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Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism$
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Onur Ulas Ince

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190637293

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190637293.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 May 2021

Letters from Sydney

Letters from Sydney

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Problem of Colonial Labor

(p.113) 4 Letters from Sydney
Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism

Onur Ulas Ince

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Wakefield’s political economic arguments and policy proposals for the colonial settlement of Australasia as a systematic solution to the demographic problems of overpopulation in Britain and underpopulation in Britain’s colonies. It is argued that Wakefield’s theory of “systematic colonization” aimed to protect the British capitalist civilization from social revolution at home and frontier barbarism in the colonies. Equating capitalist civilization with wage labor, Wakefield planned for the creation of a legally free yet structurally dependent colonial labor force. This would be achieved by imposing preemptive crown rights and artificially inflated prices on colonial lands, which would prevent poor emigrants from becoming landowners and force them to work for colonial capitalists. Cognizant of the illiberality of instituting colonial wage servitude by the imperial state, Wakefield fabricated a utilitarian myth of “contractual dispossession,” recasting systematic colonization and colonial proletarianization as the enforcement of an original “settler contract” among colonists.

Keywords:   Edward Gibbon Wakefield, liberalism, empire, settler colonialism, free labor, slavery, dispossession, systematic colonization, Australia, New Zealand

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