A Postcolonial Theory of Value: Broadening Economic Scholarship Through Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation

By David L. Myers
2020, Vol. 12 No. 11 | pg. 1/1


This work aims to integrate postcolonial scholarship into some basic theoretical foundations of a mainstream economic curriculum. Noting the insufficiencies of neoclassical economics to deal with problems of cultural difference and priority, the work offers a basic critique of economics and its aspirations for universal applicability. It does this by building upon existing postcolonial critiques of economics as a social science and focuses specifically on economic notions of value. Using postcolonial and anthropological scholarship, it sketches out a broader, more inclusive theory of value than traditional Marxist and Utilitarian value theories. Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation uses a dualistic framework foregrounded in a social ontology of power and agency. Through the works of Syed Hussein Alatas, Marshall Sahlins, Homi Bhabha, and Partha Chatterjee, the reaches and limitations of Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation are explored. This work and Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation offers new avenues for economic theorizing in conjunction with cultural studies and urges further theorizing on the links between economic and cultural theory.


Significant work has been brought to the forefront of the Anglo-European world with issues concerning colonialism as well as postcolonial development. It is in the vein of those scholars who contributed heavily to exposing the faultiness of European generalizations of humanity and how those judgements were situated in a nexus of global power that this paper finds itself in. More specifically, it aims to target an issue that finds itself drawing from the interdisciplinary intersections of Economics, Anthropology, and Cultural Theory as it pertains to the concept of value. This paper aims to advance an argument that the colonial process across the globe followed a general pattern of coercive homogenization that penetrated pre-colonial societies and shifted their value orientation to partially or completely conform to European cultural values; I call this process Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation (DMV). I conclude by considering the philosophical implications of DMV on a developing postcolonial economics as well as further commentary on some of the central aspects of DMV.

Economic Theories of Value and Modernity

In the history of economic thought, there have been two prominent theories of value: the Labor Theory of Value and the Utilitarian Theory of Value. The Labor Theory of Value postulates that economic value arises from the labor necessarily required to produce the object.1 The discipline of economics reorganized itself following Marxist criticism and the Labor Theory of Value gave way to the Utilitarian Theory in mainstream discourse. The Utilitarian Theory of Value is premised on rational choice theory and a flattening of the individual. Value is measured in how much satisfaction an action, good, etc. can give to a rational consumer; this is what is taught in most economics curriculums and is central to neoclassical modeling. All individuals are said to have ‘Utility functions’ that measure the relativity of value across sets of market goods. Furthermore, the demand and supply curve in market models are constructed with the idea in mind that individuals acquire goods when considering the marginal gains of utility. This theory of value fundamentally holds all humans as operating on the same logic of utility maximization; this type of transcendental claim, as we shall see, falls into a culturally specific and historically contingent way of carving up the world.

With the advent of the Enlightenment and triumph of scientific rationality, one central tendency of modernity has been the universalization and totalization of humans across cultures on Western ontological grounding and classificatory systems. In particular, it is the Cartesian individual and its placement outside the ties of culture and history that finds itself as the central locus of Utilitarian Value Theory and subsequently Economics as a scientific discipline. Nitasha Kaul is instructional here; she writes,

The economic ‘subject’ of this unlocated analysis is a self-transparent unembodied and unembedded amoral utility maximizer propped up by Cartesian dualisms and interested narratives of Enlightenment reason. The ‘method’ of accessing valid disciplinary (and disciplined) economic narrative of the subject is mathematical formalism, heroic role of assumptions in a theory deductive nomological explanation, operation of an extremum principle and so on.2

The aim of economics (and its theory of value) is formulating the Cartesian individual in a purely scientific light that seeks to establish its claims as universally true and verifiable by positive analysis and intuitive normalization. The area of contestation for Kaul and I is the central focal point of rationality as a universalizing scientific principle for economic analysis. The invariance of rational preferences in the Utilitarian theory of value makes possible the mathematical formalization essential for the construction of utility functions (and other neoclassical economic modeling tools). Economics asks us to analyze economic activity without asking us who it is we are analyzing, where the subject of analysis is historically and culturally situated, and other factors that do not lend itself to neat formalized models. Again, Kaul poignantly points to the issues that economic theory suppresses:

