The Politics of Illusion

in The Pan-African Nation

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780226023540
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226023564 | DOI:
The Politics of Illusion

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This chapter illustrates how the seeing-is-believing of the oil boom gave way to the visual deceptions of the oil bust, a social world not of objects and things but of smoke and mirrors, a business culture of worthless currency, false facades, and empty value forms. Oil, the “underlying” substance of economic value, might lend credibility to Nigerian business ventures. But its pathways—from public institutions into private coffers—have become uncertain. The chapter suggests that there is more to the relationship between cash and politics than mere influence peddling or vote buying. It tries to penetrate the illusion that characterizes the everyday practice of “419” (a section in the Nigerian criminal code), in order to grasp a more fundamental transformation of value that occurred during IBB's dictatorship, a transformation that produced a national crisis of representation with thoroughgoing political and theoretical implications.

Keywords: oil boom; economic value; business ventures; Nigerian business; public institutions; business culture

Chapter.  13878 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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