Piracy is best viewed from the perspective of how capitalist society promotes freedom of consumption through egalitarian market and issues surrounding intellectual property. For instance, boundaries were not defined in the 17th and 18th centuries and pirates launched raids beyond political borders to benefit the powerful in society (Dent, 2012). Conversely, intellectual property in the modern world justifies how the capitalist system relates to the 17th century pirates. Free market as a product of capitalist system and the increased violation intellectual property rights align with the ‘pirate’ concept in the earlier centuries. Moreover, Dent (2012) confirmed that capitalist consumption is promoted by the neoliberal social and economic practices that have created free or democratic market.
Pirates in the 17th century were organized under powerful institutions and served the interests of the authorities (Dent, 2012). The scramble for Africa and Europeans’ actions on the continent were replica of the pirates of the Caribbean Island. As Dent (2012) indicated, calling a person a pirate is the same as declaring the power of an institution, an example being Western nations insisting on dumping chemicals and overfishing in Africa. Europeans’ actions on Africa are akin to piracy and the action of pirates in the 17th century, using their powers to declare ownership of resources. Although the western countries pretended to aid Africans, they were serving their interests.
In comparing corsair and piracy, Nadal (2001) asserted that the difference lies in the legitimization of the former. However, the difference between the two is blurred because all serve the interests of the powerful in society. Corsairing became common in North Africa to address the shortages of commodities through attacks directed at weaker states. Corsairing was also a favorite activity in Europe, mostly targeted at weaker commercial competitors to reap them off through raids (Nadal 2001, p.130). Cordingly (2013) also outlined the actions of the Buccaneers and how they organized raids when faced with shortage of money or other commodities. Since pirates’ raids were legitimized in the 17th century, it shows the direct connection with the modern piracy whereby the powerful serve their interests while those will less influence in the political and social hierarchy are oppressed.
Therefore, pirates in the olden days exist in the modern capitalist society and scholars have attributed it to the emergence of piracy as a topic of discussion. The same piracy that existed during colonization, neo-colonization and the 17th century exists in the egalitarian capitalist market of the modern or neo-capitalist society. Dawdy and Bonni (2012) defined piracy as an organization promoted by banditry in society whose influence is encouraged by inequalities and contradictions within the political economy. In essence, piracy is a question of power and influence in society whereby the ruling class introduces laws and pretends to protect intellectual properties but benefiting themselves through monopolies, same as the legitimate actions of pirates in the 17th century. Europe’s actions on African assumed the same trend witnessed with the use of intellectual property laws. Europeans used their power to extract resources from Africa, exploited the continent and committed injustices in the pretense of protecting the continent to maintain supremacy.
- Cordingly, D. (2013). Under the black flag: The romance and the reality of life among the pirates. New York: Random House.
- Dawdy, S. L., & Bonni, J. (2012). Towards a general theory of piracy. Anthropological Quarterly, 85(3), 673-699.
- Dent, A. S. (2012). Introduction: understanding the war on piracy, or why we need more anthropology of pirates. Anthropological Quarterly, 85(3), 659-672.
- Nadal, G.L. (2001). Corsairing as a commercial system: The edges of legitimate trade. In Pennell, C.R. (E.d.), Bandits at sea: A pirate’s reader (pp. 125-136). New York: New York University Press.