By Patrick Chabal
During this publication, Patrick Chabal discusses the constraints of latest political theories of Africa and proposes a unique start line; arguing that political pondering should be pushed by way of the necessity to handle the immediacy of way of life and death. How do humans outline who they are? the place do they belong? What do they believe? How do they try to outlive and increase their lives? what's the effect of affliction and poverty? In doing so, Chabal proposes a notably diversified method of politics in Africa and illuminates the methods usual humans "suffer and smile." it is a hugely unique addition to Zed's groundbreaking international Political Theories sequence.
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Extra info for Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling (World Political Theories)
If we are to think afresh, we must start at the beginning – that is, with what I call the politics of being. It is customary in political science to construct analysis on the assumption that society is made of discrete units: individuals who have organised themselves to distribute and regulate power. This is a reasonable assumption but, on reflection, a very crude one. What in practice ‘individual’ and ‘society’ are, is not straightforward, being and this is for two reasons. The first is that the actual definition of each depends on the relationship between the two: individuals are members of a particular society; societies are composed of particular individuals.
Even legitimate ‘traditional’ leaders, recognised as such by the population, were discredited when it became obvious they had to become colonial auxiliaries. Their authority was not necessarily in doubt but it became clear that authority without colonial endorsement meant powerlessness. As for ‘colonial’ chiefs, they never acquired legitimate authority but they could sometimes exercise enormous power. The post-colonial transition confused matters even more since in most cases it amounted to a nationalist ‘coup’ by a generation of politicians that lacked either age or ‘traditional’ authority but who wielded virtually untrammelled power.
People do not necessarily behave politically according to land and ancestors. It is the framework within which they identify themselves and it may, or may not, have political consequences, as we shall see. The question of the ancestors, about which there is a large body of (mostly anthropological) work, is often misunderstood. The issue is not so much whether Africans ‘believe’ in the cult of the ancestors, as though this marked out their religion as somehow being more primitive. It is rather that the relation of group to land and the sense of origin are both rooted in the location where the ancestors are buried and propitiated.