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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Evil Empire (Fall 2018) > The Welfare World

The Welfare World

Adom Getachew

IN 1972 THE SOCIALIST LEFT swept to power in Jamaica. Calling for the strengthening of workers’ rights, the nationalization of industries, and the expansion of the island’s welfare state, the People’s National Party (PNP), led by the charismatic Michael Manley, sought nothing less than to overturn the old order under which Jamaicans had long labored—first as enslaved, then indentured, then colonized, and only recently as politically free of Great Britain. Jamaica is a small island, but the ambition of the project was global in scale.

Two years before his election as prime minister, Manley took to the pages of Foreign Affairs to situate his democratic socialism within a novel account of international relations. While the largely North Atlantic readers of the magazine might have identified the fissures of the Cold War as the dominant conflict of their time, Manley argued otherwise. The “real battleground,” he declared, was located “in that largely tropical territory which was first the object of colonial exploitation, second, the focus of non-Caucasian nationalism and more latterly known as the underdeveloped and the developing world as it sought euphemismsfor its condition.” Manley displaced the Cold War’s East–West divide, instead drawing on a longstanding anti-colonial critique to look at the world along its North–South axis. When viewed from the “tropics,” the world was not bifurcated by ideology, but by a global economy whose origins lay in the project of European imperial expansion.

Imperialism, for Manley, was a form of not just political but economic domination through which territories such as Jamaica were “geared to produce not what was needed for themselves or for exchange for mutual advantage, but rather … compelled to be the producers of what others needed.” Between the 1940s and ’60s, the first generation of anti-colonial nationalists, including Norman Manley, Michael’s father, had largely liberated their countries from the political chains of empire by securing independence. Anti-colonial nationalists aspired to use their newfound sovereignty to transform the political and economic legacies of imperialism. As a member of the second generation of postwar nationalists, Manley viewed his election as an opportunity to realize this aspiration for postcolonial transformation. Given “the condition of a newly independent society encumbered with the economic, social and psychological consequences of three hundred years of colonialism,” Manley hoped his political program would secure “individual and collective self-reliance” as well as political and economic equality. His platform of democratic socialism for Jamaica inaugurated an ambitious project of land redistribution, state control of key industries, stronger rights for organized labor, worker ownership of industries, and the expansion of health care and education.

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About Boston Review

Paperback, 128 pages “All history,” writes Maximillian Alvarez in his contribution to this issue, “is the history of empire—a bid for control of that greatest expanse of territory, the past.” Evil Empire confronts these histories head-on, exploring the motivations, consequences, and surprising resiliency of empire and its narratives. Contributors grapple with the economic, technological, racial, and rhetorical elements of U.S. power and show how the effects are far-reaching and, in many ways, self-defeating. Drawing on a range of disciplines—from political science to science fiction—our authors approach the theme with imagination and urgency, animated by the desire to strengthen the fight for a better future. Featuring Nikhil Pal Singh, Arundhati Roy interviewed by Avni Sejpal, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Yuri Herrera translated by Lisa Dillman, Pankaj Mishra interviewed by Wajahat Ali, Frank Pasquale, Adom Getachew, Maximillian Alvarez, Jeanne Morefield, Michael Kimmage, Stuart Schrader, Marisol LeBrón, and Mark Bould.