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THE CONCEPT OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL RELATIONS IN CLAUDE AKE’S PHILOSOPHY: IMPLICATIONS FOR AFRICA

 Format: Microsoft Word   Chapters: 1-5

 Pages: 130   Attributes: COMPREHENSIVE RESEARCH

 Amount: 3,000

 Sep 24, 2019 |  01:47 pm |  2651

Chapter One

Introduction

1.1    Background of the Study

The basic natural impulse of man is the preservation of his existence. What this implies is that man tries to protect his existence foremost before considerations are given to other needs. It means therefore, that he has to live in the first instance, before his essence. This is the primacy of the human existence which, for existentialist thinkers, is what should genuinely engage philosophers. To live or to preserve his existence, man must keep his body nourished by food; and to provide for food means that he must work. This means that he must use his energy to convert what is given in nature to become useful to him.

This work is therefore motivated by the fact that labour which should serve as a human activity that allows man to sustain his very existence has become a tool for self destruction arising from the class divisions, antagonisms and conflicts the appropriation of the products of labour engenders in modern society. This is more so because even though the prodigality of nature has provided man with the basic materials to meet his existential needs, however, the provident of nature rarely exists in forms directly suitable to meet man’s needs. It is, therefore, required of human labour to make nature suitable for his use. And in so doing, in modern terms, society is divided into antagonistic and self destructive classes of those who own only their labour power and those who own the means of production and so appropriate the product of labour and even manipulate the labour power of others.  Why is it so?

Labour is, therefore, what man does to provide food for the nourishment of his bodily needs, to sustain his existence. For this reason, Claude Ake asserts that economic productivity is the primary activity of man.3 If man must live, according to him, then he must work to provide food for himself.

Ake avers that it is the importance of this that is amply reflected in the consciousness of men that they give themselves appellations according to the type of work they engage in: for instance, a teacher is one who engages in teaching to earn a wage to provide for food; a doctor, for a medical practitioner; an engineer; a trader etc. For him, although it is true that man does not live by bread alone, but it is a more fundamental truth that man cannot live without bread. The fact that one is no longer preoccupied by his daily economic needs, he asserts, means that the needs are being met, but that does not, for him, take away the urgency of this need.

 

It is through human ingenuity from his labour that discoveries are made to provide for his other needs such as shelter, clothing, and so forth, to protect man from the unfriendly conditions of his immediate environment. It is so important and central to man that his life goes beyond just mere subsistence:

Man creates and recreates his entire life. By work, he builds Dams, irrigates deserts and fashions tools, which give him new capacities and new opportunities, for acquiring knowledge. By creating and recreating his economic and other material conditions man also creates culture, history and civilization. Most importantly, he also creates his consciousness….4

 

Man has also used his labour power to structure his society and establish culture and patterns.

 

In the history of human society, labour has played the most vital determinant role in social relations. Adam Smith supports this view when he writes in his Wealth of Nations that society tends to benefit more when labour is social; when there is a division in the productive process where one performs functions he is best skilled. He states: “the greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, the greater part of skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour”.5

 

It is in this socialization of production that modern societies are formed, and human relationships are fostered; hence labour shape the character of all human societies. Society is often times polarized according to dynamics arising from the relative importance placed on some aspects of labour over others in the production process. Ake notes in the production process, some appropriate the labour of others and benefit from the proceeds which cause the major division between those who own the labour power and those who appropriate the labour power of others.  He adds that:

Everyman is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessities, conveniences, and amusements of human life, but after the division of labour has once thoroughly taken place, it is but a very small part of these with which a man’s labour can supply him, the far greater part of them he must derive from the labour of other people, and he must be rich or poor according to the quantity of that labour which he can command, or which he can afford to purchase.6

 

          Societies are thus made up of people classed into relations in view of those who sell their labour power for self sustenance and those who use the labour of others for production. This has become a major source of division and conflict in modern societies. The study of the economic structure of society for Ake will make it simpler to understand other aspects of society. He asserts that:

Once we understand what the material assets and constrains of a society are, how the society produces goods to meet its material needs, how the goods are distributed, and what types of social relations arise from the organization, we have come a long way to understanding the culture of that society, its laws, its religious system, its political system and even its mode of thought.7

 

Ake therefore outlines that the primary cause of the problems in Africa are products of labour relations owing largely to the introduction of capital relations from the West.

