Class and Economic Change in Kenya

The Making of an African Petite-Bourgeoisie

Gavin Kitching

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In twentieth-century Kenya a privileged category of African people developed, who were involved in skilled manual or white-collar jobs and who had interests in trade and business.  Gavin Kitching’s penetrating and substantial study relates the emergence of this “petite bourgeoisie” to a series of basic changes in the Kenyan economy since the growth of colonialism.  Peasant agriculture and pastoralism became increasingly geared to production for domestic and foreign markets; and changes in the sexual division of labor led to the greater subjugation of women—particularly in the poorest households—and to the emergence and stratification of a predominantly male African wage labor force.  Kitching shows that this growing inequality among African people was only one of a closely interlinked set of processes which transformed the political economy of colonial and post-colonial Kenya. 
This historical analysis is followed by a theoretical discussion of its implications for such issues as the mode of production operative in Kenya, the type of class analysis which is appropriate for the country, the role of the state in capital accumulation and class formation, and the possible relevance of Marxist value theory to the analysis of exploitation in Kenya.
This book sets new standards for the study of the process of “drift into dependency” and of the role of the state in the direction of a political economy.  It will be invaluable not only to Africanists but to all those involved in the study of the social, political, and economic structure of Third World countries. 

"An important contribution to the study of stratification in modern Africa. . . . Carefully researched, closely argued, and highly contentious."—John Iliffe, Journal of African History

"The book fills an important gap in the literature on Kenya's underdevelopment and will no doubt stimulate debate and further research."—Jan J. Jorgensen, Labour Capital and Society

"An impressively erudite work supportive of the position of Marxists who reject the Althusserian tradition. . . . Challenging and useful."—Richard Sandbrook, Labour Capital and Society

"A remarkable historical reconstruction of the development of commodity production in Kenya, an account which is informed by a subtle and imaginative grasp of theory throughout, prior to the explicitly theoretical analysis of the final part of the work. The latter in turn is rigorous and provocative. . . . Kitching has produced one of those rarities—a book that is a contribution to knowledge, and for this reason a model and a stimulus."—Henry Bernstein, The Journal of Development Studies

"A splendid achievement in its anatomy of economic change."—Crawford Young, Political Science Quarterly

"The most important book yet published on the modern history of Kenya. It is informed by an extremely sophisticated use of Marxist theory—and is indeed seen by the author primarily as a contribution to such theory. But it is also based on a careful reading of a great deal of th available empirical data of Kenya's smallholding agriculture and indigenous pastoralism."—John Lonsdale, African Affairs

"[Class and Economic Change in Kenya] covers more than the making of a petite bourgeoisie: indeed it is the most comprehensive study yet published of the African economy in Kenya."—M.P.K. Sorenson, American Historical Review

"This iconoclastic study of the Kenyan economy should be required reading for those scholars interested in economic change in the twentieth century. Gavin Kitching succeeds in documenting the transformation of Kenya from a relatively isolated area into a country that has become largely integrated into the modern world economy. . . . Class and Economic Change in Kenya is a brilliant achievement in analysis and documentation."—Paul E. Lovejoy, Business History Review

"A major contribution to modern African studies. It grapples with a host of large problems. . . . A formidable achievement."—Robert L. Tignor, The International Journal of African Historical Studies

"No short review can do justice to the range and complexity of this book. It is full of insights valuable for comparative studies elsewhere in Africa."—John M. MacKenzie, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"Provocative. . . . Kitching has produced an excellent piece of work both in the 'standard historiographical' sense and as a piece of Marxist theory."—William W. Hanssen, Africa Today

"This book is brilliant in its documentation and historical analysis of Kenyan society. It is useful for both Marxists and well as non-Marxists. All serious students of East African history must avail themselves of this valuable contribution."—Rukhsana A. Siddiqui, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Winner of the 1981 Herskovits Award from the African Studies Association
ISBN: 9780300023855
Publication Date: September 10, 1980
479 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4