A Marxian-Senian critique of Zambia's political economy of labour: Chinese-State capital in Zambia's copper mining industry

Sobahle, Busiswa (2021-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: It is commonplace to observe China in Africa in realist and liberal IR/IPE state-centric terms. Rather, this thesis espouses a critical political economy approach to Chinese state-owned capital in Zambia’s copper mining industry. It is a critical qualitative study that examines the interplay between the Zambian state, Chinese capital and mining labour. With a critical focus on Zambia’s mining labour’s experiences and encounters with the Chinese state capital, the study employs Karl Marx’s theory of Alienated Labour and Amartya Sen’s Capability approach as a lens to focus and consider the bearing of Chinese capital on Zambia’s mining labour class. To study China in Zambia from a critical political economy perspective, the study draws on Robert Cox’s critical theory to hegemony as a contrast to mainstream IR theory which reduces hegemony to the domain of economic and military capabilities. The Coxian approach expands purview to include as part of hegemony social relations of production. In this way, I situate China’s engagement with Zambia’s political economy in the context of global capitalism, not as a state seeking a place in the sun, but as a social formation expressing the logic of capitalist social relations in Zambia. The findings of the study show that because mineworkers are alienated in their labour and that the bearing of the Chinese state capital on its Zambian labouring class limits its developmental potential. The analysis shows that there are two opposing political economies in Zambia – that of capital and that of the working class. To this end, I argue that labourers’ existential possibilities are conditioned by their position in society.

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