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Samir Amin: A Pioneering Marxist and Third World Activist

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JournalDevelopment and change
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Sep 2019
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Samir Amin was a towering figure of radical political economy - known globally, but particularly recognized and appreciated in Africa. When Amin passed away on August 12th, 2018, the outpouring of grief in the form of the plentiful obituaries was moving. Notable in the many obituaries was the consistent reference to Amin’s infectious commitment and energy. He was a socialist from an early age and was concerned with responding to and building emancipatory social movements throughout his life. This shone through in his research as well, which dealt with questions of persistent global inequalities and why capitalism’s penetration to the Third World led to economic polarization globally and underdevelopment in the periphery.

Few scholars oppose disciplinary conventions and boundaries the way that Samir Amin did. He was an economist, but he opposed the mainstream of the field. He was a Marxist, but he was deeply critical of many of his Marxist contemporaries. Though he coined the term Eurocentrism and thereby contributed in important ways to post-colonial literature, he did believe that there were universal material truths, such as the law of value. While he was unwavering in his independent beliefs about what was right, he was incredibly open and spent large parts of his life building inclusive and radical scholarly and activist communities that will live on after his passing. As will his theoretical contributions to the social sciences and humanities. When evaluating Amin’s legacy, it’s important to discuss his activism and intellectual contributions alongside each other. He achieved more than most activists and academics in both spheres, but the combination is what sets him apart.

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