Organization of the concept[ edit ] Coloniality of power takes three forms: systems of hierarchies, systems of knowledge, and cultural systems. The important distinction in the concept of coloniality of power is the ways that this heterogeneous structural process shaped the modern world. While modernity is certainly a European phenomenon, it was forged through and is constitutive of what Enrique Dussel has called "the invention of the Americas," or the colonization of the Americas beginning in Quijano writes that the creation of race was a calculated creation by European and American colonialists.

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Nepantla: Views from South 1. The racial axis has a colonial origin and character, but it has proven to be more durable and stable than the colonialism in whose matrix it was established. Therefore, the model of power that is globally hegemonic today presupposes an element of coloniality. In what follows, my primary aim is to open up some of the theoretically necessary questions about the implications of coloniality of power regarding the history of Latin America.

The conquistadors assumed this idea as the constitutive, founding element of the relations of domination that the conquest imposed. On [End Page ] this basis, the population of America, and later the world, was classified within the new model of power. The other process was the constitution of a new structure of control of labor and its resources and products.

This new structure was an articulation of all historically known previous structures of control of labor, slavery, serfdom, small independent commodity production and reciprocity, together around and upon the basis of capital and the world market.

Perhaps it originated in reference to the phenotypic differences between conquerors and conquered. Social relations founded on the category of race produced new historical social identities in America—Indians, blacks, and mestizos—and redefined others. Terms such as Spanish and Portuguese, and much later European, which until then indicated only geographic origin or country of origin, acquired from then on a racial connotation in reference to the new identities.

Insofar as the social relations that were being configured were relations of domination, such identities were considered constitutive of the hierarchies, places, and corresponding social roles, and consequently of the model of colonial domination that was being imposed. In other words, race and racial identity were established as instruments of basic social classification. As time went by, the colonizers codified the phenotypic trait of the colonized as color, and they assumed it as the emblematic characteristic of racial category.

That category was probably initially established in the area of Anglo-America. There so-called blacks were not only the most important exploited group, since the principal part of the economy rested on their labor; they were, above all, the most important colonized race, since Indians were not part of that colonial society. After the colonization of America and the expansion of European colonialism to the rest of the world, the subsequent constitution of Europe as a new id-entity needed the elaboration of a Eurocentric perspective of knowledge, a theoretical perspective on the idea of race as a naturalization of colonial relations between Europeans [End Page ] and non-Europeans.

So the conquered and dominated peoples were situated in a natural position of inferiority and, as a result, their phenotypic traits as well as their cultural features were considered inferior. Capitalism, the New Structure for the Control of Labor In the historical process of the constitution of America, all forms of control and exploitation of labor and production, as well as the control of appropriation and distribution of products, revolved around the capital-salary relation and the world market.

These forms of labor control included slavery, serfdom, petty-commodity production, reciprocity, and wages. In such an assemblage, each form of labor control was no mere extension of its historical antecedents.

Thus they configured a new global model of labor control, and in turn a fundamental element of a new model of power to which they were historically structurally dependent. That is to say, the place and function, and therefore the historical movement, of all forms of labor as subordinated points of a totality belonged to the new model of power, in spite of their heterogeneous specific traits and their discontinuous relations with that totality.

In the third place, and as a consequence, each form of labor developed into new traits and historical-structural configurations. Insofar as that structure of control of labor, resources, and products consisted of the joint articulation of all the respective historically known forms, a global model of control of work was established for the first time in known history.

And while it was constituted around and in the service of capital, its configuration as a whole was established with a capitalist character as well. Thus emerged a new, original, and singular structure [End Page ] of relations of production in the historical experience of the world: world capitalism. Coloniality of Power and Global Capitalism The new historical identities produced around the foundation of the idea of race in the new global structure of the control of labor were associated with social roles and geohistorical places.

In this way, both race and the division of labor remained structurally linked and mutually reinforcing, in spite of the fact that neither of them were necessarily dependent on the other in order to exist or change. In this way, a systematic racial division of labor was imposed.

In the Hispanic region, the Crown of Castilla decided early on to end the enslavement of the Indians in order to prevent their total extermination. They were instead confined to serfdom. For those that lived in communities, the ancient practice of reciprocity—the exchange of labor force and labor without a market—was allowed as a way of reproducing its labor force as serfs.

In some cases, the Indian nobility, a reduced minority, was exempted from serfdom and received special treatment owing to their roles as intermediaries with the dominant race. They were also permitted to participate in some of the activities of the nonnoble Spanish. However, blacks were reduced to slavery. As the dominant race, Spanish and Portuguese whites could receive wages, be independent merchants, independent artisans, or independent farmers—in short, independent producers of commodities.

Nevertheless, only nobles could participate in the high-to-midrange positions in the military and civil colonial administration. Beginning in the eighteenth century, in Hispanic America an extensive and important social stratum of mestizos born of Spanish men and Indian women began to participate in the same offices and activities as nonnoble Iberians. But they were late in legitimizing their new roles, since their mothers were slaves. In the course of the worldwide expansion of colonial domination on the part of the same dominant race or, from the eighteenth century onward, Europeans , the same criteria of social classification were imposed on all of the world population.

As a result, new historical and social [End Page ] identities were produced: yellows and olives were added to whites, Indians, blacks, and mestizos. The racist distribution of new social identities was combined, as had been done so successfully in Anglo-America, with a racist distribution of labor and the forms of exploitation of colonial capitalism.

This was, above all, through a quasi-exclusive association of whiteness with wages and, of course, with the high-order positions in the colonial administration.

Thus each form of labor control was associated with a particular race. Consequently, the control of a specific form of labor could be, at the same time, the control of a specific group of dominated people.

Until now, this strategy has been exceptionally successful. Coloniality and the Eurocentrification of World Capitalism The privileged positions conquered by the dominant whites for the control of gold, silver, and other commodities produced by the unpaid labor of Indians, blacks, and mestizos coupled with an advantageous location in the slope of the Atlantic through which, necessarily, the traffic of these commodities for the world market had to pass granted whites a decisive advantage to compete for the control of worldwide commercial traffic.

The progressive monetization of the world market that the precious metals from America stimulated and allowed, as well as the control of such large resources, made possible the control of the vast preexisting web of commercial exchange that included, above all, China, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Syria—the future Far and Middle East.

The monetization of labor also made it possible to concentrate the control of commercial capital, labor, and means of production in the whole world market. The control of global commercial traffic by dominant groups headquartered in the Atlantic zones propelled in those places a new process of urbanization based on the expansion of commercial traffic between them, and, consequently, the formation of regional markets increasingly integrated and monetarized due to the flow of precious metals originating in America.

A historically new region was constituted as a new geocultural id-entity: Europe—more specifically, Western Europe. The hegemony of the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula was displaced toward the northwest Atlantic coast in the same historical moment. And in non-European regions, wage labor was concentrated almost exclusively among whites. Of course, the entire production of such a division of labor was articulated in a chain of transference of value and profits whose control corresponded to Western Europe.

There is nothing in the social relation of capital itself, or in the mechanisms of the world market in general, that implies the historical necessity of European concentration first either in Europe or elsewhere of waged labor and later over precisely the same base of the concentration of industrial production for more than two centuries. The explanation ought to lie, then, in some other aspect of history itself.

The vast genocide of the Indians in the first decades of colonization was not caused principally by the violence of the conquest nor by the plagues the conquistadors brought, but took place because so many American Indians were used as disposable manual labor and forced to work until death. The elimination of this colonial practice did not end until the defeat of the encomenderos in the middle of the sixteenth century.

The subsequent Iberian colonialism involved a new politics of population reorganization, a reorganization of the Indians and their relations with the colonizers. But this did not advance American Indians as free and waged laborers.

From then on, they were assigned the status of unpaid serfs. The serfdom of the American Indians could not, however, be compared with feudal serfdom in Europe, since it included neither the supposed protection of a feudal lord nor, necessarily, the possession of a piece of land to cultivate instead of wages. Before independence, the Indian labor force of serfs reproduced itself in the communities, but more than one hundred years after independence, a large part of the Indian serfs was still obliged to reproduce the labor force on its own.

The racial inferiority of the colonized implied that they were not worthy of wages. They were naturally obliged to work for the profit of their owners. It is not difficult to find, to this very day, this attitude spread out among the white property owners of any place in the world. The control of labor in the new model of global power was constituted thus, articulating all historical forms of labor control around the capitalist wage-labor relation.

