The Criminalization of the State in Africa (African Issues) Paperback – 21 Jan 1999
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The extent to which the trends identified in this book grow or diminish in importance and geographical extent seems to be a major determinant of the future of African politics. - John A. Wiseman in THE JOURNAL OF MODERN AFRCAN STUDIES It is without doubt concerned with a topic of great importance, about which much is rumoured but little of analytical substance is written ... These are difficult questions and the authors must be applauded for having attempted to make sense of their complexities. - Patrick Chabal in INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS What is positive about this book is that it not only presents a number of cases but also shows their historical, economic and cultural connections. The present problems are seen from a wide perspective stemming from precolonial and colonial situations as well as the situations created by independence struggles and the reign of nationalistic governments. What is suggested is that all this should be viewed in the light of historical continuity rather than discontinuity. AFRICA THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
About the Author
Jean-Francois Bayart is Director of the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationals, Paris.Stephen Ellis is a Senior Researcher at the African Studies Centre at Leiden and former editor of Africa Confidential.Beatrice Hibou is a Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique attached to the Centre d'Etudes d'Afrique Noir, Bordeaux." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The strength of this book is its empirical and discursive focus and its avoidance of the temptation to slip into moralising despair and to reduce the meaning of phenomena to their meaning for western observers. It also provides clear structural explanations of the trends it analyses.Read more ›
The phenomena are familiar to those who follow African affairs now; in a few cases the process has proved reversible or at least stoppable; but not in most.
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Huntington and other past scholars posit that under conditions of economic stimulus in a modernizing society, social mobilization is the trigger for destabilization. Hibou, however, points to the nature of the African state itself as being responsible for political instability under conditions of economic stimulus. In other words, neoliberal market stimulus fails in Africa not because of mobilized citizens whose demands cannot be met, but because of the complex nature of the African state.
What is Hibou's conception of the African state, and how does it differ from Huntington's? Huntington tends to see the state in terms of how "institutionalized" it is, with a well-institutionalized state presumably having well-functioning formal political institutions that are adaptable, complex, autonomous and coherent. Hibou, however, goes far beyond a conventional political science view of institutions, by conceptualizing the African state as a "shadow" state:
"the relationships, institutions and people most prominently in public view are not necessarily the most powerful. Elements which at first sight appear to be obstacles to the functioning of the state may turn out, on closer inspection, actually to belong to the state . . . via a web of informal concessions, carefully negotiated privileges - notably including impunity for economic offences - and personal and political relationships" (88-89).
Accordingly, Hibou argues that neoliberalism has failed in Africa because it fails to take account of the state's informal shadow as an economic actor. In seeking to tie the hands of formal state actors to prevent conventional "rent-seeking" behavior, neoliberals have given more power to the informal sector, which tends to engage in economic activity that may not only be "rent-seeking," but also "criminal" by many standards. Neoliberalism thus destroys formal institutions in Africa, and encourages "the development of personal networks, of informal or even illegal practices" (93).
Thus, unlike Huntington's theory that social mobilization coupled with economic inequality destabilizes developing polities, Hibou posits instead that the nature of African states should be given prime explanatory weight in showing why economic stimulus might produce results opposite to those intended.
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