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The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition (Marcuse, 1967)

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Herbert Marcuse: lecture delivered at the Free University of West Berlin in July 1967, published in The New Left and the 1960s: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse Vol. 3, ed. Kellner, 2004. See also Marcuse, Five Lectures: Psychoanalysis, Politics and Utopia (1970)


Today radical opposition can be considered only in a global framework. Taken as an isolated phenomenon its nature is falsified from the start. I shall discuss this opposition with you in the global context with emphasis on the United States. You know that I hold today’s student opposition to be a decisive factor of transformation: surely not, as I have been reproached, as an immediate revolutionary force, but as one of the strongest factors, one that can perhaps become a revolutionary force. Setting up connections between the student oppositions of various countries is therefore one of the most important strategic necessities of these years. There are scarcely any connections between the American and German student movements; the student opposition in the United States does not even possess an effective central organization. We must work for the establishment of such relations, and if in discussing the theme of this talk I mainly take the United States as an example, I do so in order to help prepare for the establishment of such relations. The student opposition in the United States is itself part of a larger opposition that is usually designated the “New Left.”

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Cured Quail Vol. 2

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As industrial culture grinds to a halt, what better time to reflect, in this hour of unprecedented catastrophe, unwieldy political ferment and social distance, on the backlog of damages inflicted by this society? The economy continues to demand reverence from lives barely tottering along while offering cultural consolation hardly worth the name.

Preorders are now open for Cured Quail Vol. 2. The more preorders we receive, the faster the printer cylinders rotate.

Cured Quail Volume 2 | Fall 2020 | 304 pages

Cured Quail also now has its own Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to follow!

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Three Agricultural Revolutions (Clegg & Lucas, 2020)

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By J. Clegg and R. Lucas (Endnotes) SAQ (2020)

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There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry anymore.  

— Adorno, Minima Moralia

Critique of Revolutionary Reason

It’s safe to say that there is today no particularly obvious consensus about what the overcoming of capitalism might look like. Surveying the field of imagined scenarios, we find everything from neo-social-democratic bids to gradually legislate capitalism away, to apocalyptic visions of social breakdown marked by the spontaneous redistribution of goods. Nor is there a simple, uncontentious definition of communism. It could in principle be anything from some classical Sparta’s helot-exploiting collectivism, to a recapitulation of hunter-gatherer lifestyles; from the perfected bureaucratic state, to federated worker’s councils; from Stanford Beer’s cybernetic visions, to a return to pastoral commons. Marx, of course, was famously reticent about giving the term any positive content, displacing its meaning instead onto the historical unfolding of the movement of the same name. He claimed to prefer “critical analysis of actual facts” to “writing recipes for the cookshops of the future” (Marx 1976: 99). And Marxists of various stripes have often appealed to that precedent in one way or another to justify a focus not on the speculative future, but on the “real” present. In Endnotes’s broadly “ultra-left” milieu, a passage from Marx’s German Ideology often functions as a kind of mantra: “communism is for us not a state of a airs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Marx 1970: 56). READ PDF

State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations (Pollock, 1941)

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by Friedrich Pollock (1941)

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We start from the assumption that the hour of state capitalism approaches when the market economy becomes an utterly inadequate instrument for utilizing the available resources. The medium-sized private enterprise and free trade, the basis for the gigantic development of men’s productive forces in the 19th century, are being gradually destroyed by the offspring of liberalism, private monopolies and government interference. Concentration of economic activity in giant enterprises, with its consequences of rigid prices, self-financing and ever growing concentration, government control of the credit system and foreign trade, quasi-monopoly positions of trade unions with the ensuing rigidity of the labor market, large-scale unemployment of labor and capital and enormous government expenses to care for the unemployed, are as many symptoms for the decline of the market system. They became characteristic in various degrees for all industrialized countries after the first world war.

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Never Again: Refusing Race and Salvaging the Human (Paul Gilroy, 2019)

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In his Holberg Lecture, Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic (1993), winner of the Holberg Prize for 2019, advocates turning away from the defaulted racial ordering of life in pursuit of a new humanism.

