Humankind Is One and Many
The age of European discovery and the progressively intense communication among the spaces and peoples of the earth that followed have always carried with them a real utopian element. But so much blood has been spilled, so many lives and cultures destroyed, that it seems much more urgent to denounce the barbarity and horror of western European (and then also U.S., Soviet, and Japanese) expansion and control over the globe. We think it important, however, not to forget the utopian tendencies that have always accompanied the progression toward globalization, even if these tendencies have continually been defeated by the powers of modern sovereignty. The love of differences and the belief in the universal freedom and equality of humanity proper to the revolutionary thought of Renaissance humanism reappear here on a global scale. This utopian element of globalization is what prevents us from simply falling back into particularism and isolationism in reaction to the totalizing forces of imperialism and racist domination, pushing us instead to forge a project of counterglobalization, counter-Empire. This utopian moment, however, has never been unambiguous. It is a tendency that constantly conflicts with sovereign order and domination. We see three exemplary expressions of this utopianism, in all its ambiguity, in the thought of Bartolom‚ de Las Casas, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Karl Marx.
In the first half-century after the European landing in the Americas at Hispaniola, Bartolom‚ de Las Casas witnessed with horror the barbarity of the conquistadores and colonists and their enslavement and genocide of the Amerindians. The majority of the Spanish military, administrators, and colonists, hungry for gold and power, saw the occupants of this new world as irrevocably Other, less than human, or at least naturally subordinate to Europeans-and Las Casas recounts for us how the newly arrived Europeans treated them worse than their animals. In this context it is a wonder that Las Casas, who was part of the Spanish mission, could separate himselfenough from the common stream of opinion to insist on the humanity of the Amerindians and contest the brutality of the Spanish rulers. His protest arises from one simple principle: humankind is one and equal.
One should recognize at the same time, however, that a missionary vocation is intrinsically linked to the humanitarian project of the good bishop of Chiapas. In fact, Las Casas can think equality only in terms of sameness. The Amerindians are equal to Europeans in nature only insofar as they are potentially European, or really potentially Christian: "The nature of men is the same and all are called by Christ in the same way." Las Casas cannot see beyond the Eurocentric view of the Americas, in which the highest generosity and charity would be bringing the Amerindians under the control and tutelage of the true religion and its culture. The natives are undeveloped potential Europeans. In this sense Las Casas belongs to a discourse that extends well into the twentieth century on the perfectibility of savages. For the Amerindians, just as for the Jews of sixteenth-century Spain, the path to freedom from persecution must pass first through Christian conversion. Las Casas is really not so far from the Inquisition. He recognizes that humankind is one, but cannot see that it is also simultaneously many.
More than two centuries after Las Casas, in the late eighteenth century, when Europe's domination over the Americas had changed form from conquest, massacre, and pillage to the more stable colonial structure of large-scale slave production and trade exclusives, a black slave named Toussaint L'Ouverture led the first successful independence struggle against modern slavery in the French colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti). Toussaint L'Ouverture breathed in the rhetoric of the French Revolution emanating from Paris in its pure form. If the French revolutionaries opposing the ancien r‚gime proclaimed the universal human right to "libert‚, egalit‚, et fraternit‚," Toussaint assumed that the blacks, mulattoes, and whites of the colony were also included under the broad umbrella of the rights of citizens. He took the victory over the feudal aristocracy and the exaltation of universal values in Europe to imply also the victory over the "race aristocracy" and the abolition of slavery. All will now be free citizens, equal brothers in the new French republic. The letters of Toussaint to French military and governmental leaders pursue the rhetoric of the revolution faultlessly to its logical conclusion and thereby reveal its hypocrisy. Perhaps naively or perhaps as a conscious political tactic, Toussaint demonstrates how the leaders of the revolution betray the principles they claim to hold most dear. In a report to the Directoire on 14 Brumaire an VI (November 5, 1797), Toussaint warned the French leaders that any return to slavery, any compromise of principles, would be impossible. A declaration of freedom is irreversible: "Do you think that men who have enjoyed the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched away? . . . But no, the same hand that has broken our chains will not enslave us anew. France will not revoke her principles, she will not withdraw from us the greatest of her benefits."