This articulation was constitutively colonial, based on first the assignment of all forms of unpaid labor to colonial races originally American Indians, blacks, and, in a more complex way, mestizos in America and, later on, to the remaining colonized races in the rest of the world, olives and yellows.

Second, labor was controlled through the assignment of salaried labor to the colonizing whites. Coloniality of labor control determined the geographic distribution of each one of the integrated forms of labor control in global capitalism. In other words, it determined the social geography of capitalism: capital, as a social formation for control of wage labor, was the axis around which all remaining forms of labor control, resources, and products were articulated.

Through these measures, Europe and the European constituted themselves as the center of the capitalist world economy. The New Model of World Power and the New World Intersubjectivity As the center of global capitalism, Europe not only had control of the world market, but it was also able to impose its colonial dominance over all the regions and populations of the planet, incorporating them into its world-system and its specific model of power.

For such regions and populations, this model of power involved a process of historical reidentification; from Europe such regions and populations were attributed new geocultural identities. In that way, after America and Europe were established, Africa, Asia, and eventually Oceania followed suit. In the production of these new identities, the coloniality of the new model of power was, without a doubt, one of the most active determinations. But the forms and levels of political and cultural development, and more specifically intellectual development, played a role of utmost importance in each case.

The incorporation of such diverse and heterogeneous cultural histories into a single world dominated by Europe signified a cultural and intellectual intersubjective configuration equivalent to the articulation of all forms of labor control around capital, a configuration that established world capitalism.

In effect, all of the experiences, histories, resources, and cultural products ended up in one global cultural order revolving around European or Western hegemony. During that process, the colonizers exercised diverse operations that brought about the configuration of a new universe of intersubjective relations of domination between Europe and the Europeans and the rest of [End Page ] the regions and peoples of the world, to whom new geocultural identities were being attributed in that process.

In the first place, they expropriated the cultural discoveries of the colonized peoples most apt for the development of capitalism to the profit of the European center. Second, they repressed as much as possible the colonized forms of knowledge production, the models of the production of meaning, their symbolic universe, the model of expression and of objectification and subjectivity.

As is well known, repression in this field was most violent, profound, and long lasting among the Indians of Ibero-America, who were condemned to be an illiterate peasant subculture stripped of their objectified intellectual legacy. Something equivalent happened in Africa. Doubtless, the repression was much less intense in Asia, where an important part of the history of the intellectual written legacy has been preserved.

All of those turbulent processes involved a long period of the colonization of cognitive perspectives, modes of producing and giving meaning, the results of material existence, the imaginary, the universe of intersubjective relations with the world: in short, the culture. But in the case of Western Europe, that trait had a peculiar formulation and justification: the racial classification of the world population after the colonization of America. The association of colonial ethnocentrism and universal racial classification helps to explain why Europeans came to feel not only superior to all the other peoples of the world, but, in particular, naturally superior.

This historical instance is expressed through a mental operation of fundamental importance for the entire model of global power, but above all with respect to the intersubjective relations that were hegemonic, and especially for its perspective on knowledge: the Europeans generated a new temporal perspective of history and relocated the colonized population, along with their respective histories and cultures, in the past of a historical trajectory whose culmination was Europe Mignolo ; Blaut ; Lander Notably, however, they were not in the same line of continuity as the Europeans, but in another, [End Page ] naturally different category.

That perspective imagined modernity and rationality as exclusively European products and experiences. It would not be possible to explain the elaboration of Eurocentrism as the hegemonic perspective of knowledge otherwise. The Eurocentric version is based on two principal founding myths: first, the idea of the history of human civilization as a trajectory that departed from a state of nature and culminated in Europe; second, a view of the differences between Europe and non-Europe as natural racial differences and not consequences of a history of power.

Both myths can be unequivocally recognized in the foundations of evolutionism and dualism, two of the nuclear elements of Eurocentrism. The Question of Modernity I do not propose to enter here into a thorough discussion of the question of modernity and its Eurocentric version.

In particular, I will not lengthen this piece with a discussion of the modernity-postmodernity debate and its vast bibliography. But it is pertinent for the goals of this essay, especially for the following section, to raise some questions. But since they attribute the rest of the species to a category by nature inferior and consequently anterior, belonging to the past in the progress of the species, the Europeans imagine themselves as the exclusive bearers, creators, and protagonists of that modernity.


Coloniality of power






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