It is commonplace to observe that democracy in Europe has reached a dangerous point. As ailing capitalism emancipates itself from democratic regulation, ultra-nationalism, populism, xenophobia and varieties of neo-fascism have become more visible, more assertive and more corrosive of political culture. The widespread appeal of racialised group identity and racism, often conveyed obliquely with a knowing wink, has been instrumental in delivering us to a situation in which our conceptions of truth, law and government have been placed in jeopardy. In many places, pathological hunger for national rebirth and the restoration of an earlier political time, have combined with resentful, authoritarian and belligerent responses to alterity and the expectation of hospitality.

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We’re Not in This Together

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by Ajay Singh Chaudhary, April 2020, Baffler No. 51

There is no universal politics of climate change

In November of 2018, fires of “unprecedented speed and ferocity” broke out across Northern and Southern California. The “Camp Fire” in Northern California killed just under ninety people and destroyed approximately nineteen thousand structures. Even with modern safety protocols and building codes, it was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. The “Woolsey Fire” in Southern California burned, at the exact same time, nearly one hundred thousand acres. Fires are tricky things to understand. The fires that burn across most of central Africa, for example, are seasonal, mostly contained, and part of a decently well-maintained agricultural cycle. Californian wildfires, while certainly nothing new, are not. They may be sparked by simple heat or a lightning strike, or by a recreational accident or a glitch in the utility grid, but their frequency, intensity, and duration have all unquestionably increased due to anthropogenic climate change.

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David Graeber (1961-2020)

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David Graeber’s Collected Writings Linked Below

Hope in Common, 2009:

We seem to have reached an impasse. Capitalism as we know it appears to be coming apart. But as financial institutions stagger and crumble, there is no obvious alternative. Organized resistance appears scattered and incoherent; the global justice movement a shadow of its former self. There is good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism will no longer exist: for the simple reason that it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet. Faced with the prospect, the knee-jerk reaction — even of “progressives” — is, often, fear, to cling to capitalism because they simply can’t imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

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The council communists between the New Deal and fascism (Bonacchi, 1976)

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A history by Gabriella M. Bonacchi of council communist efforts in the US in the 1930s. Published in Telos #30, Winter 1976

In recent years growing interest in the problems of the 1930s has brought to light aspects of the labor movement that had been relegated to oblivion by traditional historiography. This is especially true for the council communists who in an America upset by the Great Depression sought to renew a political project that had been crushed in Europe. While there have already been numerous studies of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the harsh and violent context of American factories prior to WW II, there has not yet been any thorough investigation of the convergence of the remnants of the IWW and the council communists.

Generally speaking the progressive loss of influence of those defined as “the most dangerous subversives ever raised on sacred American soil” over the American proletariat after WW I, goes back to the incongruence of their strategic “lack of organisation” with the changes imposed on American capital and labor by the real winners of the war: the key auto, steel and rubber industries.

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Towards a Critique of Political Democracy (Tronti, 2009)

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by Mario Tronti – Centro per la Riforma dello Stato – Cosmos and History 5:1, 2009

A word of warning: my argument will involve a deconstruction of the theme of democracy. I will seek to clear the field of the conceptual debris that has accumulated around the idea and practice of democracy, so that our discussion can then take up—in a more constructive and also more programmatic manner—the identification of further directions of inquiry, especially in what concerns that crucial passage represented by the construction of the subject.

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Class and Capital (Paul Mattick Jr., 2002)

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by Paul Mattick Jr. Download PDF 

[originally published in The Culmination of Capital: Essays on Volume III of Marx’s Capital ed. Martha Campbell and Geert Reuten, 2002; republished as Chapter 9 in Paul Mattick Jr.’s Theory as Critique, Brill 2018]


The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Dahrendorf gave a common view dramatic form when he wrote, ‘Marx post­poned the systematic presentation of his theory of class until death took the pen from his hand. The irony has often been noted that the last (52nd) chapter of the last (third) volume of Capital, which bears the title “The Classes”, has remained unfinished. After a little more than one page the text ends with the lapidary remark of its editor, Engels: “Here the manuscript breaks off”’. Unfortunately, the colourful picture this suggests, of the pen dropping from the hand of the dying Marx as he was on the point of completing his masterwork, isn’t ours to keep: the draft containing this chapter was completed, as is fairly well known, before Marx turned to the preparation of Volume I for publication. Nev­ertheless, some have taken Marx’s delay in returning to the chapter – until it was too late – as an admission in actu of failure, attesting to a basic flaw in his theory. Engels’s explanation is less dramatic: Marx liked to leave conclusions ‘for the final editing, shortly before printing, when the latest historical events would supply him, with unfailing regularity, with illustrations of his theoretical arguments, as topical as anyone could desire’. Reopening the question of the relation of Marx’s final page and a half to the rest of Capital, I wish to explore what Marx’s willingness to leave the matter in so sketchy a state might indicate about the nature, or even the existence, of a Marxian theory of class. [Read PDF]