The proclamations of universal rights launched so confidently in Paris come back from Saint Domingue only to strike horror in the hearts of the French. In the voyage across the Atlantic, the universality of the ideals became more real and were put into practice. As Aim‚ C‚saire puts it, Toussaint L'Ouverture pushed the project forward across the terrain "that separates the only thought from concrete reality; right from its actualization; reason from its proper truth." Toussaint takes the Declaration of the Rights of Man to the letter and insists on its full translation into practice. The revolution under Toussaint does not seek liberation from European domination only to return to a lost African world or reestablish in isolation traditional forms of rule; Toussaint looks forward to the forms of liberty and equality newly made available in the increasingly interconnected world.
At times, however, Toussaint writes as if the very idea of freedom had been created by the French, and as if he and his insurgent companions were free only by the grace of Paris. This may be merely a rhetorical strategy of Toussaint's, an example of his ironic obsequiousness toward the French rulers; but certainly one should not think freedom to be a European idea. The slaves of Saint Domingue had revolted against their masters ever since their capture and forced immigration from Africa. They were not granted freedom but won it through bloody and tireless battle. Neither the desire for freedom nor its conquest originated in France, and the blacks of Saint Domingue did not need the Parisians to teach them to fight for it. What Toussaint does receive and make good use of is the specific rhetoric of the French revolutionaries that gives legitimate form to his quest for liberation. In the nineteenth century Karl Marx, like Las Casas and Toussaint L'Ouverture before him, recognized the utopian potential of the ever-increasing processes of global interaction and communication. Like Las Casas, Marx was horrified by the brutality of European conquest and exploitation. Capitalism was born in Europe through the blood and sweat of conquered and colonized non-European peoples: "The veiled slavery of the wage-labourers in Europe needed the unqualified slavery of the New World as its pedestal." Like Toussaint L'Ouverture, Marx recognized human freedom as a universal project to be realized through practice and from which no population should be excluded.
This global utopian vein in Marx is nonetheless ambiguous, perhaps even more so than in the other two cases, as we can see clearly from the series of articles he wrote for the New York Daily Tribune in 1853 on British rule in India. Marx's primary goal in these articles was to explain the debate going on at the time in the British Parliament over the status of the East India Company and situate the debate in the history of British colonial rule. Marx is of course quick to note the brutality of the introduction of British "civilization" into India and the havoc and suffering wrought by the rapacious greed of British capital and the British government. He immediately warns, however, in terms that bring us right back to the revolutionary face of the Renaissance, against simply reacting to the barbarity of the British by supporting blindly the status quo of Indian society. The village system that Marx understood to preexist the British colonial intrusion was nothing to be championed: "Sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness" the destruction and suffering caused by the British, "we must not forget that these idyllic village communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind, within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath the traditional rules depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies." Neither does the ruling structure of Indian princes deserve support, even in reaction to the British: "It is not a strange thing that the same men who denounce 'the barbarous splendors of the Crown and Aristocracy of England' are shedding tears at the downfall of Indian Nabobs, Rujahs, and Jagidars, the great majority of whom possess not even the prestige of antiquity, being generally usurpers of very recent date, set up by English intrigue." The colonial situation falls too easily into a choice between two bad alternatives: either submission to British capital and British rule or return to traditional Indian social structures and submission to Indian princes; either foreign domination or local domination. For Marx there must be another path that refuses both of these alternatives, a path of insubordination and freedom. In this sense, in creating the conditions of possibility for a new society, "whatever may have been the crimes of England, she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution." Capital can, in certain circumstances, be a force of Enlightenment. Like Toussaint, then, Marx saw no use in overthrowing foreign domination simply to restore some isolated and traditional form of oppression. The alternative must look forward to a new form of freedom, connected to the expansive networks of global exchange.
The only "alternative" path Marx can imagine, however, is that same path that European society has already traveled. Marx has no conception of the difference of Indian society, the different potentials it contains. He can thus see the Indian past only as vacant and static: "Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society." The claim that Indian society has no history means not that nothing has happened in India but that the course of events has been determined exclusively by external forces, while Indian society has remained passive, "unresisting and unchanging." Certainly Marx was limited by his scant knowledge of India's present and past. His lack of inf ormation, however, is not the point. The central issue is that Marx can conceive of history outside of Europe only as moving strictly along the path already traveled by Europe itself. "England has to fulfill a double mission in India," he wrote, "one destructive, the other regenerating-the annihilation of old Asiatic Society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia." India can progress only by being transformed into a Western society. All the world can move forward only by following the footsteps of Europe. Marx's Eurocentrism is in the end not so different from that of Las Casas.
