Accepted paper:

Capital flight, personal power and economic mystification in Central Africa.

Author:

Joseph Trapido (School of African and Oriental Studies)

Paper short abstract:

In Kinshasa an ideology of largesse means that politicians who have stored billions in off-shore accounts are proclaimed as wealth creators. I draw on Marx's theories of alienation and fetishism, and on theories of underdevelopment.

Paper long abstract:

In Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, the ability of 'extraordinary individuals' - be they politicians, gangsters, celebrity courtesans, popstars or pentecostal pastors - to acquire and distribute material and emotional goods on retinues, are crucial to popular ideas of legitimacy such that politicians who have stored billions in off-shore accounts are locally proclaimed as wealth creators. While recent political theories about Africa have tended to connect such figures to Weberesque ideas of patrimonialism or charisma, this paper hopes to demonstrate that Marxist forms of analysis offer greater insight into such phenomena. Specifically this paper will show how these forms of personal politics are underwritten by stable forms of appropriation, rooted in longue durée political economic facts about controlling the wealth of the interior and using it to truck with powerful outsiders. Drawing particularly on Marx's theories of alienation and fetishism, and on theories of underdevelopment, I look at the role of such ideologies in the perpetuation of a political economy of scarcity.

panel PE39
Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent