Towards a Decolonial Theory of Domination: Process + Brokerage = Power

Simeon J. Newman, Max-Weber-Institut für Soziologie, Universität Heidelberg

Historical sociology has missed opportunities to harness historical processes per se in the explanation of substantive phenomena. This paper distinguishes three types of historical processes: open-ended Markovian contingency, associated with Eurocentric pursuit of freedom; closed-ended Hegelian teleology, associated with Eurocentric world domination; and a third option I call dynamic structuralism, inspired by Marx, compatible with decolonial aims, and well-suited to explanatory sociology as a causal power. And it brings dynamic structuralism to bear on the well-trodden topic of powerful intermediaries to illustrate the causal power of history. I argue that dynamic structures give rise to contradictory interests which sharpen into open conflict, conflicts propel those who are negatively affected to seek protection from intermediaries, and intermediaries thereby gain followers whose obedience they can compel—making them powerful. I substantiate the approach by showing that existing forms of relational sociology—dynamic-voluntarism, which assumes Markovian contingency and formal-structuralism, which reduces to teleology—fail and this theory succeeds at explaining two kinds of powerful intermediaries: decentralized despots, who arose and grew powerful amidst the processes of Spanish colonization, and labor bosses, who arose and grew powerful amidst the process of American capitalist industrialization.

See paper

 Presented in Session 39. Power, Governance, and Political Economy