Citizen or Client? An Analysis of Everyday Politics in Ghana

by Lauren M. MacLean 


This paper reconsiders the abstract concepts of citizenship and clientelism based on the political attitudes and everyday practices of people living in Ghana. Drawing on survey and ethnographic research at the village level in Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana as well as two rounds of Afrobarometer data, the paper reveals a hybrid conception of politics that departs strikingly from scholarly theories. I argue that the particular patterns of hybridity highlight the importance over time of the historical construction of the colonial and post-colonial state. Overall, the paper emphasizes that future scholars and policymakers need to understand indigenous conceptualizations of everyday politics rather than assuming that African practices exemplify or fall short of an externally imposed normative ideal.

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Lauren M. MacLean, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. Her research focuses on the political economy of state‑building, social welfare policy, energy policy, and democratic citizenship in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and the U.S. Her first book, Informal Institutions and Citizenship in Rural Africa (2010) was the winner of the APSA 2011 Sartori Book Award and finalist for the ASA Herskovits Award.