Settler Colonialism and Mainstream Economics

James Arruda, 2016
Vol. 22 No. 2 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)


The general purpose of this research is to ask how mainstream economics understands the nature of being (ontology) and how the discipline produces knowledge (epistemology). In this Major Paper, I critically study the Settler colonial patterns embedded in Canadian mainstream economics, and economics in general. First of all, I perform a content analysis of several Canadian economics textbooks with a specific look at three critical terms: land, wealth and economics. For the surveyed textbooks, the latter terms are absolutely detached, erasing Indigenous thought and bodies from economics education. I understand the disconnection as a biased and constructed narrative, as theoretically depicted by critical Indigenous studies and Settler colonial studies. All in all, the ontological basis of Canadian economics education reproduces the systematic violence of Settler colonialism: dispossession and replacement. Second of all, I investigate early and modern versions of the Staples thesis to outline the Settler colonial discourse at the center of Canadian economics history. For instance, Staples theorists do not critically connect the colonial foundations that enabled the commercial development of staples industries since the 17th century. Indeed, some Marxist and political science scholars argue that the study of staples industries in Canada requires a better focus on the socio-political context embedding economic relationships pertaining to a staples commodity. Finally, with a clearer picture of Canadian mainstream economics’ ontology, I investigate how the discipline (in general) produces knowledge. Indeed, as the mainstream method for economists, mathematical-deduction reproduces knowledge that follows prior beliefs. If colonialism is erased from the memory, the ontology, of economists then it is a very narrowed history that economists rely on. Ultimately, I argue that economics is not innocent in its study economic relationships—all economic relationships (e.g. trading, gifts, energy, love and such). To conclude, I dare experiment with an accounting methodology using a revised Staples thesis and ecological footprint analysis, with a focus on petrochemical economic relationships within itself, the people and the land. By centering Settler economic relationships, the study’ rationally’ paves over Indigenous territories, bodies, politics and economics.