Civil Death in the Dominion of Freedom: Liberia and the Logic of Capital

Shane Chalmers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This paper is concerned with how a particular logic informed the articulation of 'Liberia' from its conception as an idea of liberty at the beginning of the nineteenth century to its consolidation as a nation-state in the twentieth. The paper begins with an examination of the logic itself, through a reading of John Austin's lecture on 'things'. This reveals a logic operating through a legal framework that can render an object entirely fungible. The logic, I argue, is the logic of capital. The paper then turns to the making of Liberia to show how this logic was super-imposed over lands and peoples in west Africa through a process of colonisation, which, since the Roman col?nia, has involved both the introduction of civilisation and the cultivation of new land. The argument running through this history is that, at each point, the legal-representational framework that was supposed to liberate its object—human and land—was informed by the logic of capital. On this logic, liberation would come with the super-imposition of a general value: rendering humans productive citizens, and rendering land productive territory, through the investment of rights. However, the result was that, what began at the start of the nineteenth century as an idea of liberty that was supposed to make free all of Africa, culminated at the end of the twentieth century in a state of civil death, and eventually revolution and war.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21pp (online)
    JournalLaw and Critique
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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