Proletarians and African capitalism : the Kenyan case, 1960-1972


Proletarians and African capitalism : the Kenyan case, 1960-1972

Richard Sandbrook

(Perspectives on development, 4)

Cambridge University Press, 1975

  • : pbk

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"Digitally printed version 2008"-- T.p. verso of pbk

Includes bibliographical references and index



A study of the role of unionised workers in Kenya, this places the workers and their unions within the broad context of an evolving political economy. Similar studies, often restricted to a single trade union, have usually focused either on union-government relations or on internal union politics. This work is distinguished by its attempt to reveal the interrelation between these two facets of working-class life within a peculiar type of socio-economic environment - a predominantly peasant society governed by an elite committed to a capitalist economic strategy, closely associated with an 'external estate' of foreign interests, intertwined with local business concerns, and deeply involved in clientelist politics. Professor Sandbrook demonstrates that Frantz Fanon's sketch of the role of the unionised workers in an economically dependent former colony is largely correct in its application to Kenya. Top union leaders, drawn from the more privileged occupations, receiving relatively high rewards, and understandably apprehensive of the sanctions wielded by the ruling elite, have generally seen their role as obtaining a larger share of the economic pie for the workers within the capitalist political economy.


  • Part I. The economic, social and political context: 1. Workers, unions and dependent capitalism
  • 2. Labour policy in Kenya
  • Part II. The state and the internal organisation of unions: 3. The tendency toward oligarchy
  • 4. The persistence of internal conflict
  • 5 The bases of cleavage
  • Part III. Working-class action: 6. Unions and clientelist politics
  • 7. Militant economism (1)
  • 8 Militant economism (2)
  • 9. State control and worker protest.

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