African Studies Quarterly

AFRICA: DILEMMAS OF DEVELOPMENT AND CHANGE. Peter Lewis, ed. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1998. pp. 456. Cloth: $79.00; Paper: $30.00. ©

The relatively limited demand for Africanist scholarship in the United States provides fertile ground for edited volumes which appeal to larger audiences by bringing together the contributions of several scholars. Most of these books, however, are usually focused on one specific theme and occasionally display some variance in the quality of their different chapters. What was missing until now was a compendium of the best contributions to the political economy and comparative politics of African development in general. Peter Lewis has provided such a reader and, no doubt, it will henceforth be a staple of graduate-level or advanced undergraduate survey classes on African development.

Lewis reproduces some of the landmark journal articles on the political economy of Africa since the 1970s, adding introductory essays and a chapter of his own which stands up more than honorably among the milestone contributions surrounding it. Not surprisingly given Lewis' own work on the subject, the book opens with chapters on the different dimensions of neo-patrimonialism in Africa. Jackson and Rosberg's statement on personal rule, originally published in 1984 is only slightly less compelling than their classical piece on the persistence of weak states in Africa. Joseph's theory of prebendal politics, which explains the resource-like nature of the state (1987) and Sandbrook's remarkably early discussion of the prevalence of patrons, clients, and factions in African politics (1972) round out the discussion.

In the second part, Ekeh's (1975) enduringly admirable discussion of Africa's two publics---primordial and civic, moral and amoral---sets the stage, better than any other piece could, for a discussion of societal attitudes toward the state. Azaria and Chazan (1987) provide the 1980s' perspective by looking at patterns of escape and "disengagement" in Ghana and Guinea. Lewis (1992), on the other hand, brings in the relative optimism of the early 1990s with a critical discussion of the potential of "civil society" to harness the state back into a more democratic mould. These three pieces flow remarkably well together and take the reader on a inspired shortcut through almost twenty years of African studies.

Next come discussions of the competing analytical categories of class and ethnicity. Sklar's (1979) landmark analysis of classes in Africa takes the reader back to a time when social scientists were puzzled by the lack of class conflict in Africa. His identification of the importance of other dimensions of class action, including class formation and class collaboration, did much to solve this apparent puzzle and to maintain class analysis as a relevant approach to the study of African development. The juxtaposition of Boone's (1990) now equally essential work on the making of a rentier class in Senegal brilliantly highlights both the continued relevance of the concept of class formation and the enduring failure of an indigenous bourgeoisie to accumulate and become an engine of capitalist development. The beauty of Boone's work comes from her capacity to derive the non-accumulative propensity of Senegal's bourgeoisie from the power strategies of state elites, sketching thereby a theory of African under-development from the concept of the fusion of political elites.

Less emphasis is brought upon ethnicity, despite its continued salience in many African contexts. The existence of numerous other volumes on this question may justify Lewis' choice. Since many of these volumes were actually written or edited by Rothchild, the latter's contribution to this book---apparently written for the occasion but based on his own prolific work---is as good a summary of the main issues as any. Furthermore, Rothchild's emphasis on policy solutions sheds a contemporary light on these questions and highlight the relevance of ongoing experiments in state-ethnic relations on the ground. Tripp's (1994) study of women's associations in Uganda and Tanzania seems slightly out of place, however. A crucial contribution to the critical literature on civil society, it may have fit better in the previous section; it appears here a bit as the token gender study along class and ethnicity.

The fourth part brings out some of the very best work on the hesitant democratic transitions of the 1990s. Bratton and van de Walle's (1994) piece in World Politics heralded their 1997 book which became an instant classic on the topic. Their focus on the nature of existing regimes as shaping the structures and contingencies of democratization experiences is not only a contribution to African studies but also one which has successfully challenged the broader literature on democratic transitions in comparative politics. Robinson (1994) also challenges the relevance of the democratization literature (largely derived from the study of Latin America) by stressing instead the specificities of African political culture. These two pieces are cleverly framed by two contributions whose contrasting tones belie the fact that they were published only three years apart. Diamond's (1993) paper more or less takes African democratization for granted, whereas Young (1996), whose prose remains unrivaled among Africanist scholars, already concedes the unevenness of progress across the continent.

Finally, the book ends on a more economic note. Killick's (1980) discussion of the relevance of development economics to Africa provides a balanced treatment of neo-classical economics, highlighting both the importance of price mechanisms for Africa as elsewhere, and the tendency of neo-classical economists to neglect deeper-seated constraints to African development. This chapter nicely sets the stage for Callaghy (1987) and Ravenhill's (1988) work on relations between African governments and the Bretton-Woods organizations on the one hand, and the fragile consensus on the content of structural adjustment policies on the other. Finally, Herbst (1990) reminds us that, if Africa's economic crisis has political roots, the medicine of structural adjustment in turn has political consequences too which have frequently sabotaged its implementation and needs to be taken into account in policy recommendations.

In a nutshell then, this is an indispensable and excellently edited collection of landmark contributions on the political economy of Africa, spanning some twenty five years of scholarship. It will bring numerous and powerful theoretical insights to the new student of Africa and provide the more seasoned scholar with a convenient shortcut to some of the best work in the field.

Pierre Englebert
Department of Politics
Pomona College