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How it Might Should be Done

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by Idris Robinson, July 2020

The following is a transcript of a talk delivered in Seattle on July 20, 2020, lightly-edited by the author for readability. A video recording produced by Red May is online here. (Taken from Illwilleditions.org)

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I want to begin with a shout-out to what happened here last night, and to the working class of the city of Seattle, to the rebels of the city of Seattle: I really liked what I saw, that’s why I’m here, you know, to feel that vibe. I would also like to send my solidarity to comrades in Greece. It was they who allowed me to experience insurrection for the first time in 2008. The lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I had there have been so valuable this time around, even though we are in a much different social context. Moreover, a comrade was recently killed at the hands of the police there. To the fallen comrade, Vasillis Maggos, I want to say: rest in power.

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Communization theory and the abolition of the value-form (2012)

A theory of the value-form as the basis for an understanding of the logic of capital, its historical trajectory, and its contradictions, is integrally linked to a theory of communization. Communization is inseparable from the abolition of the value-form and of capital as valorizing value, and its Akkumulationszwang, its compulsion to accumulate, as well as the labor [Arbeit] upon which capital depends. Communization entails the abolition of the proletariat, the class of waged-workers, whose abstract labor is the source of value. Socialism or communism is not the self-affirmation of the proletariat or workers’ power, and the creation of a republic of labor. The development of value-form theory, based largely on the publication of all the manuscripts that Marx had assembled for his critique of political economy, an undertaking that has only been completed over the past several decades, has also transformed the understanding of socialism or communism that existed within the Second and Third Internationals, as well as in the historical communist left (both the German-Dutch and the Italian left, the council communist and the Bordigist traditions).

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Postone and Class Theory

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by A New Institute for Social Research (2019)

Moishe Postone’s most famous work in the Anglophone world, Time, Labor, and Social Domination, is hampered by the fact that it is written against a straw man — “traditional Marxism.” The effort to prove that traditional Marxism has a superficial understanding of capitalism, and thus that the USSR only made superficial changes and remained essentially capitalist, leads him to the curious argumentative strategy of attempting to sift out only what is ‘essential’ in Marx’s theory. Yet as Postone himself continually asserts, Marx’s categories are historically specific and refer to the actually-existing capitalist social totality. This perverted totality is constituted by a real metaphysics, an essential movement and its forms of appearance, but that doesn’t make the forms of appearance ‘inessential’ in the sense of being dispensable — as every student of Hegel knows, essence must appear. What sense does it make then to claim that the commodity (a thing produced by and for exchange) is essential, but exchange is not? That proletarian labor is essential, but class is not? It makes sense only to the extent that Postone has redefined property, class, and exchange in a superficial manner in order to declare them inessential.

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Letters of Insurgents (Fredy Perlman, 1976)

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Letters of Insurgents by Fredy Perlman

