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Book Review: The Dialectics of Dependency by Ruy Mauro Marini

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Considered one of the most important intellectuals in Latin American social thought, Ruy Mauro Marini demonstrated that underdevelopment and development are the results of relations between economies in the world market and the class relations they engender.  In The Dialectics of Dependency, the Brazilian sociologist and revolutionary showed that, as Latin America came to specialize in producing raw materials and foodstuffs while importing manufactured goods, a process of unequal exchange took shape that created a transfer of value to the imperialist centres. This encouraged capitalists in the periphery to resort to the super-exploitation of workers – harsh working conditions where wages fall below what is needed to reproduce their labour power. In this way, the economies of Latin America, which played a fundamental role in facilitating a new phase of the industrial revolution in western Europe, passed from the colonial condition only to be rendered economically “dependent” or subordinated to imperialist economies. This unbalanced relationship, which nonetheless allows capitalists of both imperialist and dependent regions to profit, has been reproduced in successive international divisions of labour of the world economy and continues to inform the day-to-day life of Latin American workers and their struggles.

Written during an upsurge of class struggle in the region in the 1970s and published here in English for the first time, the revelations inscribed in this foundational essay are proving more relevant than ever. The Dialectics of Dependency is an internationalist contribution from one Latin American Marxist to dispossessed and oppressed people struggling the world over, and a gift to those who struggle from within the recesses of present-day imperialist centers—nourishing today’s efforts to think through the definition of “revolution” on a global scale.

What people are saying about The Dialectics of Dependency

In these times of monsters summoned by moribund capitalism and in these times of deepening inequalities across the continents, Ruy Mauro Marini returns to us in this book with his stiletto-sharp Marxist analysis of dependency. Having read this book and having debated its theories, you are obliged to go out there and advance the cause of humanity.

Vijay Prashad, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Ruy Mauro Marini (1932-97) probably was the most important founder of Marxist dependency theory. It is, therefore all the more curious that his most important essay, The Dialectics of Dependency, was published in many languages but never in English. Amanda Latimer, backed by Jaime Osorio, has now changed that. Not only has she translated the key text, but she also added an excellent essay on Marini’s intellectual biography, while Osorio’s essay introduces readers to the debates surrounding underdevelopment and revolution in Latin America of which Marini was a part. May this book be widely studied!

Marcel van der Linden, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

The Dialectics of Dependency is a classic work of Latin American social thought and an inspiration, even if its author, Ruy Mauro Marini, did not intend to produce a text with this end in mind. It is a text linked to a life of struggle and political formation inside and outside the academy. Almost 50 years after its appearance, the book’s theoretical, methodological, and political force calls for a careful re-reading in even darker times and for boldness in efforts to update it, in response to the dilemmas of our times. Ultimately, inequality, when it prevails, will either be overcome by socialist revolution or will tend, as we have seen, to intensify labour super-exploitation, whether in the centre (where it comes to be characterized by more exploitation) or the periphery (where it results in value transfers). In the twenty-first century, the plundering and super-exploitation of the workforce in Latin America and the Caribbean is still going strong in the everyday dynamics of the international division of labour (or, as Marini suggested, capitalism sui generis). The Dialectics of Dependency continues to inspire new generations to understand the theoretical elements that explain the unequal dynamics of international trade. It inspires us to think, with heads and feet bound to the social struggle, about the urgent need for revolutionary change. Analyzing history from the Latin American and Caribbean revolutions onwards and the continuous process of violence against nature and labour in the continent, it demarcates the essential role that this theoretical line of thought, which emerged from and for revolutionary action, can play today. This work represents an exceptional output linked to the life of an extraordinary subject. With the present translation, the English-speaking reader has in his or her hands an important key to explaining the inseparable relationship between imperialism and dependency. Welcome to the battle of ideas inherent to Latin America’s fertile struggles of the 1960s and 70s!

Roberta Traspadini, Professor in International Relations, Federal University of Latin American Integration (UNILA), Brazil

Translations are the first step towards building broad but unified anti-imperialist struggles in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. At long last we have an English translation of Ruy Mauro Marini’s seminal work The Dialectics of Dependency, contextualized brilliantly by Amanda Latimer and aided by Jamie Osorio’s “Notes on the Dialectics of Dependency.” As they navigate this book, which has been informed by a spirit of internationalism, readers may wish to ask: had the text been translated five decades ago, how might it have changed the course of debate on dependency, imperialism and neo-colonialism throughout the Third World? A ‘must read’ for Marxists and non-Marxists alike.

Radha D’Souza, Professor of Law, University of Westminster

Readers have had to wait for almost half a century for the publication in English of this groundbreaking text by the Brazilian social scientist Ruy Mauro Marini, revealing the North’s disregard for social scientists, particularly Marxists, from the South. I do not exaggerate when I say that this book has the potential to profoundly change our understanding of the South’s dialectical process of dependency on the North and of the capitalist development of the world system. Marini’s text makes a prominent contribution to Marxism as, by developing his Marxist theory of the sui generis dependent capitalism of the South, he also enriches the Marxist analysis of the past and present capitalist development of the North. The two editors, Latimer and Osorio, provide a most useful context to Marini’s essay: Osorio, the foremost expert on Marini’s work, by expanding aspects of the text’s somewhat abstract and synthetic character, by highlighting its contemporary relevance and by clarifying some misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Marini’s critics; and Latimer by analysing Marini’s life, work and leading involvement with the Latin American revolutionary politics of his time which forced him into exile from three different countries, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Cristóbal Kay, Emeritus Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Those of us focused on issues of development such as dependency and underdevelopment welcome this long overdue translation of Ruy Mauro Marini’s important theoretical contribution of a half-century ago. Its significance is enhanced by Amanda Latimer’s translation to English and deep historical contextualization and synthesis of Marini’s life, thought, and his influence within past and present progressive movements. Jaime Osorio contributes an insightful prologue on the relevance of the Marxist dependency theory and a postscript on capitalist development and the super-exploitation of labour.

Ronald H. Chilcote, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Riverside, and Managing Editor, Latin American Perspectives

The Dialectics of Dependency has become a classic of Latin American social thought because it addresses essential issues with an original approach and with a resonance that time has only confirmed.

Emir Sader, coordinator, Encyclopedia Latinoamericana, and author, Lula y la izquierda del siglo XXI, Brazil

The Dialectics of Dependency is a compelling contribution to the enduring struggle against imperialism over the past 500 years of capitalist development. Ruy Mauro Marini’s seminal work has advanced our knowledge of class struggle under conditions of super-exploitation and the imperialist forces which subjugate the global South. Amanda Latimer and Jaime Osorio bring Marini’s powerfully influential book to English readers. Essential book for understanding imperialism.

Immanuel Ness,  City University of New York

Ruy Mauro Marini was one of the originators of Marxist dependency theory. As a result of his activism, the Brazilian sociologist and revolutionary was forced into two decades of bitter exile in Chile and Mexico — and in the process, introduced such concepts as “super exploitation,” “subimperialism” to the revolutionary lexicon. After receiving amnesty in the early 1980s, Marini returned to his country of birth, dying in Rio de Janeiro in 1997. Amanda Latimer is a senior lecturer in Politics & International Relations at Kingston University, UK. Her research examines workers’ opposition to the neoliberal crisis of work and free trade agreements in Brazil.
Jaime Osorio is a Chilean social scientist who, alongside his colleague Marini, has resided in Mexico since the military coup of Augusto Pinochet and has continued to develop the Marxist Theory of Dependency ever since.FacebookTwitterPrintFriendlyRedditEmailShare

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Comments from our readers

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