Walter Rodney Ctiticism

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Rodney is a neo- Marxist and non- imperialist writer, meaning he views oppression of Africans rooted in the hands of the colonial capitalist activities in Africa and the suffering of Africans premised in the imperialistic activities of Europeans in Africa. His critical work helps in the debate on the definition of African literature, for he brings out the historical connection that makes it possible to analyse African literature dealing with the pre- colonial and post- colonial phases of African history. He reveals political, economic and social circumstances that informed the sensibility of most African writers.

Rodney is a writer who is guided by the ideology from the dependency/ underdevelopment theory. The dependency theory believes that capitalism’s modernization has interrupted the nature and tempo of development in the third world, exploited the technologically less developed societies for its benefit, made them dependent on the capitalist, modern countries and caused to lag back further and further back behind in economic terms. The underdevelopment school is optimistic about Africans development from the point of view of the Africans and the third world countries. It believes that these societies have an inherent ability to develop. Their development was actually interrupted by western imperialism. Rodney’s critism in his book, How Europe underdeveloped Africa was inspired by the ideas of this theory that developed during this time, 1960s when he wrote his book.

Rodney also writes against the idealists of the modernization school. It is of the opinion that African underdevelopment is due to certain inherent weaknesses and they developed considerably during the colonial times as a result of colonial policies. He also criticizes the literature that over celebrates and view development of Africans premised in the hands of European colonial activities.

Rodney defines development in human society as a many sided process. He says development is not a comparable phenomenon. He believes that development can be defined differently from one region to another. Rodney is of the opinion that development takes a natural way. He argues that Africa’s development was interrupted by its encounter with Europeans in the fifteenth century. He is of the view that Africa like any other countries was developing through in a more naturally different manner. He believes that all the European countries view themselves better than Africa had already was in. All the countries passed through the primitive stage in development, went through the feudal stage and into the capitalist stage. Rodney views Africans to have been developed prior the encounter with Europeans in the fifteenth century. He reveals the development in the social structure, political structure, and the economic means of production and religious structure of Africa before the fifteenth century. He points out the developmental features with according to him indicate natural evolutionary process in these communities.

Rodney (1981, pp 2) postulates that underdevelopment makes sense as a means of comparing levels of development. It is much tied to the fact that human social development has an uneven and from a very strictly economic view point, some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming wealthier. The moment one group appears to be wealthier than others; some inquiry is bound to take place as to the reason of the difference. Rodney defines underdevelopment as an exploitation one country by another. All the countries named as underdeveloped in the world are exploited by others. Underdevelopment with which the world is now pre- occupied with is a product of capitalist, imperialist and colonialist exploitation. He observes that many underdeveloped countries in Africa and elsewhere are becoming more underdeveloped compared with the world’s great powers, because their exploitation is being intensified in new ways. For example, Zimbabwe’s...
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