Black and Red Press, Detroit, 1976

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Audio book / mp3 / AK Press

But what happened to you, Sophia? What have you done to your memory? How can you refer to the resistance by mentioning, in one and the same sentence, the “thousands of working people fighting and dying to free their city” and the “approach of the liberation armies”? If we fought to free the city, then we lost; the “liberation army” destroyed the city’s freedom. But if we fought to free the city, why did we — thousands of us in the streets, as you say — cheer and dance when the tanks and soldiers of the “liberation army” marched into the already liberated city? If we fought to liberate the city, why didn’t we turn our guns on the new occupiers? Why didn’t we shoot the commanders, fraternize with the soldiers and begin building our free city? It’s the same, familiar and distorted picture. We were pure; we fought for freedom. They were despotic; they fought to enslave us. This picture is false. I was one of those thousands. I shot to avenge and to kill. So did the people alongside me on the barricades. I learned that I had helped to “free the city” only after I met Luisa. And then I “remembered” having done that. But it’s not true. I didn’t for a moment believe that I and the people with whom I built barricades were going to create a new social activity, invent new modes of transportation, dream up new ways to relate to each other, to our activity, to our environment. I knew that gangsters, cops and soldiers had always governed in the past and I didn’t think anything I did would keep them from governing in the future. I didn’t relate any of that to my activity on the barricades. While I shot and while hundreds like me were killed, we cleared the streets for the “victorious liberation army.” I didn’t help clear their path intentionally; I wouldn’t ever have risked my life to do that. Yet among the thousands you say were “freeing their city,” there were some who did actually risk their lives in order to clear the path for the new occupiers. Perhaps they thought they’d be praised and rewarded by the new masters. Perhaps they were in fact rewarded. I had met some of them in the resistance organization. I suspect they couldn’t have fought hard and couldn’t have taken great risks since the dead can’t enjoy their rewards. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe like the noblest of slaves they risked everything, hoping that if they died the new masters would at least decorate their graves.

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The Mesh of Power (Foucault, 1976)

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by Michel Foucault 1976 (translated by Chris Chitty)

Introduction by Chris Chitty |  Original French

We will attempt to proceed towards an analysis of the concept of power.1 I am not the first, far from it, to attempt to skirt around the Freudian schema that pits instinct against suppression [répression], instinct against culture.2 Many decades ago, an entire school of psychoanalysts tried to modify and develop this Freudian schema of instinct versus culture, and of instinct versus suppression – I am referring to psychoanalysts in the English as well as the French language, like Melanie Klein, Winnicott, and Lacan, who have tried to show that suppression, far from being a secondary, ulterior, or later mechanism, which would attempt to control a given or natural play of instinct, constitutes a part of the mechanism of instinct, or, more or less, of the process through which the sexual instinct [l’instinct sexuel] is developed, unfolded and constituted as drive [pulsion].

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Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen: Max Horkheimer im Interview mit Helmut Gumnior (1970)

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»In einer wirklich freiheitlichen Gesinnung bleibt jener Begriff des Unendlichen als Bewußtsein der Endgültigkeit des irdischen Geschehens und der unabänderlichen Verlassenheit des Menschen erhalten und bewahrt die Gesellschaft vor einem blöden Optimismus, vor dem Aufspreizen ihres eigenen Wissens als einer neuen Religion.«

Diesen Satz schrieb Max Horkheimer vor 35 Jahren im amerikanischen Exil. Er war damals seit über einem Jahr in New York. Noch galt er zu der Zeit als Marxist, als Begründer einer Theorie, die gesellschaftliches Wirken als Produktionsprozeß zu begreifen versuchte, die Philosophie als Kampf und nicht als weltferne Spekulation verstand, die von einer Revolution eine heile Welt, den vernünftigen Zustand der Gesellschaft erwartete.

H.G.: Herr Horkheimer, wie kommt ein Marxist, ein Revolutionär dazu, einen solchen Satz zu schreiben?

MAX HORKHEIMER: Es stimmt, ich war Marxist, ich war Revolutionär. Ich habe nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg begonnen, mich mit Marx zu beschäftigen, weil die Gefahr des Nationalismus offenkundig war. Ich glaubte, nur durch eine Revolution könnte der Nationalsozialismus beseitigt werden und zwar durch eine marxistische Revolution. Mein Marxismus, mein Revolutionärsein war eine Antwort auf die Herrschaft des Totalitären von rechts. Ich hatte aber schon damals Zweifel, ob die von Marx verlangte Solidarität des Proletariats schließlich zu einer richtigen Gesellschaft führen würde.

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The Hamletmachine (Müller, 1979)

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by Heiner Müller (original / alt translation) 1979

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Family Album

I was Hamlet.  I stood at the coast and spoke with the surf BLABLA, behind me the ruins of Europe.  The bells rang in the state funeral, murderer and widow a pair, the council in goose-step behind the coffin of the High Cadaver, howling in poorly paid grief WHOSE IS THE CORPSE IN THE CORPSE TRAIN/ FOR WHOM IS HEARD THIS LAMENTING STRAIN/ THE CORPSE IS OF A GREAT/ GIVER OF ESTATE the framework of the people, work of his statecraft HE WAS A MAN TOOK THEM ALL FOR ALL.  I stopped the funeral train, pried open the casket with my sword which broke the blade, with the blunt remainder I succeeded and distributed my dead maker FLESH AND FLESH GLADLY JOIN TOGETHER before the surrounding guise of misery.  The grief turned to rejoicing, the rejoicing into smacking, on top of the empty casket the murderer mounted the widow SHOULD I HELP YOU UP UNCLE OPEN YOUR LEGS MAMA.  I laid on the ground and heard the world turning her rounds in step with the decay.

