Frantz Fanon, on the Disciplining Apparatuses of Colonialism and Capitalism

Every year or so, I revisit The Wretched of the Earth, the 1961 magnum opus of legendary anti-colonialist marxist philosopher Frantz Fanon. I get something new out of it every time I do so.

In the opening section of the work, “Concerning Violence,” Fanon succinctly details the differences in the disciplines apparatuses of colonialism and capitalism. He demonstrates that both are fundamentally based on violence, yet the violence inherent in the disciplining apparatus of colonialism exceeds that of the latter (all emphases mine).

The colonial world is a world cut in two. The dividing line, the frontiers are shown by barracks and police stations. In the colonies it is the policeman and the soldier who are the official, instituted go-betweens, the spokesmen of the settler and his rule of oppression.

In capitalist societies the educational system, whether lay or clerical, the structure of moral reflexes handed down from father to son, the exemplary honesty of workers who are given a medal after fifty years of good and loyal service, and the affection which springs from harmonious relations and good behavior–all these aesthetic expressions of respect for the established order serve to create around the exploited person an atmosphere of submission and of inhibition which lightens the task of policing considerably. In the capitalist countries a multitude of moral teachers, counselors and “bewilderers” separate the exploited from those in power.

In the colonial countries, on the contrary, the policeman and the soldier, by their immediate presence and their frequent and direct action maintain contact with the native and advise him by means of rifle butts and napalm not to budge. It is obvious here that the agents of government speak the language of pure force. The intermediary does not lighten the oppression, nor seek to hide the domination; he shows them up and puts them into practice with the clear conscience of an upholder of the peace; yet he is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native.