The World Turned Outside In: Settler Colonial Studies and Political Economy

Historical Materialism 31 (2):197-235 (2023)
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Abstract

This article criticises the political-economic analysis of settler colonial studies, which it draws out through an immanent critique of its most famous practitioners. It then offers a critical genealogy of the wider theoretical trend that secures it: the post-Cold War vogue of asserting the ever-increasing centrality of primitive accumulation in global capitalism – what we might term a mode of predation. Finally, it teases out the tensions and confusions in the reliance of settler colonial studies upon Marx’s concept of surplus populations, as well as problems abounding in Patrick Wolfe’s ‘logic of elimination’. Overall, it argues that the frequent claim that we inhabit a global settler modernity cannot be sustained through these notions, and that this claim is profoundly moral and academic, lacking political and analytical value. The insistence on the durability of settler colonialism amounts, in this literature, to a claim on behalf of settler colonial studies itself.

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