"The State in Africa" is the English translation of one of the most important texts in comparative politics of the 1980s. Drawing upon a wide range of literature, the author shatters the myths surrounding African politics based on the images of famine, corruption and civil war. He challenges the existing western perception of Africa based on these theories and argues that we can only begin to understand the dynamics of contemporary African politics by comprehending the long term history of political thought and social action in Africa. The book covers both Anglophone and Francophone Africa. It includes quotation of authentic African voices from the people on the street to African presidents. The English edition includes a preface by Professor John Dunn, University of Cambridge, and a specially written introduction by Bayart. The author, Jean-Francois Bayart, is one of France's leading political scientists. He is the founder and editor of the journal "Politique Africaine" as well as being the author of many books on African politics. The book is aimed at 3rd year undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academics. It is suitable for those following courses in African politics, Third World politics, development studies, comparative politics and historical sociology.
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The State in Africa is one of the important and compelling texts of comparative politics and historical sociology of the last twenty years. Bayart rejects the assumption of African ‘otherness’ based on stereotyped images of famine, corruption and civil war. Instead he invites the reader to see that African politics is like politics anywhere else in the world, not an exotic aberration.
Africans themselves speak of a ‘politics of the belly’ – an expression that refers not only to the necessities of survival but also to a complex array of cultural representations, notably those of the ‘invisible’ world of sorcery. The ‘politics of the belly’ attests to a distinctively African trajectory of power that we need to understand as part of a long-term historical development.
While acknowledging the insights of Western social scientists from Weber to Foucault, Bayart never loses sight of the realities of African politics and social life and he is careful to allow African voices – from the ‘small boy’ in the street to the ‘big men’ in the presidential palaces – to speak for themselves.
This new edition of Bayart’s classic book includes a new introduction on Africa in the world today.
This book has established itself as an indispensable text on the state and politics in Africa. It also provides a nuanced reading of what we have come to call ‘development’ and opens the way for a more general reflection on the invention of politics in African and Asian societies.About the Author:
Jean-Francois Bayart, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris
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