Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgements

The present work was begun in 1977-8 during a sabbatical at Cambridge University. It was built upon my earlier doctoral thesis on the politics of colonial provincial administration in Kenya, 1 and was revised for the last time and completed in 1984-5. It does not pretend to find unchanging universals or timeless 'laws' of development in the colonial experience. Its value, I believe, derives from its focus on the development of the colonial state as a structure of power and instrument of domination, rather than viewing it simply as the carapace containing processes of capitalist development and class formation, which has been common in studies of the political economy of colonialism. If it has any pretensions to making a theoretical contribution beyond that of explaining the development and role of the colonial state in Kenya within a generally Marxist framework, and thereby perhaps suggesting a useful way of approaching the study of other colonial states, it is in contributing to the development of the analysis of bureaucracy in the growing and diversifying corpus of Marxist theory. As long as the state is depicted as a black box whose output is rigidly determined and predictable, and whose internal processes are therefore of no account or interest, we will continue to reify the state and to propagate instrumentalist and rationalist fallacies about the role and capabilities of the very ordinary and fallible human beings who comprise its cadres. 2

In addition, this study represents an alternative to a methodology that approaches the goal of analysis as the eventual creation of a tested and proven 'theory' providing 'objective' knowledge of reality, as supposedly achieved by the natural sciences, and that writes history backwards from the known present. The first aspect of this methodology is based on a view of 'science' that is both erroneous and archaic, the second, as argued in the text that follows, produces deterministic and dogmatic history. In researching and writing this study, while my initial distaste for colonialism remained unchanged, my subjective feeling about colonial

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