Comparative Politics of Africa

Alex Thomson

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Comparative Politics of Africa

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More than is the case with other continents, scholars of African politics have frequently employed a comparative method in order to understand their region of study. This has been encouraged by similar colonial histories and common modes of post-independence governance. Taking an overview of this scholarship in the postcolonial era, academics initially concentrated on the continent’s prospects for development. How would Africa’s inherited colonial boundaries, for example, or its underdeveloped “monocrop” economies, make an impact politically? Subsequently, as optimism generated by the continent’s independence began to fade and authoritarianism took hold, an explanation was sought for this antiliberal turn of events. Beyond the problematic colonial inheritance, could internal factors such as ideology, ethnicity, religion, or social class be holding back Africa’s progress toward modernity? Likewise, modes of governance were studied. Why had political systems based on neopatrimonialism, personal rule, and authoritarianism emerged? What encouraged the military to intervene? A third phase of scholarship developed in the 1980s and 1990s. This was a response to continued authoritarian governance fostering state collapse in several cases, near-collapse in many more, and, eventually, a continental wave of civil society revolt. The nature of this state collapse was analyzed, while an explanation was sought for the rejuvenation of civil society and the remarkable reintroduction of multiparty democracy that this rejuvenation brought. Currently, many scholars are attempting to gauge the chances of a consolidation of this fragile democratic order, balancing any optimism in this respect against the countervailing authoritarian reflexes that remain ingrained within most African states.

Article.  6134 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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