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Theory of Crisis and the Problem of Constitution (Marramao, 1975)

 

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by Giacomo Marramao – Telos No. 26, Winter 1975-76

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It is still widely held that the theory of the crisis and collapse of the capitalist system is inherited from the positivist deformation of the “Marxism of the Second International,” and that it thus implies ideological support for reformist politics. Ten years ago, Raniero Panzieri wrote: “As a matter of fact, Marxist thought since Marx has recognized the appearance of a ‘turn’ in the system with the development of monopoly capitalism and of imperialism around the 1870s (which today appears to us as a transitional period in relation to the ‘turn’ that began in the 1930s and is now being completed). But the analysis and description of the phase following that turn was immediately framed in terms of laws that such a phase tended to overcome. Thus, it was interpreted as a ‘final phase’.”[1] And, in a note, he added: “The mythology of the ‘last stage’ of capitalism exists with differing, even opposite, ideological functions both in Lenin and in Kautsky: in Lenin, to ‘legitimize’ the breakdown of the system at the less advanced points of its development; in Kautsky, to sanction the reformist postponement of revolutionary action until the ‘correct time.’ Since the 1917 revolution failed to consolidate itself with revolutions in more advanced countries, it fell back on objectives immediately realizable within Russia’s level of development. This would-be explanation of the possible presence of capitalist social relations in planning (a shortcoming remaining in the whole development of Leninist thought) will later facilitate the repetition, whether in the factories or in total social production, of capitalist forms behind the ideological screen of identifying socialism with planning and the possibility of ‘socialism in one country’.”[2]

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Crowned Plague

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by Phil Neel (Brooklyn Rail, Field Notes, July 2020)

(see also: Prelude to a Hot American Summer, Normality is Death)

The Saint of Crowns

In spring the winter weight of snow trickles off the stone steps of the basilica in small, shimmering rivulets, a microcosm of the many streams glittering through the foothills of the unyielding Dolomites, or maybe more a mirror of the intricate alpine network of alte vie and vie ferrate, narrow, high walking and climbing paths hewn into the mountains during the first world war when other routes were made impassable by mines. The winter rarely clears quickly through these foothills where Fèltre and its basilica lie, the town’s most famous rendition given by a few lines from an anonymous Roman author: “Feltria, condemned to the rigor of eternal snows / from me too, who henceforth will scarcely approach you, farewell!”1 The words are often attributed to Caesar himself, though of course this might be apocryphal. But the apocryphal is also somehow natural to this place: the basilica which contains the relics of Saint Corona, whose historical reality is itself an open question.2

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The Flatness of Blackness: Afro-Pessimism and the Erasure of Anti-Colonial Thought

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Amílcar Cabral

by Kevin Ochieng Okoth | January 16, 2020

Originally published in Salvage, this piece by Kevin Ochieng Okoth, offers a sustained critique of American ‘Afro-pessimism’, noting, in particular, how it erases experiences, including political experiences, of African people living in Africa.

 

I. Pop-Hegelianism 

When the term Afro-pessimism began appearing in books, journal articles and, curiously, on activist social media, I was (presumably along with others familiar with the scholarship on African history and politics) slightly perplexed. For decades, ‘Afro-pessimism’ had referred to the unrelentingly negative coverage of Africa in Western news media, especially in terms of its tendency toward arrested development. This discourse, loosely united by an emphasis on the hopelessness of the African continent – and exemplified by the scandalous 2000 Economist headline describing Africa as ‘The Hopeless Continent’ – provided the rationale for the imperialist economic policies of the 1970s’ and 80s’ structural adjustment programmes. Today, it bolsters neo-colonial relations between the Global North and Africa, and is often conjured up as the go-to argument to justify the entirely unnecessary and counterproductive presence of the development industry and its practitioners on the continent. 

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