The Crisis of Colonial Slavery
Although the utopian vein has continually surfaced in the historical process of the interconnection and intercommunication of the world in the modern period, it has nonetheless continually been suppressed militarily and ideologically by the forces of European domination. The primary result has been massacres on a scale never before imagined and the establishment of racial, political, and economic structures of European rule over the non-European world. The rise of European supremacy was driven in large part by the development and spread of capitalism, which fed Europe's seemingly insatiable thirst for wealth. The global expansion of capitalism, however, was neither a uniform nor a univocal process. In various regions and among different populations capitalism developed unevenly: it lurched forward, hesitated, and retreated according to a variety of diverse paths. One such circuitous path is traced by the history of large-scale colonial slave production in the Americas between the late seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, a history that is not precapitalist but rather within the complex and contradictory developments of capital.
Large-scale plantation production with slave labor was initiated in the Caribbean in the mid-seventeenth century by English and French planters who imported African slaves to fill the void left by the native peoples killed by European weapons and disease. By the end of the eighteenth century, the products of slave labor in the Americas constituted one third of the value of European commerce. European capitalism stood in a very ambiguous relation to this slave production in the Americas. One might reason logically, as many have, that since capitalism is based ideologically and materially on free labor, or really on the worker's ownership of his or her own labor power, capitalism must be antithetical to slave labor. From this perspective, colonial slavery would be seen as a preexisting form of production analogous to feudalism that capital succeeds gradually in overcoming. The capitalist ideology of freedom would in this case be an unalloyed force of Enlightenment.
Capital's relationship to colonial slavery, however, is in fact much more intimate and complex. First of all, even though capitalism's ideology is indeed antithetical to slavery, in practice capital nonetheless not only subsumed and reinforced existing slave production systems throughout the world but also created new systems of slavery on an unprecedented scale, particularly in the Americas. One might interpret capital's creation of slave systems as a kind of apprenticeship to capitalism, in which slavery would function as a transitional stage between the natural (that is, self-sufficient and isolated) economies that preexisted European intrusion and capitalism proper. Indeed, the scale and organization of the eighteenthcentury Caribbean plantations did foreshadow in certain respects the nineteenth-century European industrial plant. The slave production in the Americas and the African slave trade, however, were not merely or even predominantly a transition to capitalism. They were a relatively stable support, a pedestal of superexploitation on which European capitalism stood. There is no contradiction here: slave labor in the colonies made capitalism in Europe possible, and European capital had no interest in giving it up.
In the very same period when European powers constructed the bases of the slave economy across the Atlantic, there was also in Europe, principally in eastern but also in southern Europe, a refeudalization of the agrarian economy and thus a very strong tendency to block the mobility of labor and freeze the conditions of the labor market. Europe was thrown back into a second period of servitude. The point here is not simply to denounce the irrationality of the bourgeoisie, but to understand how slavery and servitude can be perfectly compatible with capitalist production, as mechanisms that limit the mobility of the labor force and block its movements. Slavery, servitude, and all the other guises of the coercive organization of labor-from coolieism in the pacific and peonage in Latin America to apartheid in South Africa-are all essential elements internal to the processes of capitalist development. In this period slavery and wage labor engaged each other as dance partners in the coordinated steps of capitalist development.
Certainly many noble and enlightened proponents of abolitionism in Europe and the Americas in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries argued against slavery on moral grounds. The abolitionist arguments had some real force, however, only when they served the interests of capital, for example, when they served to undercut the profits of a competitor's slave production. Even then, however, their force was quite limited. In fact, neither moral arguments at home nor calculations of profitability abroad could move European capital to dismantle the slave regimes. Only the revolt and revolution of slaves themselves could provide an adequate lever. Just as capital moves forward to restructure production and employ new technologies only as a response to the organized threat of worker antagonism, so too European capital would not relinquish slave production until the organized slaves posed a threat to their power and made that system of production untenable. In other words, slavery was not abandoned for economic reasons but rather overthrown by political forces. Political unrest did of course undercut the economic profitability of the system, but more important, the slaves in revolt came to constitute a real counterpower. The Haitian revolution was certainly the watershed in the modern history of slave revolt-and its specter circulated throughout the Americas in the early nineteenth century just as the specter of the October Revolution haunted European capitalism over a century later. One should not forget, however, that revolt and antagonism were a constant part of slavery throughout the Americas, from New York City to Bahia. The economy of slavery, like the economy of modernity itself, was an economy of crisis.