This…formalization as the core of economic theory leaves unchallenged the underlying issues of universalism and modernist stereotypy that form the operational basis of mainstream economic methods. And it is not only formalism which requires that identity be a matter of universal essences. The particularities of inalienably situated historical contexts within which the ‘economic’ is experienced are simplified into general and universal denominations.3

We are forced to ask how a purely positivistic and intuitive science can develop out of an analysis of the individual, yet in the same stroke ignore the various aspects of the human condition that are essential renderings of understanding particular individuals? The answer to this question is that it cannot and that the ontological grounding that neoclassical economics and subsequently the Utilitarian Theory of Value cannot be used in an economic inquiry concerned with empirical reality and the social complexes that form it. If the Utilitarian Theory of Value fails to obtain when considered in tandem with the socio-cultural nexuses that operate on the individual, we are left to develop an alternative theory of value; one that does not universalize, but instead focuses on the contextual elements that hold influence over people. I begin to develop one such contextualized theory of valuation in the following sections of this paper, however, let this not be a flattening and pegging of value to abstract numerical continuum as represented in economics literature. I intend this theory of value (or valuation properly) to exist and interact with various others that escape its domain.

Value/Values Connection and the Formulation of Disciplinary Valuation

The notion of DMV that I seek to develop in this paper hold a great debt to Nitasha Kaul’s discussion concerning conceptions of value/values. Furthermore, it draws significant influence from the disciplinary effects of developmental ideology that springs out of macroeconomic thought. Finally, it articulates its link to mimesis via Homi Bhabha. Kaul starts developing this connection first by examining Samuel Bailey’s critique on the Labor Theory of Value in classical political economy. In Baily, Kaul finds the core of Bailey’s argument focused specifically against the fixing of value as something nvariable. Kaul cites Baily critiquing James Mill’s notion that wine which sets in a basement for a year gains value through labor. For Bailey, Kaul notes that, “the only accumulation having occurred in this case was an arithmetical, not an actual one.”4 She further finds in Baily a reaffirmation of the milieu of factors that exerts itself on the mind when considering the value of a given object. In recognizing the variety of influences that operate on the mind in the question of value, she sees a connection to what she terms as valu-ation. She writes:

In my reading, this sense of value is amenable to admitting the processual considerations of valu-ation, and need not necessarily be something that applies only to commodities. Value can be aligned to values – worthy of espousing – and, since the subjective dimension of value and values is acknowledged, it allows for admitting the politicized nature of the contest for values.5

This, more or less, gives the theoretical base that gives rise to DMV; it fundamentally recognizes that the notion of value extends far beyond pegging it to an invariance principle, but instead recognizes that other “non-economic” forces play a role in the process. Furthermore, it explicitly recognizes the contested nature of values which is a necessary precondition for any disciplining and mimesis to occur. Thus, the notion of valuation in DMV is lifted directly from Kaul’s work and the concept of valuation necessarily invites inter-disciplinary commentary given the incommensurability of value not located on an abstract invariance principle. Instead of value arising out of an invariance (labor or utility) it instead is subject to a wide variety of considerations that may not explicitly be “economic” in nature. For example, when I consider the value of a pen, its value does not merely arise out of satisfaction it gives me, but rather there’s a whole variety of psycho-cultural factors playing in my mind when I come to that decision. The pen might have been given to me by someone close and because the community I was socialized in values friendships a certain way, I may extract from it an additional type of value like sentimental value. In this way, valuation precedes any claim to the utility of a good and, instead, value becomes realized through a complex interrelation of social, individual, and cultural pressures. These pressures ultimately push us to explore disciplinarity.

Next, the idea of economic development presents in itself a teleological narrative sourced in an imaginative rendering of universal progress. The developmental ideology itself can be said to stem directly from the civilizing mission posited by colonial actors. The civilizing mission is premised on a singular distinction: that the European societies are superior to non-European societies. Such a distinction was carried out through a variety of methods either through race, religion, cultural prejudice, etc. Hence, the civilizing mission can be characterized as the European compulsion to “uplift” the “wild and barbarian peoples.”6 Its teleological ends derive explicitly from resolving the contradictions of the universalist principles of the liberal Enlightenment and the racial and ethnic markers (or any other essentialist rendering of difference) of colonial difference that justified brutal repression. Thus, colonial policy often admitted inconsistency and contradiction.7 In the so-called decolonized world, the functional goal of assimilative pressures is supported by the imposition of development as the fundamental ends of the decolonized society. Development in economics can be analyzed through numerical metrics and indexes like those concerning gross domestic product, unemployment, productivity, stability, etc. Now, it’s not merely the improvement of these metrics that specifically disciplines, but rather their relation to the prescriptive measures taken to raise such levels. Much like Baptism and Christianity were seen as prescriptions to civilize and assimilate colonized peoples, the dominance of the Washington Consensus, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank and the liberalization they propose can be seen as providing the essential prescriptions of development even if such policies prove counter-intuitive to national interest. Eiman O. Zein Elabdin and S. Charusheela frame the centralization of development in Economics:

