To provide a critical understanding of the historical, political and economic positionally of Africa, in and of the world, as seen through multiple paradigms, theories, concepts and contexts which shape our understanding. Suzanne Francis
- To offer perspectives and insights that engage with, stand in contrast to, and challenge, dominant paradigms about politics and international relations, as seen through the lens of 'the other'.
- To develop critical thinking amongst participants about the subject of inquiry.
- To develop research capacity appropriate to the level of study.
By the end of this module you should be able to:
- Analyse, synthesise and critically reflect upon the contested concepts, theories and paradigms that have historically been applied to the subject, the origin of these and their explanatory utility when applied to the narratives and contexts of Africa.
- Critically review and apply counter-hegemonic concepts, theories and paradigms in a critical appraisal of the narratives and contexts of Africa.
- Analyse and critically evaluate interpretations of political issues, events, relationships and practices as they apply to the positionality of Africa in the world.
- Systematically deploy knowledge of at least one African country and one region of Africa within the international context, as seen through different lenses.
- Strategically select and critically utilise evidence and data from a variety of primary and secondary sources to construct, develop and sustain an argument, compare and contrast and apply theoretical analysis to African case studies within a group setting.
It is not easy to define the concept of the ‘African State’ from among the many as well as diverse concepts of the state. However while positioning the definition on the conceptualization of the state as typically perceived in political science studies, an elucidation of the “Africaness’ of the African state is also required (Garcia 2014). The African state according to author is regarded as an unusual suspect and thus has been castigated by mainstream investigation as ‘unconstructive’ or ‘failed’. These ideas derived its logic while comparing to an ideal typical ‘strong’ state based on the European historical experience of state-building. While focusing on the theoretical conceptualization of the African state, the primary focus has been based on the association between state and civil society. Baylis, Smith and Owens (2017) have pointed out that in the process of re-organizing state-society relations whereby the state is an organization within the society, it has been identified from the myriad of other organizations within the society in addressing frequency and intending to institute binding rules concerning activities of other organizations. The following paper aimed for students and scholars engaged to the field of Political science will argue on the underlying principles of political economy of the African State development in the article entitled “(Re) Conceptualizing the Political Economy of the African State Form: The Strong/Weak State Contradiction in Angola” by Solli and Leysens. In addition to this, the paper will relate political challenges in the African state to the ideas expressed in the article.
Solli and Leysens (2011) have noted that in the field of investigation of African State, comprehensive evaluation of the African state initiated at the beginning of the 1980’s. The background to the materialization of the theory of the African state in the early phase of 1980’s was primarily based on the new trend investigation into African politics. Furthermore, Corkin (2016) has witnessed between the financial institutions along with the various African governments related to the role of the state in economic expansion. The article by Solli and Leysens (2011) showed its engagement with the issue of theorizing the African state formation and distinguishes two broad approaches namely neoWeberian and historicist that is used to emphasize on the issue of African state formation. It is important to note the way the article has made significant usage of proposed combination of Cox and Mamdani in order to make certain exploratory observations on the political economy of the Angolan state (Solli and Leysens 2011). Baylis, Smith and Owens (2017) have identified the neo-Weberian approach as ‘mainstream’ and constitute a stagnant understanding of the state concept based on the Weberian ideal type of state as it evolved in Europe. Furthermore, the historicist advancement of Neo-Weberian approach relied greatly on critique constituting of a fluid understanding of the ideas concerning African state formation with significant importance on the ideational aspect of power.
At this juncture, Guimarães (2016) has emphasized on the ideal-type method implemented in the process of conceptualization of the African state which arguably has been observed to draw its origin from the ideas of Max Weber. However such an association has been typically implicit and has been consequential to the understanding of issues and crisis related to Africa. These issues concerning the formation of state has led the nation to be singled out for exhibiting signs of weak, unconstructive, predatory and collapsed conditions of the state. Meanwhile, with the chaos related to weak state condition, Corkin (2016) have observed certain forms of conceptualization of power. Furthermore, a vital aspect of the Neo-Weberian has drawn its relevance from Weberian concept with a focus on the internal empirical principle of statehood. In such a scenario, ideas of Solli and Leysens (2011) has offered constructive synchronic scenario of the state regarded as static in the dimension of space. Meanwhile, the rational or ahistorical construct of the ideal type along with its characteristics fundamentally based on notions that the difference between reality and ideal type in order to comprehend underlying assumptions of reality (Ferguson 2014). However Behuria, Buur and Gray (2017) have noted that the neo-Weberian approach in understanding the state in Africa tends to diverge in certain ways from a ‘pure` application of Weberian’s approach. At this juncture, Corkin (2016) have stated that the pessimistic theories of the state related to the anarchical state, criminal state and the disorder state have been argued during the 1990’s. Croese (2017) has reported that a situation of anarchy which implies to the absence of no governments and politics have been observed to emerge in the West African states. The criminal state however signified state being primary actor of the criminal activity. While the theory of the ‘criminal state’ was not initially suggested as the theory of the African state, many scholars have analysed the criminalization of the state namely as a criminal state (Baylis, Smith and Owens 2017).
