Capitalists and chiefs in the cocoa hold-ups in South Asante, 1927-1938

This paper analyzes a particular experience which may help to delimit the usefulness of two notions of widespread relevance in the historiography of colonial Africa: that of decline in the wealth and authority of "traditional" political authorities, and that of the "comprador" status - the subordination to foreign capital - of such indigenous capitalists as emerged from agricultural export monoculture. An earlier piece examined the emergence by 1933 of capitalist relations in cocoa-farming in the Amansie district of Asante (such relations being defined as institutional forms in which labor and other inputs are acquired through a market).1 The present paper identifies the dominant groups involved in these relations, and considers their relationships with each other, and with European capital. The first section introduces the Amansie case. The second argues that the labor-hiring farmers, brokers, and money-lenders were overlapping sets which, in an economic sense, constituted a capitalist class. The third section shows that the chiefs participated in these sources of wealth, while retaining non-market instruments of enrichment in addition. The remaining four sections use the cocoa hold-ups (producers' strikes) of 1927-1938 to explore whether these cocoa capitalists should be regarded as compradors, and whether their emergence undermined the political authority of chieftaincy, and therefore of "indirect rule." In the process, one set of conditions are revealed under which a mass of small farmers and brokers could become united in sustained and rather effective economic protest.


Publication year:
1988
In:
In: The international journal of African historical studies. - Boston. - Vol. 21(1988), No. 1, p. 63-95
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