Policing production

Corporate governmentality and the Cultivation System

in Focaal
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This article reexamines the Cultivation System in early nineteenth-century Java as part of an assemblage of Crown strategies, programs, and technologies to manage the economy—and more particularly, “police” the paupers—of the “greater Netherlands.” This article looks at the integrated global commodity chains within which the System was embedded, and the common governmental strategies adopted by the Dutch Crown to manage these flows in both metropole and colony. It focuses on the role of an early corporation, the Netherlands Trading Company, that also served as the administrator of poverty-relief efforts in the Eastern Netherlands where cotton cloth was produced. The article argues that corporate governmentality arose as a purposive strategy of avoiding liberal parliamentary scrutiny and bolstering the “enlightened absolutism” of the Crown. By withdrawing responsibility for the policing of paupers from the state, and vesting it in corporations, the Crown commercialized the delivery of pauper relief and reduced state expenditure, while still generating large profits.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology