It is this latter development that has become a central focus of Jakes’s project.
In State of the Field, he aims to trouble the assumptions at the heart of prevalent understandings of both Egypt during the period and of the concept of economism, a term that refers to the reduction of social phenomena to the play of economic forces. The book traces a complex history of economism and the intermingling of economics and politics in the colonial Egyptian context, suggesting alternative readings that can deepen our understanding of capitalism’s contradictions and the way that it defines and delimits notions of freedom that extend to the present.
Jakes explains, “I want to tell a different story about Egypt’s place in the history of capitalism, which has much to do with the global elaboration of new banking institutions and financial forms.” And he hopes that this story of “colonial economism” in the Egyptian context will help to revise and complicate “established narratives about an unequal division of labor between metropolitan industry and colonial agriculture.”
Images courtesy of Aaron Jakes.