The claim that regimes of slavery and servitude are internal to capitalist production and development points toward the intimate relationship between the laboring subjects' desire to flee the relationship of command and capital's attempts to block the population within fixed territorial boundaries. Yann Moulier Boutang emphasizes the primacy of these lines of flight in the history of capitalist development:
An anonymous, collective, continuous, and uncontainable force of defection is what has driven the labor market toward freedom. This same force is what has obliged liberalism to produce the apology of free labor, the right to property, and open borders. It has also forced the bourgeois economists to establish models that immobilize labor, discipline it, and disregard the elements of uninterrupted flight. All of this has functioned to invent and reinvent a thousand forms of slavery. This ineluctable aspect of accumulation precedes the question of the proletarianization of the liberal era. It constructs the bases of the modern state.
The deterritorializing desire of the multitude is the motor that drives the entire process of capitalist development, and capital must constantly attempt to contain it.
The Production of Alterity
Colonialism and racial subordination function as a temporary solution to the crisis of European modernity, not only in economic and political terms, but also in terms of identity and culture. Colonialism constructs figures of alterity and manages their flows in what unfolds as a complex dialectical structure. The negative construction of non-European others is finally what founds and sustains European identity itself.
Colonial identity functions first of all through a Manichaean logic of exclusion. As Franz Fanon tells us, "The colonial world is a world cut in two." The colonized are excluded from European spaces not only in physical and territorial terms, and not only in terms of rights and privileges, but even in terms of thought and values. The colonized subject is constructed in the metropolitan imaginary as other, and thus, as far as possible, the colonized is cast outside the defining bases of European civilized values. (We can't reason with them; they can't control themselves; they don't respect the value of human life; they only understand violence.) Racial difference is a sort of black hole that can swallow up all the capacities for evil, barbarism, unrestrained sexuality, and so forth. The dark colonized subject thus seems at first obscure and mysterious in its otherness. This colonial construction of identities rests heavily on the fixity of the boundary between metropole and colony. The purity of the identities, in both biological and cultural senses, is of utmost importance, and maintenance of the boundary is cause for considerable anxiety. "All values, in fact," Fanon points out, "are irrevocably poisoned and diseased as soon as they are allowed in contact with the colonized race." The boundaries protecting this pure European space are continually under siege. Colonial law operates primarily around these boundaries, both in that it supports their exclusionary function and in that it applies differently to the subjects on the two sides of the divide. Apartheid is simply one form, perhaps the emblematic form, of the compartmentalization of the colonial world.
The barriers that divide the colonial world are not simply erected on natural boundaries, even though there are almost always physical markers that help naturalize the division. Alterity is not given but produced. This premise is the common point of departure for a wide range of research that has emerged in recent decades, including notably Edward's Said's seminal book: "I have begun with the assumption that the Orient is not an inert fact of nature . . . that the Orient was created-or, as I call it, 'Orientalized.'" Orientalism is not simply a scholarly project to gain more accurate knowledge of a real object, the Orient, but rather a discourse that creates its own object in the unfolding of the discourse itself. The two primary characteristics of this Orientalist project are its homogenization of the Orient from Maghreb to India (Orientals everywhere are all nearly the same) and its essentialization (the Orient and the Oriental character are timeless and unchanging identities). The result, as Said points out, is not the Orient as it is, an empirical object, but the Orient as it has been Orientalized, an object of European discourse. The Orient, then, at least as we know it through Orientalism, is a creation of discourse, made in Europe and exported back to the Orient. The representation is at once a form of creation and a form of exclusion.
Among the academic disciplines involved in this cultural production of alterity, anthropology was perhaps the most important rubric under which the native other was imported to and exported from Europe. From the real differences of non-European peoples, nineteenth-century anthropologists constructed an other being of a different nature; differential cultural and physical traits were construed as the essence of the African, the Arab, the Aboriginal, and so forth. When colonial expansion was at its peak and European powers were engaged in the scramble for Africa, anthropology and the study of non-European peoples became not only a scholarly endeavor but also a broad field for public instruction. The other was imported to Europe-in natural history museums, public exhibitions of primitive peoples, and so forth-and thus made increasingly available for the popular imaginary. In both its scholarly and its popular forms, nineteenth-century anthropology presented non-European subjects and cultures as undeveloped versions of Europeans and their civilization: they were signs of primitiveness that represented stages on the road to European civilization. The diachronic stages of humanity's evolution toward civilization were thus conceived as present synchronically in the various primitive peoples and cultures spread across the globe. The anthropological presentation of non-European others within this evolutionary theory of civilizations served to confirm and validate the eminent position of Europeans and thereby legitimate the colonialist project as a whole.