 

 

1.2    Statement of the Problem

This study is motivated by the incessant conflicts in the Niger Delta Area experienced by the researcher. These conflicts are even experienced in the wider Nigerian society and in Africa in general. A closer survey of these reveal that these conflicts are engendered by a lack of the basic necessities of life relating to a poor state of social and economic development, in the midst of an abundant resource base in almost all parts of Africa. Conflicts are therefore, products of frustrations resulting from this lack and want of the basic needs of man in Africa. The researcher sees Claude Ake’s conception of labour and the class divisions it brings upon society, which in turn creates constant antagonism and conflicts, relevant to the African experience, hence the choice of this topic as a basis for an understanding of the causes of conflicts in Africa and to proffer ways of resolving them.

Claude Ake defines labour as human effort applied in production for the provision of food for the sustenance of his being. He notes that it is through human labour that discoveries are made to provide for his other needs such as shelter, clothing, tools, and so forth, to protect him from the unfriendly conditions of his immediate environment. Apart from being a means towards the provision of food for the sustenance of his being and the discovery of tools to meet his other immediate needs, labour is also used for the creation and recreation of his economic and other material conditions, he adds. However, Ake notes that contemporary experience reveals that as societies develop and owing to the complexities in the production process, social relations are formed in relation to those who own the, means of production and so regulate the other factors in the productive process, including the labour of others and those who do not. This leads to antagonism between these social groups. While the class of those who benefit from this arrangement attempt to maintain the status quo, the other class struggles to change the existing system. For him therefore, there is an intrinsic link between labour and social relations. Societies are therefore plagued with conflicts and strife between these two antagonistic classes. Ake therefore studies the prevalent social conflicts in Africa and links these to the social relations of production introduced into Africa through colonialism and imperialism.

The question is therefore, what is labour? Of what importance is labour to man?  How does labour engender social divisions?  How do these divisions create conflicts in Africa, in Claude Ake’s conception? How does Ake address the problems of ethnicity, wars, poverty, bad governance, poor infrastructural development, corruption and so on, in Africa and what lesson can Africa learn? The problems which this study sets to solve are,

  1. Ake blames colonialism for some of the social problems in Africa; to what extent is this assertion true?
  2. If Africa’s problems are products of colonialism, what of other nations which were colonized yet they are advancing?
  3. For Ake, Africa’s problems are caused by foreign agents, what role would the Africans play in tackling their problems?
  4. Are there no possibilities of Africans contributing to their problems, considering the fact that direct political control has ended a long time ago in most of Africa?
  5. Is there any possibility of African charting a new course for African development based on the dignity of labour under a harmonious social relation?

1.3    Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to critically examine Claude Ake’s conception of labour and social relations with a view to showing its implications for Africa, especially Nigeria. It is an attempt to (a) identify the meaning of labour in Ake’s social and political philosophy (b) place his conception of labour within the context of social and economic conflicts in Africa (c) argue that within Ake’s thought, the contradictions and conflicts around labour are linked in a fundamental way to colonialism and its impact in Africa, and (d) finally the papers argues that resolving the contradictions generated by colonialism is possible within the context of genuine democratic transformation in Africa.

1.4    Thesis

The study establishes that Ake’s theory of labour and social relations is essentially Marxist in orientation with negative implications for Africa, given the role of colonialism and imperialism in Africa’s socio-economic history.

1.5    Scope of the Study

This work will concentrate on Ake’s thought as it relates to labour and the dynamics of social relations in Africa. While doing this, the contradictions and conflicts of labour and social relations in Africa will be highlighted.

1.6    Significance of the Work

This work will expose in a long way the major causes of social problems and the attendant developmental malaise in Africa, especially, Nigeria, highlighting how they can be addressed. It shall add to the library of existing literature on the subject and also serve as a reference material to scholars for further studies.

1.7    Methodology

The qualitative research design was used for the study. The data for this work were sourced basically from the library, books and journal. The historical and expository methods were used to situate Claude Ake and his place in history while exposing his concepts of labour and social relations. These concepts were further subjected to critical analysis and evaluations.

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