Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A Marxist for our times

Obituary: Samir Amin (1931-2018)

 

Samir Amin (photo: Randa Shaath)
Samir Amin (photo: Randa Shaath)
Al-Ahram Weekly

The death at 89 of the great Egyptian-French political theorist Samir Amin has echoed across the world. His loss was felt with particular intensity in the Third World, whose struggles he championed throughout his life, and in the country of his birth, Egypt.

The inventor of the term Eurocentrism, Amin was an original thinker and exemplar of Marxism. He championed the fight against the American-led unipolar world order and was an early and prescient critic of political Islam and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Imperialism,” Amin wrote, summing up his focus on the non-mathematical implications of historical materialism, “is precisely the amalgamation of the requirements and laws for the reproduction of capital; the social, national and international alliances that underlie them; and the political strategies employed by these alliances.”

Born in Cairo to a French mother and an Egyptian father, he grew up between Port Said and Cairo, where he earned a Baccalauréat before moving onto Paris in 1947. Amin studied political science and economics, joining the French Communist Party. But by the time he completed his PhD thesis in 1957, exactly 10 years after he left Egypt, he had expressed disillusionment with Soviet Marxism. His thesis explored the capitalist mechanisms that create underdeveloped economies, dividing the world into north and south.

Amin worked in Cairo and Bamako, Mali until 1963, when he joined the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), of which he became the director in 1970, moving to the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal 10 years later. He also taught in Paris, Poitiers and Dakar.

During his three-year stay in Cairo as a political economist under Gamal Abdel-Nasser (1957-1960), Amin worked in the Institution for Economic Management, a precursor to the Ministry of Planning. He did not leave until he was forced to by a clampdown on communists in 1960.

Amin’s numerous books include The Liberal Virus (2003), Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation (1997) and Accumulation on a World Scale (1970).

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