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The chief, the mine captain and the politician: legitimating power in northern Ghana

  • Carola Lentz

This article explores the strategies of acquiring and legitimating power in Ghana, taking the example of three ‘big men’ from the north, a paramount chief, a mine captain and a politician in the making. After offering some observations on the recent public debate on the (im)morality of power and ‘bigness’, it outlines the biographies of these three ‘big men’ and analyses how they skilfully combine different registers of power and legitimacy. It then analyses the strategies of legitimation and grounds of moral judgement which depend, at least to a certain degree, on the particular relationship of the ‘judge’ with the ‘big man’ in question. The article concludes by discussing the common ‘grammar’ that seems to regulate the debates on ‘bigness’, morality and interest.

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