Nick Nesbitt is Professor of French and Italian. His book “The Price of Slavery: Capitalism and Revolution in the Caribbean” was published on March 18, 2022 by University of Virginia Press.
How did you get the idea for this project?
I was originally inspired by the striking lack of theoretical clarity on the nature of capitalist slavery that one finds in the literature since Eric Williams’ classic 1944 study “Capitalism and Slavery,” including most recently the so-called “New History of Capitalism.” One way to understand the book is thus as a theoretical intervention in current debates on slavery and racial capitalism such as the NHC or the New York Times’ 1619 Project. Focusing on capitalist slavery in the Caribbean, the book argues that only by returning to Marx’s analysis of capitalism is it possible adequately to grasp the nature of capitalist slavery as a social phenomenon—returning to Marx as did each of the Caribbean thinkers I also discuss: CLR James, Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, Jacques Stephen Alexis. At its most fundamental level, the book seeks to bring into question the historically contingent form of social relations in which we live: i.e., capitalism. I argue that the development and deployment of racial ideologies and capitalist production processes (including slavery) necessarily occurs within a governing framework of social relations, which Marx called and analyzed as the capitalist “social form.”