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Ujamaa-African Socialism or Nyerere's Abstraction

Ujamaa-African Socialism or Nyerere's Abstraction

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Lolan Ekow Sagoe-Moses on Dec 06, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Lolan Ekow Sagoe-Moses
The political philosophy known as Ujamaa, (swahili for Familyhood ), referred to by itschief proponent as  African Socialism has been the subject of much scholarly debate.Such debate has usually been centered around interpretations of Ujamaa as a practicaldevelopmental strategy and an alternative avenue to economic growth whatever that is. Majority of the scholarly perusal has concluded that Ujamaa failed due to problems of implementation. My hypothesis is a departure from this line. I contend that Ujamaafailed due to fundamental mistakes of conception . In formulating Ujamaa , Nyererelabeled it African Socialism and claimed its principles were a reassertion of traditionalvalues of communalism . I find that this is an abstraction and by doing so , Nyererecreates two stumbling blocks. First, he fails to truly consider the ethnic particularities inconceptualization and organization of land ownership , familial relations , farm work and commercial exchange. Second, he appropriates the principles of family solidarity toan entire society. I shall show , using an analysis of the social structures of the Sukuma,Parukia and Kuria ethnic groups that ujamaa was limited in its application to the family.Wider village-level co-operation was governed by the principles of 
amongst other forms of organization.
UJAMAA- WHAT IT IS, WHAT ITS NOTTo embark on a study of any political philosophy it is first necessary tounderstand its cardinal principles. Ujamaa , loosely translated as familyhood ( Nyerere,1968) in Swahili, is defined as  an attitude of mind ( Nyerere, 1968) .Though he laterspecifies the institutions and system of societal interaction that are necessary for itsimplementation, Nyereres initial preoccupation is with socialism as a way of thinkingabout society. This attitude of mind  is based on the premise that people care for eachothers welfare, ( Nyerere, 1968) Ujamaa is thus based on humanism andcommunalism. The Ujamaa individual sees himself only as part of the society andconceives his principal role as contribution to and reliance on his society. At the sametime, the individuals welfare is the be all and end all of life and not a means to achievepower , wealth or both.What this implies is that no man should exploit his fellow man in view tobecoming more powerful than him or her. This is a direct anti-thesis to capitalism whichNyerere clarifies , claiming that this attitude and not the absence or presence of wealthare what distinguish a capitalist from an African Socialist ( Nyerere, 1968) . A millionairecan thus be a socialist if he desires wealth for the purpose of benefitting his fellow man ,likewise a poor man a capitalist if he desires wealth to dominate others. The welfare of the fellow man must be the individuals primary concern just as the welfare of each andevery man must be the cardinal concern of the society. When Nyerere condemns theacquisitiveness for power and prestige ( Nyerere, 1968) as unsocialist, it must bestressed that he is referring to  acquisitiveness for personal power and prestige ;
acquisitiveness for the power and prestige of a group would thus be deemed acceptable,even praiseworthy.The second cardinal principle is that society supersedes the individual inimportance. That the individual must have an  attitude of mind which compels him tocare for the welfare of others would imply that he may neglect his own welfare assumingthat society will cater to his and his familys needs ( Nyerere, 1968 ) Communalism isthus the logical progression from humanism . Each individuals humanism leads tosocietys communalism and vice-versa. It must be stressed here that for Nyerere,communalism does not mean communism or European socialism. Nyerere categoricallystates that unlike European socialism, African socialism based on communalist principles does not deem class struggle a necessary principle for its emergence. Tosubscribe to this principle is to imply that classes must exist , and hence capitalism, for asocialist society to be born ( Nyerere, 1968). Nyereres African socialism on the contraryis based on the assumption of a classless society.Now the absence of a class conflict and the existence of a classless society does not imply that there is no  working class or ruling class when defined as a distinct groupof workers or rulers it simply means that their status as workers or rulers does not make them wealthier or poorer than other societal segments. A worker must have thesame standard of living as the community  elder as everyone including an elder was aworker ( Nyerere, 1968) Each worker contributed to a communal pool of wealth fromwhich he then demanded his fair share based on this work and considering the amount of the overall communal contribution( Nyerere, 1968) . Communalism of necessityimplies an organized or informal but widely recognized unit of societal organization.

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