The ‘disorder state’ fundamentally implies that disorder has been developed as a political instrument and thus does not imply any disorganization of the state. Adams and Steinmetz (2015) have discussed that while disorder state exhibit incompetence in functioning rationally and the way political instrumentalization of disorder has been exploited for political elites in order to misappropriate the state, as the inefficiency of the state will be viewed as lucrative to exploitative political elites. While according to Behuria, Buur and Gray (2017), political elites do not use the term ‘disorder state’, they intend to investigate the political institutionalization of disorder in African states. Furthermore, the theoretical assumptions of the criminal state as well as the disorder state tend to reveal sense of frustration over the fact which institutionalized states based on the Weberian model have not been set up in the African state (Croese 2017). As a result, these are recognized to cause continual impacts by Eurocentrism signify a kind of theory concerning the retrograde states which are extensively cynical theories of the state. However, Mamdani (2018) have stated that on the other hand, neo-Weberian evaluation of the Angolan state further seeks areas of the relative state ‘strength’ specifically if individuals approve the point that one of the features of a strong state is military force. Angola as a state can undoubtedly be considered as one of the most proficient militarized states on the continent that is a result of the civil war as well as its former persistent unprofessed war with South Africa (Omeje 2016). Furthermore, Hickey et al (2015) have witnessed certain limitations to the understanding of the Angolan state formation while implementing such perspectives. However, while employing a neo-Weberian standpoint in order to signify the shortcomings concerning the Angolan state, authors have stated that a re-conceptualization was greatly necessitated. In addition to this, Carmody and Kragelund (2016) have suggested that the state must be conceptualized as a vital social actor which acts in accordance to the established social rules and norms. Thus, instead of perceiving it as a significant abstract structure, it must be comprehended as a society comprising individuals with varied characteristics. Drawing significance authors have argued that state power in Angola does not imply as being isolated from society for those who exploit from it, even if they do not belong from an insignificant minority who increasingly come to signify vital economic as well as social forces (Geldenhuys 2015).
However, the reason underlying ideal type of neo-Weberian compels to comprehend the Angolan state as a paradoxical or contradictory explanation. Thus, Mamdani (2018) has been seeking these aspects of inadequacies along with the neo-Weberian approach relying on the conjectures that the Angolan state must be conceptualized as well as historicized as an important articulation of power balance between diverse local social forces and their interaction with actors at the world-order level. However, at this juncture, the origins of these power associations can be observed to have its origin to the method in which Angola has been integrated into the world economy following the emergence of the slave trade in the 1550s. However, Adams and Steinmetz (2015) have stated that an important mapping of contemporary modern local social forces have disclosed an exceptional place of the state of Oil Company that is Sonangol in the political financial system of Angola. The Sonangol since its establishment in 1977 had been integrated to the politics and clientilist linkages concerning the presidency and has further retained its self-regulation as well as competence (Ferguson 2014). This has led Sonangol to emerge as an island of capacity successfully thriving with the collapse of other Angolan institutions. Furthermore, the locus of state power has been positioned in the interaction between Sonangol along with an association of technocrats as well as advisors in the presidency. Futungo, a group named after the presidential residence emerged as the de facto seat of power following to the administration of MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertac¸a˜o de Angola) party and official state organizations were strategically marginalized during the 1980s (Corkin 2016).
Sonangol has been identified to provide the material resources to advance the agenda of the Futungo and further comprises a centre of power along with state bureaucracy. Carmody and Kragelund (2016) have perceived it as a parallel state and further been signified as a parallel government constituting the president along with a few trusted aides who have been accountable to form all fundamental policy decisions with insignificant oversight from unconstructive legislative branch. Geldenhuys (2015) is of the opinion that transnational oil companies such as Futungo and the United States and China known as the largest importer constitute collective vested interest in stability and the continuance of the mode of production. The mode of production further comprises subsistence, familiar and non-established enterprise labour whereby the majority of the populace involved show certain degree of peripheral inclination towards the partnership between Angola’s state elites and the transnational oil agencies. Adams and Steinmetz (2015) at this juncture have accentuated the alliance between Angola’s nominally weak state and foreign non-state actors. This, for example engages some significant oil agencies assuming responsibility to safeguard as well as protect their economic cooperatives during the civil war.
Meanwhile, Mamdani (2018) has shed light on the debates concerning the ‘rent state’ or the ‘rentier state’ which have also been developed. Geldenhuys (2015) has analysed the rentier economic state and suggested four vital characteristics, firstly there can be identified no significant element related to pure rentier economy, secondly a rentier economy is primarily dependent on extensive external rent, thirdly only some are involved in the generation of the rent and lastly the fourth characteristic stated that the government is identified as the principle of the rentier state. However, the underlying principle of these four characteristics have claimed that the reallocation of oil rents will be incompetent to offer greater degree of democracy in the rentier state but in reality will reduce it (Ferguson 2014). Furthermore, Fraenkel (2017) has noted that majority of analysts focusing on Angolan’s political economy typically pursue the Neo-Weberian intellect. Furthermore, these analysts have been conceptualizing the Angolan state as highly unconstructive and weak and thus upgrade the state to a classic rentier state characterized by wide gulf between the regime and the wider populace.
Hence to conclude, theorizing a continuum emerges from the African strong state at one hand and as a weak state from the other. Thus, the process of theorizing the African state tends to become as an exercise in focusing on the shortfalls and potentials of states. Africa as a result, must be studied in relation to the requisites and potentials for its own self-centred growth. Thus accurate definitions as well as models of the state conceptualization must be developed rather than focusing on a universal model of political evolution. The paper concludes with a need of strong directionality that offers to the development of Africa as a strong state and forms accurate concepts for the evaluation of realism in African politics which must have strong divergence from the Eurocentric perspective.
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