Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa

Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa

Father, Family, Food
Michael G. Schatzberg
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/13/2001
Format: Paperback 1 b&w photos, 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21482-9
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Description

A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 20032002 Herskovitz Award Nominee

... refreshing and provocative... a significant addition to existing literature on African politics." —Stephen Ellis

It opens up a whole new field of investigation, and brings into focus the pertinence of an interdisciplinary approach to African politics." —René Lemarchand

In this innovative work, Michael G. Schatzberg reads metaphors found in the popular press as indicators of the way Africans come to understand their political universe. Examining daily newspapers, popular literature, and political and church documents from across middle Africa, Schatzberg finds that widespread and deeply ingrained views of government and its relationship to its citizenry may be understood as a projection of the metaphor of an idealized extended family onto the formal political sphere.

Schatzberg’s careful observations and sensitive interpretations uncover the moral and social factors that shape the African political universe while showing how some African understandings of politics and political power may hamper or promote the development of Western-style democracy. Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa looks closely at elements of African moral and political thought and offers a nuanced assessment of whether democracy might flourish were it to be established on middle African terms.

Author Bio

Michael G. Schatzberg is Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is author of The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire (Indiana University Press) and Mobutu or Chaos? He is editor of The
Political Economy of Kenya, The Political Economy of Zimbabwe, and co-editor (with I. William Zartman) of The Political Economy of Cameroon.

Reviews

“"This is the most interesting and original foray by a political scientist into African political culture . . . to urge foreign researchers to go beyond their own intellectual biases to see the African political world as Africans see it." —Foreign Affairs In this innovative work, Michael G. Schatzberg reads metaphors found in the popular press as indicators of the way Africans come to understand their political universe. This study looks closely at elements of African moral and political thought and offers a nuanced assessment of whether democracy might flourish were it to be established on middle African terms.”

“Excavating in the cultural context of authority relations, Schatzberg (Univ. of Wisconsin) adds fuel to the long-simmering debate over the peculiarities of African politics—and the assumed universality of explanations of Western social science—by demonstrating that legitimate rule in Middle Africa rests on a moral matrix of key premises: the father—chief; the importance, yet limits of consumption; the role and limits of inclusion and exclusion (largely women); and the organic alternation (generational rotation) of power. Space permitting, a fifth premise, on communal aspects of African life, could also be demonstrated. This review cannot do justice to the rich discussion and varied evidence from popular culture that Schatzberg adduces. This remarkable evocation of the politics of ordinary beliefs discusses what is politically thinkable, suggesting a cultural logic differing from the supports of states and institutions in the West. This is the realm of subjacent politics, an arena of implicit models that guide and condition political behavior. While the mundane implication is that the practices of bureaucracy and democracy in Africa will be interpreted in a special way, i.e., patrimonial and communal, the overall thesis fits within a Weberian and Tocquevillian tradition of the importance of culture and ideology in the exercise of power. This courageous book could form the basis of symposia for years to come.June 2002”
 — H. Glickman, Haverford College

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments
1. Metaphor and Matrix
Methods
Paternal and Familial Metaphors
The Moral Matrix of Legitimate Governance
Subjacency, Legitimacy, and the "Unthinkable"
2. Representations of Power
Power Defined
Local Faces of Power
Conclusion
3. Parameters of The Political
The Elision of Church and State
The Elision of State and Civil Society
Conclusion
4. Alternative Causalities
The Banality of Sorcery
The Perils of Explanation in Congo/Zaïre
Other Visions
5. Matrix I-The Father-Chief: Rights and Responsibilities
Nurture and Nourishment
Punishment and Pardon
Corruption and Its Limits
6. Matrix II-Gender and Generation: Women, the Paternal Order, and the Alternation of Power
Women and the Paternal Order
Women as Counselors
Evolving Norms
Generational Rotation
7. Democracy and the Logic of Legitimacy
Epistemological Issues
The Matrix Revisited
Legitimacy, Democracy, and "Democratization"
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index