Capitalism and the disintergration of precapitalist social formation: the case of cash crop production in the Matengo highlands 1885-1960

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University of Dar es Salaam
The objective of this study is to investigate the impact of commodity production on a pre-capitalist social formation, in a colonial situation. Specifically, it examines the incorporation of the Matengo people into cash crop production. This study has been prompted by the assumption that, the development of capitalist production retarded the development of local entrepreneurship and destroyed the self-sufficient nature of peasant production. Penetration of capitalism made precapitalist societies unable to meet their reproduction demands. This forced them to take up cash crop production. Increasingly, this became an economic necessity for peasant households. They became forced to participate in commodity production in order to meet their reconstitution. This study demonstrates that the introduction of cash crop production in Umatengo is not necessarily the result of spontaneous response by the Matengo to entrepreneurs. The study attempts to show how the development of commodity production in Umatengo is intertwined with the crisis of capital accumulation for the colonial metropolitan economy. This factor which is decisive in determining the form and content of commoditization in Matengo society. The study demonstrates that cash crop production initiated process of transition from precapitalist relations to colonial capitalist production relations. The incorporation and transformation of pre-capitalist societies varied from one society to another. It is therefore very important to examine concrete situations. The study demonstrates that the Matengo social formation was organized in collective clan based units. The economy was characterized by production for use with agriculture being the main activity. These pre-colonial structures were undermined as they were impacted upon by the development of commodity production during the colonial period. This gave rise to private property in the form of family based economic units, increasingly responding to cash nexus in their production system. This disintegration of the Matengo pre-capitalist social formation should be viewed within this context.
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Capitalism, Economic conditions, 1945-1990, History To 1964, Tanzania
Kapinga, M. O. (1993) Capitalism and the disintergration of precapitalist social formation: the case of cash crop production in the Matengo highlands 1885-1960, Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (