The Development of Corporate Capitalism in Papua New Guinea: The first phase, 1884-1945

Scott MacWilliam

Event details

SSGM Seminar Series

Date & time

Monday 08 May 2017


HC Coombs Extension 1.04
ANU Canberra


Scott MacWilliam


Hannah McMahon

Since the 1980s, little systematic attention has been paid to the existence and activities of corporations in Papua New Guinea, even as their presence has grown substantially. There are studies of specific firms, particularly those which have been and continue to be involved in mining, but nothing on the development of corporations as an important indicator of why and how PNG is a capitalist country. In this seminar, the first of a planned three-part series, the initial period is described when corporations became the leading edge of capitalism’s advance in the colonies of Papua and New Guinea.

Emphasis is placed on how a small number of firms, mostly based overseas superintended major increases in production and trade. Their activities also affected the forms primary accumulation took among the bulk of the indigenous population that was not employed by these firms. The period ended with a major struggle looming between industrialised production in agriculture and mining, and households that occupied smallholdings engaging in self-provisioning and sales of marketed produce. The threat of the former to the latter became the central concern of the post-war colonial administration, which is discussed in the next seminar.

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