Prominent Activist and Scholar Samir Amin Leaves Rich Legacy of Intellectual Discourse

Amin was considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential neo-Marxist development theorists, who wrote extensively about the relationship between imperialism, capitalism, and globalization.

Amin was considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential neo-Marxist development theorists, who wrote extensively about the relationship between imperialism, capitalism, and globalization.

Iconic Egyptian-French political economist and academic, Dr. Samir Amin, was a prolific writer and intellectual whose contributions to political economic theory over his lifetime have left a rich legacy of scholarly resources. The celebrated political activist and theoretical researcher wrote more than twenty major works in his lifetime, including Imperialism and Unequal Development (1976); Spectres of Capitalism: A Critique of Current Intellectual Fashions (1998); The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World (2004); and Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World (2006).

Amin was born in Cairo in 1931 to an Egyptian father and a French mother, both medical doctors. As a young boy, he moved to Port Said in northeastern Egypt, where he spent the remainder of his youth. The Second World War, along with his upbringing and French education, greatly influenced the young Amin’s views of society, economy, and politics in Egypt and beyond.

The views that Amin formed in his youth in Port Said played a critical role in shaping the intellectual framework that he would use throughout his personal, professional, and academic career to understand and explain the inequalities he saw in political and capitalist structures.

After receiving his baccalaureate in Egypt in 1947, Amin moved to Paris and spent the better part of ten years studying political science, economics, and statistics. In his PhD thesis, entitled ‘L’Accumulation a l’Echelle Mondiale’ (“Accumulation on the World Scale”), Amin broke with the dominant Marxist framework of the era and proposed a new position that claimed that “capitalism [had] to be considered as a world system” and that “development and under-development [were] two sides of the same coin.”

Amin believed that underdevelopment was not a lack of development, but rather the “flip side” of the development of rich countries, according to an essay written by political theorist Andrew Robinson. Amin postulated that rich countries depended on the active exploitation of other countries, which ultimately led the latter to become “underdeveloped.”

Upon completing his doctorate in 1957, Amin moved back to Cairo, where he worked as a research director at the Institution for Economic Management, one of the government planning bodies that existed during the Nasser regime.

Amin then moved to Mali in 1960, where he worked as an adviser to the Ministry of Planning in the country’s capital, Bamako, for three years. In 1966, Amin began his academic career by accepting a professorship in France.

Between 1970 and 1980, Amin was the director of the United Nations Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) in Dakar, Senegal. During his time at IDEP, Amin also helped to establish the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and served as its founding Executive Secretary. After leaving IDEP, Amin became the president of the African office of the Third World Forum, an international, non-governmental association for research and debate.

Throughout his professional and academic career, Amin’s work centered on the criticism and deconstruction of the capitalist system, which he deemed to be imperialist by nature. Furthermore, he advocated for the political, economic, and cultural emancipation of the Global South and defended socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

Amin was also a proponent of dependency theory, which views the world economy as a single, integrated system in which the centers (rich countries) are exploiting the peripheries (poor countries). He argued that the “centers” had long shaped the patterns of globalization in their favor, thus forcing many countries to languish on the periphery.

For many years, Amin passionately advocated for the rights of the underdog in the development arena, which resulted in the creation of a global community of like-minded people who continue to cherish his contributions to international academic circles.

Amin died on August 12 at the age of 86 in France after suffering complications related to  a brain tumor.

“[T]he passing on of Professor Samir Amin . . . marks nothing less than the end of an era in the history of African social research given the many pioneering roles the late Professor Amin played as a scholar, teacher, mentor, friend, and revolutionary,”

“[T]he passing on of Professor Samir Amin . . . marks nothing less than the end of an era in the history of African social research given the many pioneering roles the late Professor Amin played as a scholar, teacher, mentor, friend, and revolutionary,” CODESRIA wrote on its website in tribute to the iconic Marxist thinker.

“In Samir Amin, we found the true meaning of praxis; a thinker who insisted that his work [had] immediate relevance to society . . . . CODESRIA remains an inheritance that Samir Amin bequeathed the African social science community. We shall never forget.”

The French-Egyptian economist made a unique place for himself in the arenas of academia and international development, by staying true to his values and tirelessly fighting to challenge mainstream views of global inequality and power dynamics. “The world has lost a towering thinker and activist, a humble comrade and friend. Rest in Power and Peace, dear Comrade Samir,” wrote fellow economist and colleague, Dr. Cherif Salif SY, in tribute to him on Linkedin.