to McGowan, the economic structure is based on the sense of want that logically induces desire and pleasure. The goods available for sale want to fill a need. The advertisements shows that each product meets an artificial need, which will bring pleasure. Although the ads of the Tate Moderne are mostly dedicated to art, their moto on twitter (https://twitter.com/tate, 2018) is “We aim to increase everyone’s enjoyment and understanding of art”. With the notion of “enjoyment”, Tate appeals to the consumerist actor’s need to satisfy a need that they have not yet felt or do not know yet. However, this need is never fulfilled. The lack is made to continue and the desire to be reborn. The future promise of the fulfilment of desire through the purchase an object is an essential feature of the survival and prosperity of capitalism. McGowan concluded with Marx’s deductions, the driving force behind the survival of capitalism is the satisfaction of immediate pleasure (McGowan, 2016). This capitalist economic logic also induces notions of power. This consumerist logic is reinforced by liberalism which, thanks to the use of the notion of freedom, puts the visitor in a chosen situation of desire.
The building itself reinforces the capitalist narrative (Harvie, 2009; Stanley, 2000). The Tate Modern is located in a former industrial building, the Bankside Power Station. This former oil power station, because of its slight renovation, preserves its industrial past thus reinforcing its capitalist echo. So, “The Tate Modern reinforces a dominant capitalist ideology, even when its visitors buy nothing.” (Harvie, 2009:204).
B) The influence of private sponsorship in the reading of the Tate Modern.
It was private investment that enabled Tate Modern to develop. Half the initial funds were financed by private funding, the Tate Founding Corporate Partners Scheme wich is “a scheme where Partners make a commitment lasting up to five years and in return for their investment, gain exclusive benefits” (tate.org.uk, 2018). The turbine hall exhibitions are entirely sponsored by Hyundai the car manufacturer (BBC, 2014; Kang ; Bang, 2015). Private sponsorship remains vital for the Tate as it allows its construction to continue. In 2011, a $50 million donation from a wealthy industrialist helped build the Tate extension the Blavatnik Building (Financial Times, 2017). The Tate Modern is therefore marked by the unequal economy of contemporary capitalism. As Jen Harvie (2009) notes, while Tate’s investments in noble causes are undeniable, the fact remains that they were made possible by an unequal economy.
A question then arises, what interest would a Korean company and an American, Russian and British billionaire have in investing in the Tate Modern? Focusing on the two examples given here, the sponsorship of Hyundai and the donation of Len Blavatnik, I argue that London’s colonial past, which has made it a centre of economic impetus and world influence with the beginnings of globalisation and the sugar trade, allows it to attract benefactors who, through their sponsorship, leverage the influence of the city and ultimately the gallery for philanthropic purposes. Thus, they reproduce what Henry Tate had later achieved. The exploitation of the artistic side, considered as beautiful, precious, admirable, sublime to hide or at least make acceptable the violence by which the funds in question were accumulated. For example, Blavatnik made a fortune with chemicals and oil. By investing his economic capital in cultural capital he would erase or at least mitigate the damaging side by which he has accumulated his wealth. Hyundai, on the other hand, is a car manufacturer. The working conditions of its factories are criticised because endangering human rights (Rinehart, Huxley, Robertson, 1997). By sponsoring the Turbine Hall he could then operate the same operation. They would thus sublimate their economic capital and image by transferring part of it into cultural capital. As Marx argued, there is a conversion of the mercantilism, violence and exploitation of the accumulation of capital into this bourgeois culture which is assimilated with beauty and superb. There is a transfer of the capital assimilated as bad with something that is established as being beautiful, such as the Tate Modern. Is it why Hyundai is sponsoring the Tate Modern?
The identity of some corporate sponsors has been a problem for public opinion. In order to detach itself from any “spiritual” link with these companies, the art gallery has decided to promote and exhibit artists whose works of art criticise these capitalist companies. However, aren’t these exhibitions the product of capitalism itself? As Fredric Jameson (1991) explains, capitalism absorbs criticism, recycles it and sells it to its public. It is the commodifying process. “Culture has become a product in its own right; the market has become a substitute for itself and fully as much a commodity as any of the items it includes within itself.” (Jameson, 1991:10). For example, in order to criticise BP, the Tate mandated Salcedo, who, starting from a crack in the ground of Turbin Hall, wanted to insist on the “geographical divisions that were significant locally and globally” in which BP contributes (tate.org.uk, 2007).
Chapitre 7: Conclusion
Colonisation, coupled with the beginnings of capitalism, has been a factor of both economic and social inequalities. Britain’s industrialisation has produced highly unequal economic growth as it favoured motherland at the expense of its different colonies (see Chapter 1). With the influence of capitalist doctrine inequalities at the social level have also emerged, particularly with the objectification of individuals through slavery (see Chapter 2). This period has had disastrous consequences, particularly for the African and American continents.
It is possible to trace this inequalities by looking at the sugar industry. Indeed, the latter followed and participated in the capitalist development of Great Britain. It can be considered both as one of the causes and consequences of the capitalist system that took as well shape with the exploitation of colonised lands. The functioning and development of the sugar industry, based on capitalist doctrine, contribute to the achievement of capitalistic’s disparities. The product of sugar, consumed and desired by all, is nevertheless contributed to economic and social violences.
Linking colonisation, industrialisation, capitalism and the sugar industry makes it possible to trace the inequalities they have caused back to the contemporary urban geography of London, in particular through its cultural institutions (see Chapter 3). Through patronage, sponsorship or simple donations, private capitalist companies play a role in the dispersion of capitalist culture. The urban landscape makes it possible to identify the sources and forces of power that are hidden there. In London, Henry Tate sponsored and built a number of monuments that were intended to justify his capitalist heritage inherited from sugar. Beyond the construction of buildings and the use of patronage and philanthropy, buildings themselves reflect a certain ideology.
Thanks to the example of the Tate Modern, named after Henry Tate the sugar giant, it is possible to establish that this cultural institutions, while being as well a product of capitalism and bourgeois culture, inscribes the detailed inequalities (see Chapter 1 and 2) in London’s geography. Although Henry Tate and his successors’ ambition in sponsoring the museum’s activities or extensions is to hide the violence by which their economic capital has been accumulated, a strong link remains. This wish is no longer limited to former empires as they are not the only one resulting to violence to accumulate wealth. The use of art, considered as desirable, sublime, as a way to justify morally wrong accepted practices. For those purposes, philanthropy is used by major international groups. Attracted by London’s influence, because of its past as an Empire, these companies wish to extend their dominance and embellish their image by trying to erase the violence by which they have become prosperous. It is because of this long history coupled with those practices that, I argue, long-standing inequalities continue to be present, inscribed and strengthened in cultural institutions.