Beyond Financialisation: The Need for a Longue Durée Understanding of Finance in Imperialism

Kai Koddenbrock, Ingrid Kvangraven, Ndongo Samba Sylla

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


One of the central premises of the literature on financialisation is that we have been living in a new era of capitalism, characterised by a historical shift in the finance-production nexus. Finance has begun to behave ‘abnormally’ towards production. It has expanded to a disproportionate economic size and, more importantly, has divorced from ‘legitimate’ economic pursuits. In this paper we explore these claims of ‘expansion’ and ‘divorce’. We argue that although there has been expansion of financial motives and practices the ‘divorce’ between the financial and the productive economy cannot be considered a new empirical phenomenon having occurred during the last decades and even less an epochal shift of the capitalist system. The neglect of the needs of a self-centered economy has been the ‘normal’ and structural operation of finance in most of the former European colonies in the Global South during the last 150 years. We provide evidence to that effect with a longue durée study of the finance-production nexus in Senegal and Ghana. A main result of our empirical exploration is that an understanding of the historical developments of finance under colonialism is key for understanding how capitalist finance works globally. Such a de-centered perspective requires however a serious engagement with the concept and logics of imperialism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2020


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