The dispossession of agricultural producers from the land has long been considered a condition of successful capitalist development. The main contention of this paper is that such dispossession has in fact become the source of major developmental handicaps for at least some and possibly many countries of the global South. We develop our argument by focusing on the South(ern) African experience as a paradigmatic outlier case of accumulation by dispossession—that is, as one of its extreme instances capable of highlighting in almost ideo-typical fashion its nature and limits. After reconstructing interpretations of capitalist development in Southern Africa that in the early 1970s established the region as a paradigm of accumulation by dispossession, we discuss how useful these interpretations are for understanding the more recent developmental trajectory of South Africa. We then suggest ways in which these interpretations from the 1970s should be reformulated in light of subsequent developments. We conclude by briefly examining the theoretical and policy implications of the analysis.
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