State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0050
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0050
State-building in Africa has long been a concern of scholars and policymakers. The subject is particularly fascinating because of the large and quick shift from a continent largely populated by small states and acephalous societies in the precolonial era to one partitioned among European powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then to one in which four dozen new sovereign countries were created upon independence. For decades the ongoing question in Africa has been how these new states could build themselves into modern nation-states. This issue became especially pertinent in the context of large-scale political and economic collapse from the 1970s onward and the resultant donor-driven structural adjustment and reform programs. The effects on state-building of both political and economic instability and the subsequent attempts at reform have been the subject of major debate, as has the relationship between the continent’s numerous civil wars and state formation. Africa is also a continent rich with numerous natural resources, such as oil and diamonds, many of which have had an effect on state-building together with continued supplies of foreign aid.
Numerous textbooks on African politics and African studies could be useful to readers; however, the eight books that are listed here directly engage with the more specific topic of African state-building. Both Bayart 1993 and Chabal and Daloz 1999 are by Francophone scholars and thus wrestle slightly more than the others with the French-language literature on state formation and state-building. Others such as Englebert 2009 and Young 1994 treat both Francophone and Anglophone Africa and are thus unusually comprehensive in their coverage of the continent. Young 1994 is the only book here that discusses North Africa as well. Although Boone 2003 and Mamdani 1996 both largely rely upon select case studies, they also develop frameworks that are generally applicable throughout the continent and are thus essential reading for scholars. Herbst 2000 is unusual in its use of political geography and political demography, and Hyden 2006 is perhaps the closest book on the list to a textbook on African state-building.
Bayart, Jean-François. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly. London: Longman, 1993.
A highly influential book from an expert on Cameroon noting the way that African politicians have neglected state-building in favor of coalition-building, with adverse consequences for most African citizens. Originally published in French as L’État en Afrique: La politique du ventre (Paris: Fayard, 1989).
Boone, Catherine. Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Despite the geographical focus on West Africa, this book proposes a general model of state formation across Africa’s uneven political terrain, with an eye toward the current importance of territorial, or “sons of the soil,” politics.
Chabal, Patrick, and Jean-Pascal Daloz. Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
A book that reverses the dominant idea that African politicians have tried to avoid economic, social, and political disorder in arguing that, on the contrary, African politicians have survived and flourished through the promotion of disorder and state failure.
Englebert, Pierre. Africa: Unity, Sovereignty and Sorrow. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2009.
A new work that explains why African states have formed around former colonial boundaries and have largely avoided secession, with attention to the entire continent. Based in part on field work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Zambia.
Herbst, Jeffrey. States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
An overview of state-building in Africa from the precolonial period through the postcolonial era, with a focus on the role of the extension of state power over space.
Hyden, Goran. African Politics in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
A textbook that builds upon Hyden’s previous work on Tanzania by stating that African state formation has floundered due to the “uncaptured peasantry” who live outside the bounds of the state and formal economy.
Mamdani, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.
A modern classic that argues that the modern African state is bifurcated between urban citizens and rural subjects due to the impact of colonial policies of “indirect rule.” The two prime examples used are South Africa and Uganda.
Young, Crawford. The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.
An ambitious book relating the creation of modern colonial states in Africa to previous colonial efforts in other parts of the world with attention to the legacy of colonialism in contemporary efforts at state formation in Africa.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume’s Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics