Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

Six
The Colonial State and the Political
Economy of Growth
1940-52

The Second World War brought the start of almost twenty years of rapid growth in the estate sector of Kenya and a related expansion of commerce and secondary industry. The trends within the political economy and state already visible during the 1930s were accelerated and intensified over the next two decades. Settler agriculture expanded rapidly in scale and profitability, and settler estates began to move towards more fully capitalist forms of production, investing extensively in capital equipment and attempting to create a completely wage-dependent rural proletariat.

Underlying these developments was a crucial change in the relationship with the metropole. This initially involved a substantial tightening of the links between colony and metropole within the existing structures of imperialism as part of a deliberate effort to use the colonies to meet urgent wartime supply needs. Subsequently, the acute material and foreign exchange shortages in Britain during the 1947-51 reconstruction period accelerated the movement towards a more directly controlled and programmatic relationship with the colonies. A new emphasis on 'colonial development and welfare' found expression in the series of Colonial Development and Welfare Acts and the foundation of the Colonial Development Corporation which provided metropolitan capital on an unprecedented scale for the expansion of colonial commodity production. 1 Equally important, by the 1950s new structural ties were developing that directly linked Kenya to metropolitan industrial capital through increasing corporate investment in the growing manufacturing and construction sectors of the colony's economy.

In stark contrast, the African reserves, further depleted by wartime production demands and reaping the bitter harvest of the internal contradictions and policies of the previous quarter century, were sliding into a profound agrarian crisis. The programmes of 'development' implemented by the state in the first decade after the war were intended to arrest the physical and social deterioration of the reserves. Unable to

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