As a discipline, it has upheld the narrative of ‘development’ as the center piece of its theoretical construction of formerly colonized regions, presuming the ontological precedence of modern European societies as a basis for its theory of history…As Feyerabend put it, the discourse on development in effect renders patterns of life outside the (Western) industrial world a mistake.8

This basis of development on the European model finds its support in the active constraint of alternative developmental methods by institutions and the operational logic of international institutions. For example, a significant portion of Francophone Africa finds itself tethered to the paternalistic monetary union that ties national currency to the French Franc. The need to defend the convertibility peg actively constrains macroeconomic stimulus policy; it sets a hard limit (approximately these countries must keep 65% of currency reserves in the French Central Bank) on fiscal and monetary policy in the African countries.9 To overspend under the regime of the currency peg is to devalue one’s currency and subsequently contribute to vast inflationary pressure. Even more evidence to this are the numerous conditional lending programs sponsored by the IMF and the World Bank which provide aid under the condition that a set of prescriptive policies perform. Hence, I derive the disciplinary aspect of DMV; it sits in the uncomfortable intersections of disciplinary power and bio-power best resembling the norm that operates, much like the economic theories of value, on a point of invariance for it, “introduces, as a useful imperative and as a result of measurement, all shading of individual differences.”10 It is disciplinary in the sense that it seeks to meld individuals to a certain cultural point of being and touched with bio-power as this is a strategy not employed at any single individual, but entire cultural groups via civilizing ‘x’ group or developing ‘y’ country.

Lastly, the mimetic derives from Bhabha’s reflection on mimicry and in many ways this theory can be seen as drawing out some of the necessary elements of mimesis. Mimicry, more or less, is the performative adoption of specific cultural values from the colonizing culture. In defining mimicry, Bhabha puts up an important limiting factor for such an act, “almost the same, but not quite.11 Given the historicity, the distinctions and limiting factors that constitute colonial power, and the agency and ties of the colonized individual, the assimilative drive of DMV is never fully complete, one does not mesh themselves completely into the culture of the dominator and lose themselves completely. DMV portrays a partial mode of mimicry, but never a complete homogenization and unity of the colonized and colonizer. From this observation though, I must distinguish between myself and Bhabha. While I am indebted to his reflection on the phenomena, the mimesis I describe does not touch on the disruptive factors to colonial power that Bhabha points to. Rather, my interest is to what degree the cultural values of the colonizer were the object of imitation and assimilation as this is a work concerned with a specific historical socio-economic process. A more detailed discussion on Bhabha’s work will follow as I draw out DMV.

Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation is, in the historical empirics of this analysis, the process in which European colonial states sought to assimilate (or “civilize”) the people it colonized into its universalist cultural value schema and the extent to which the colonized people attempted to assimilate into or mimic such. In the more general sense, it can be attributed to any power that seeks to assimilate another society into its socio-cultural schema by coercive force insofar as someone seeks to apply these principles to imperialist phenomena escaping European colonialism proper. Thus, in the thrust of developing extractive colonial economies and building administrative systems to impose those desires, we have the foreground for DMV in action. What will follow throughout the rest of this work is understanding the ways DMV has played out in specific analyses. Since it has a fundamental historical character, each incidence observed will have its proper contextual elements that provide unique aspects to the phenomena of Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation. Furthermore, before any serious analysis begins, DMV is situated specifically and does not occur uniformly or simultaneously; it is fractional and the effects are prone to conflicts of that nature.

Disciplinary-Mimetic Valuation: Cultural and Economic Homogenization in Action

Syed Hussein Alatas starts us off in describing the starting point of this valuation, he points to a significant causal reason in the homogenization of cultural values to European colonizers.12 It develops from, what he considers, the fundamental source for orientalist mischaracterizations of Malays: their unwillingness to engage in colonial capitalism. Alatas writes of the diminished attribution to natives, “Any type of labour which did not conform to this conception (capitalist timed labour) was rejected as a deviation. A community which did not enthusiastically and willingly adopt this conception of labour was regarded as indolent.”13 From this passage, we see the attributing of a negative image to function as a disciplinary tool. First, we establish the point of invariance, the norm so to speak (A specific labor relation) Alatas points us to. Next, we note the difference in empirical adherence: the Dutch and English adhere to this type of labor, but the Native does not. There next needs to be an explanation as to why this differential exists; we are left to question the moment and conditions of observation. Alatas does this for us as we are to recognize the material elements concerning Malay society, namely commercialized agriculture, “The root cause of this image was the Malays’ reaction to cash-crop agriculture and to working in colonial capitalist estates and plantations. They avoided the most exploitative kind of labour in 19th century colonial capitalist undertakings.”14 Hence, there exists an industry in want of labor and a people unwilling to become subservient to it. The explanation for the differences, given proper context, is rooted in the satiation of economic processes in which a specific set of disciplined labor is necessary. The characterization of Malays from European observers becomes centered around labor, Malays become “indolent and lazy,” as opposed to “industrious.”15 We see here a disciplinary tool in action, one aimed specifically at convincing the European reader of the inferiority of the native while also complementing the civilizing mission. We learn from this distinction that there are preliminary necessities for DMV to occur. First, there must be a difference imbued with power differentials. Second, there requires in the dominating party a belief in their supposed superiority explicitly or implicitly held. Alatas connects the image of the lazy Malay as an integral functionary in colonial ideology.16 Much to the same, DMV draws on a supporting ideology of superiority/inferiority of peoples.

While Alatas points us to the proper requirements for the occurrence of DMV, we find its empirical implementation exploiting fractures in colonized societies existing in the works of Anthropologist Marshal Sahlins. Sahlins, in his analysis, is concerned predominantly with what he terms a structure of conjuncture or the reproduction of a culture that also transforms it and reinscribes new values to old cultural categories.17 Sahlins sketches out a portrait of Hawaiian society organized around mana. Mana can roughly be described as power typically supernatural that legitimizes the right to rule. Sahlins himself describes mana in several different ways. When describing pre-colonial mana, Sahlins writes that it was won from the great feat of the chiefs, “The mana of the chiefly heros is extraordinary, but more appropriate to a human sphere than were the supernatural gifts of their predecessors. The chiefs win success by their subtlety, courage, skill and strength.”18 Sahlins gives another description of mana saying, “mana is the creative power Hawaiians describe as making visible what is invisible, causing things to be seen, which is the same as making them known or giving them form.”19 From this, we can see a high prioritization for the acquisition and accumulation of mana.

Now, Sahlins describes the receiving of Europeans on Hawaiians own cultural terms and through their adjustment and adaptation of their cultural schema. Following the thread on mana, European goods and people were considered to possess considerable mana and was used for appropriation to reinforce or disrupt precolonial structures prevalent within Hawaiian society. For example, the killing of Captain Cook represents the appropriation of mana and the interrelation of it to Englishness:

Through the appropriation of Cook’s bones, the mana of the Hawaiian kingship itself became British. And long after the English as men lost their godliness, the Hawaiian gods kept their Englishness. Moreover, the effect was to give the British a presence in Hawaiian affairs that was all out of proportion to their actual presence in Hawaiian waters, since they were rapidly displaced in the sandalwood trade by the Americans.20

From this we can see the mimetic effects quite clearly, while retaining their own conceptual and cosmological categories, they begin to be partially adopted by the Hawaiians. Interestingly enough, Sahlins makes note of the economic withdrawal of British in the area, yet the presence of their cultural influence prevails despite the waning of hard British power. The disciplinary aspects, instead, become enforced by the own cosmological categories of the Hawaiians themselves and give way to the fractious exploitation of DMV. First, it did so by legitimizing Kamehameha’s conquest of the Hawaiian Islands and his European policy of friendship with the British; Sahlins writes:

