Capitalism in Egypt, Not Egyptian Capitalism
Aaron Jakes and Ahmad Shokr
Aaron G. Jakes is assistant professor of history at The New School, where he teaches on the modern Middle East and South Asia, comparative studies of colonialism and imperialism, global environmental history, and the historical geography of capitalism. He is the author of Egypt’s Occupation: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020).
Ahmad Shokr is an Assistant Professor of History at Swarthmore. His writings on historical and contemporary political issues have appeared in Arab Studies Journal, Middle East Report, Jadaliyya, Critical Historical Studies, and Economic and Political Weekly. He is also a contributor to several volumes, including Dispatches from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New Middle East (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest, and Social Change in Egypt (Verso, 2012).
This chapter advances two related arguments about the history of capitalism in Egypt. First, Egypt is not a site where pre-existing “global” processes re-enact themselves. Rather, over the course of more than two centuries, shifting configurations of political-economic power across the country have been shaped by dynamics situated at once within and beyond Egypt’s borders. Second, capitalists in Egypt have often required more capital than they possessed. To address the shortfall, they have consistently relied upon political transfers of value in addition to profits through production. These means of acquiring capital have bound spaces of power and accumulation inside Egypt to the world around them in complex ways that have often defied the confines of present-day national borders.
Keywords: Egypt, Capitalism, Cotton, economic nationalism, rescaling, debt and finance