Yet the means…by which the great Kamehameha turned that commerce into practical account was his own special relation to British power…Transmitted through the bones of Captain Cook, Kamehameha’s special relation to European mana gave him enough of it, in the forms of guns, ships and resident advisors, to conquer the islands.21

Further, the chiefs even started to act and imitate the British themselves as a means of perpetuating and reinforcing their social dominance from their subjects. Clothing was of particular importance:

The Hawaiian chiefs seized upon the European distinctions between ‘plain’ and ‘fancy’ cloth to mark their own distance from the common people…European mana in the form of domestic possessions now replaced military supplies as the principal means of aristocratic competition.22

Conversely, European interaction with the Hawaiians also led to conflict between the chiefs and the commoners. First, the commoners themselves had competing economic interests that ran converse to chiefly tabus on trade.23 Commoners had explicit interest in the accumulation of European mana observable in the exchange of sexual labor of the natives for European goods. Even in open hostility following Cook’s death, these relations still held in secrecy. In short, Sahlins summarizes the fractious effect of European contact on Hawaiian society; he writes:

The respective relations of chiefs and people to the European presence thus set them in practical opposition to one another. The complex exchanges that developed between Hawaiians and Europeans…brought the former into uncharacteristic conditions of internal conflict and contradiction.24

Sahlins portrays the structure of conjuncture though not as an assimilative or mimetic experience, but one in which the Hawaiian social order appropriates these interactions to reassert and recast itself. I depart from this conjecture only insofar as the recasting and resetting of the Hawaiian social ordering produced mimetic effects, namely in the chiefdom, of European cultural distinctions. I emphasize heavily that the mimetic effects themselves are not all-consuming or even prominent at the early stages of colonial contact, but are ultimately partial. The stipulation that Europeans had superior mana and the dependencies those created established the base means for DMV’s internal logic to take root. Discipliniarity itself started in repositioning and fracturing of Hawaiian power and its social order.

Bhabha’s conception of hybridity may help us elucidate further how cultural mimesis in DMV works. Bhabha holds that postcolonial subjects exist at the “in-between” or “splitting” of cultural consciousness that inevitably places the colonized subject in a state of hybridity by creating a unique space of enunciation, “The social articulation of difference, from the minority perspective, is a complex, on-going negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation.”25 What these postcolonial hybridities necessitate is some degree of mimicry for them to be constituted as a hybridized entity otherwise the very notion of a hybridized postcolonial identity fails to obtain. Mimicry, for Bhabha, creates an alternative knowledge or viewpoint within the cultural schema that simultaneously threatens its relation to truth concerning colonial images. Bhabha writes, “It is the process of fixation of the colonial as a form of cross-classificatory, discriminatory knowledge within an interdictory discourse and therefore necessarily raises the question of the authorization of colonial representation.”26 Hence, Bhabha sees in mimicry a way of undermining and de-authorizing negative colonial images and there is some truth in this. Insofar as DMV operates though, its mimesis first signals a capitulation and perhaps one that is unavoidable of the precolonial consciousness. I read Bhabha’s conception of mimicry as starting from an initial departure and transformation (although not necessarily self-conscious as Sahlins’s analysis of the Hawaiians shows) of the precolonial culture to become more amenable to the dominating one.

If Sahlins points to the early and fractious implementation of DMV, Chatterjee draws it out in more substantial and concrete terms when he describes the nationalist response to British occupation: a necessary privacy of the inner or spiritual domain of culture and the homogenization of the outer domain.27 Chatterjee’s analysis of Indian Nationalism points us to understanding DMV as it operates in nationalist contestation; disciplining the outer presentation while never quite penetrating the privacy of the spiritual domain. To understand the proper context in which Chatterjee introduces these concepts, we need to understand that Chatterjee postulates an idea of colonial difference that operates quite agreeably with the characterization of the civilizing mission and Alatas’ observations. Chatterjee covers some debates among British intellectuals and colonial administrators in relation to liberal and conservative colonial policy as they perceive colonial difference. Prior to the development of Hindu nationalism, India was subjected to the Rule of Colonial Difference which set race as its distinguishing marker.28 Such rule justified the conservative tendency to perceive the British colonial subjects as incapable of self-rule while simultaneously throwing the universalist claims of British liberalism into question. If the colonized subjects of the British Empire are incapable of self-rule based on differences according to race, the universalist mission of juridical liberal rights, equal protection under the law, and property come into direct conflict with the realities of colonial rule and discourse. Chatterjee himself makes note of this when considering Ripon’s failure in the Ilbert Bill affair, “What his ‘failure’ signaled was the inherent impossibility of completing the project of the modern state without superseding the conditions of colonial rule.”29 The immediate tension being, again, the so-called applicability of universalist values confronted with the epistemic and material alienation of the colonized and the discursive justification for their occupation. For colonized India, this meant adopting some of the material habits that fall into line with an enlightened, liberal criteria of humanity.

Hence, for the modern state to succeed in its mission, it needed to grant the conditions that fundamentally led to the disavowal of colonial rule itself. There needs to be some degree of mimetic or assimilative adjustment in the colonized culture to give way to the modern state. For Chatterjee, This begins with the spiritual and material modernization of the Indian national consciousness; this is also where we can find the machinations of DMV. It is most obvious in the material domain which Chatterjee distinguishes as, “the domain of law, administration, economy, and statecraft.” The homogenization and erasure of difference in this domain of culture shows the ascription of the administrative, legal, and economic aspects of Indian society into the teleological cultural schema of the Enlightenment. The modernization of the Indian state becomes pegged to abstract European notions of progress and development. We see in the material realm the purest form of DMV as the Indian economy begins to resemble Europe in administrative structure and economy. Chatterjee writes:

In this, it seemed to be reasserting precisely the claims to universality of the modern regime of power. And in the end, by successfully terminating the life of the colonial state, nationalism demonstrated that the project…could be carried forward only by superseding the conditions of colonial rule.30

Disciplinarity becomes melded with the conditionality of political decolonization and independence; it is a necessary precondition that the Indian population mimic, in some respect, British materiality.

If in the outer domain, we can see the adoption of British material values, The Inner-Domain (language, religion, family and personal life) represents the exemplification of the partiality of mimesis. In the inner-domain, the nationalistic India posits the alternative knowledge that Bhabha gives, it creates a conception of Indian-ness as a legalistic and political equal once independence is achieved. However, these inner-distinctions themselves do not completely escape the influence of disciplinarity either through modular forms of expression (like the novel) or through institutional arrangements like the university system. More explicitly, we can see the effect of DMV reproducing the same class distinctions in post-colonial states that, although not exclusively occupied by a nationalistic middle class, lends itself to their expression by way of material domination. Chatterjee demonstrates this explicitly with his analysis on Bankim’s nationalism; he writes on the prospect of Bankim’s consideration of a true Bengali history, “The historical consciousness he is seeking to invoke is in no way an ‘indigenous’ consciousness’ because the preferred discursive form of his historiography is modern European.”31 Coupled with Bankim’s antipathy for Muslims and their representation of India, we can see mimesis and acculturative practices touching the inner aspect of nationalistic consciousness; the modular and methodological forms of transmission were instrumental at this point of contact. Nationalistic histories tended to perpetuate the exclusive aspects that were articulated by colonial difference and impose them on other colonized peoples. While one may make note of historical antagonisms prior to colonization between Muslims and Hindu peoples, this does not draw away from the mimetic representations and othering of Muslim populations in nationalistic imaginations. In particular, the othering of the Muslim is complementary with western orientalist renderings of Islam in general; Islam is portrayed as a functionary of stagnation and is given a “medieval” characterization in the nationalistic consciousness. Muslims become, “fanatical, bigoted, warlike, dissolute, and cruel.”32 Hence, DMV can also lead to the articulation of negative images shared in common with the dominating power. It is important to note that the mimesis of Bhabha draws heavily from his concept of cultural hybridization that is antithetical to nationalism itself; it is another distinction I draw from what I interpret as mimicry. Overall though, while partiality is given, the inner domain of culture is not entirely immune from DMV’s influence.

Nothing gives a more explicit portrayal of the intersections of mimesis and coercion than the first chapter of Black Skin, White Masks. Fanon portrays such a process as it inheres on the Black colonized subject and France and points explicitly to the opportunities it allows for individuals suffering under colonial occupation. In this particular occurrence, we can see Bhabha’s postulation of, “almost the same, but not quite.”33 Fanon points to unique material opportunities that are provided through the adoption of the colonizer culture, “The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards…In the Senegalese regiments, the black officers serve first of all as interpreters.”34 However, it is not only material opportunities, like that of an interpreter, that gives rise to mimesis, but also a feeling of psychological factors that contribute to a feeling of equality:

The wearing of European clothes…using European furniture and European forms of social intercourse; adorning the Native language with European expressions; using bombastic phrases in speaking or writing a European language; all these contribute to a feeling of equality with the European and his achievements.35

Both of the reasoning for the adoption of European cultural values stems from the disciplining of racist images of colonial rule onto the colonized, Mimicry supposes an alternative way to remove the brutalizing force of colonial occupation and racism. Fanon, himself, asserts this when he writes, “Historically, it must be understood that the Negro wants to speak French because it is the key that can open doors which were still barred to him fifty years ago.”36 This mimetic pathway, however, is limited by the persistence of colonial difference still present in the consciousness of racist Europeans and the internal splitting that is required from the minority consciousness when faced with marginalization. The partiality of mimesis is not only preserved by the internal conditions of the colonized consciousness, but also supported by the vestiges of colonial difference be it presented in explicit and historical understandings of race and skin color or disparate material outcomes. Thus, DMV never completes the disciplining to the dominating culture, it cannot because complete homogenization eliminates any notion of mimesis. Rather, if we were to deny the inner domain of the colonized subject, we would only be speaking of absorption. Returning to Chatterjee, we can find a similar thought:

A relational opposition of power necessarily meant that the dominated had to be granted their own domain of subjectivity, where they were autonomous, undominated. If it were not so, the dominators would, in the exercise of their domination, wholly consume and obliterate the dominated.37

Instead, partiality is preserved and with it a split consciousness: one in which the disciplining powers of the dominant European culture operates and influences, but never fully takes hold. This is because the historical markers of colonial difference that initially gave way to the discursive justification for domination, disciplining, and extraction persist and are realized to this day; what started this process also prevents its completion.

Necessary Questions, Philosophical Problems, and Concluding Remarks

I have demonstrated a fragmented account of a theory of cultural valuation that in and of itself is not entirely complete. Nor could it be, it requires fundamentally contextualized historical readings and interpretative accounts of European colonialism. Rather, as a theory of value it strives to fundamentally rethink how economic value is constituted. What will follow now is a reflection on some questions that might have relevance to this theory and its placement in the economics discourse.

Perhaps a prominent question is what distinguishes DMV from anthropological and sociological accounts of acculturation. DMV itself might be seen as a particular theoretical application of acculturation and I have no qualms with this, but I would stress unique markers of this theory and the potential of it for further work. First, I draw upon a tradition of poststructuralist and postcolonial thought to inform some of the ontological basis for this theory. First, I appropriate Foucault’s notions of disciplinary and bio-power and do the same for Bhabha’s mimicry. In particular, poststructuralist readings tend to draw significantly from semiotic accounts of signification. Sahlins, who is far from a post-structuralist, also recognizes the importance of sign analysis when he considers the following on value:

The value of any cultural category whatever such as ‘land’ is indeed arbitrary in the sense that it is constituted on principled distinctions among signs which, in relation to objects, are never the only possible distinctions. Even an ecological anthropology would recognize that the extent to which a particular tract of land is a ‘productive resource,’ if it is at all, depends on the cultural order in place. Economics might thus find a place in the general semiology that Saussure envisioned—while at the same time hedging the entrance requirement with restrictive clauses.38

Second, I am primarily concerned with the colonial situation in developing this theory, but do not see it exclusively applicable to that situation. Thus, if this theory is to be designated as just another theory of acculturation; I would prefer it be one rendered in the connecting of Economics to cultural values on a poststructuralist and postcolonial ground.

What remains is how this theory can be integrated into an emancipatory politics. Bhabha certainly recognizes hybridity as the fundamental ontological grounding of the postcolonial world and I am inclined to agree with him because the sheer material and historical effects of colonialism appear to be cemented in the international world and the emergence of new social identities. Rather, I see Bhabha as expressing a social reality and find that the notion of a hybridized social identity itself points to a new individualism that supplants the European rationalistic one. This individual follows no rational choice theory, does not give way to the clear mathematical formalization of neoclassical economics and their subsequent limitations, but rather draws from a variety of historical situations and identities that contextualizes and situates decision making. It is not a totalizing individuality; the economic individual becomes contextualized and situated in a variety of cultural nexuses that resists the invariances of economic theories of value and the oppressive fixing of cultural differences necessary for a rationalization on the colonial rule.

However, work still needs to be done. Kaul calls upon bringing the cultural politics of recognition to theories of value overall which I do not believe I have adequately done. Given this is a fragmented, incomplete, and non-exclusive theory, there is also considerable expansion and revision necessary for it to achieve proper clarity and rigor. There is also room to develop more extensive, complementary or antagonistic theories of value. Furthermore, there exists work to be done that far escapes the reaches of my thought and I am only a historically situated individual. So, to answer the question about how this theory can be integrated into an emancipatory politics, I answer that it provides the basis for new theorizing and new histories that provide the theoretical basis for such a politics, while fundamentally displacing a Eurocentric universalism premised on a culturally specific reading of rationality.


Alatas, Syed Hussein. The Myth of the Lazy Native London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1977.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

Charusheela, S., and Eiman Zein-Elabdin, eds.Postcolonialism Meets Economics. London: Routledge, 2004.

Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986.

Foucault, Michele. Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House, 1995.

Kaul, Nitasha. Imagining Economics Otherwise: Encounters with Identity/Difference. Abingdon: Routledge, 2008.

Sahlins, Marshall. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1981.

Tricoire, Damien, ed.Enlightened Colonialism: Civilization Narratives and Imperial Politics in the Age of Reason. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2017.

Williams, Oral, Tracy Polius, and Selvon Haze, “Reserve Pooling in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and the CFA Franc Zone: A Comparative Analysis,” Savings and Development 29, no. 1 pp. 39-60.


1.) . It should be noted that this is a gross over-simplification of the Labor Theory of Value and the unique takes presented by classical economists.

2.) . Nitasha Kaul, “Writing Economic theory anOther Way,” Postcolonialism Meets Economics, ed. S. Charusheela & Eiman Zein-Elabdin (London, Routledge, 2004) P.184.

3.) . Ibid., P.187

4.) . Nitasha Kaul, Imagining Economics Otherwise: Encounters with Identity/Difference (Abingdon, Routledge, 2008), P.210

5.) . Ibid., PP.210-211

6.) . Damien Tricoire, “Introduction,” Enlightened Colonialism: Civilization Narratives and Imperial Politics in The Age of Reason (Cham, Springer International Publishing AG, 2017), P.2

7.) . Ibid., P.9

8.) . Eiman O. Zein-Elabdin & S. Charusheela, “Introduction: Economics and Postcolonial Thought,” Postcolonialism Meets Economics, P. 2

9.) . Williams, Oral, Tracy Polius, and Selvon Haze, “Reserve Pooling in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and the CFA Franc Zone: A Comparative Analysis,” Savings and Development 29, no. 1 p. 43.

10.) . Michele Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York, Random House, 1995), p. 84

11.) . Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, Routledge, 1994), p. 86

12.) . Syed Hussein Alatas, The Myth of the Lazy Native (London, Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1977)

13.) . Ibid., p. 70

14.) . Ibid., p. 74

15.) . Ibid., pp. 75-78

16.) . Ibid., pp. 1-2

17.) . Marshall Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities (Michigan, The University of Michigan Press, 1981), pp. 5-8

18.) . Ibid., pp. 15-16

19.) . Ibid., p. 31

20.) . Ibid., p. 7

21.) . Ibid., p. 26

22.) . Ibid., p. 31

23.) . Ibid., pp. 43-46

24.) . Ibid., p. 50

25.) . Bhabha, Location of Culture, p. 2

26.) . Ibid., p. 90

27.) . Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1993)

28.) . Ibid., p. 18

29.) . Ibid., 21

30.) . Ibid., p. 26

31.) . Ibid., p. 77

32.) . Ibid., p. 102

33.) . Although Bhabha, himself, distances himself from Fanon’s analysis due to the fundamental factor in motivating the adoption of the dominating culture. Bhabha p. 88

34.) . Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (London, Pluto Press, 1986), p. 18

35.) . Ibid., p. 25

36.) . Ibid., p. 38

37.) . Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments, p. 161

38.) . Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Reality, p. 6

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