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The Politics of Informal Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa


There is evidence of a new trend in recent scholarship on African political economy: an effort to tip the scale towards the latter end of the so-called state-society balance. This nascent movement portends to serve as a corrective to past academic work devoted to defining and delineating the form and nature of the African state. The statist literature has traditionally formed two camps, one based on liberal, neo-classical theory, and the other informed by the neo-Marxist dependencia model. No matter what the approach, in these studies the state is the central locus of macro-economic and political processes: as the centre of resource extraction and distribution, and the determinant of the nature of national politics, the state is fixated upon as the source of, and/or solution to, the economic status of African societies.

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Robert H. Jackson and Carl C. Rosberg , ‘Why Africa's Weak States Persist: the empirical and the juridical in statehood’, in World Politics (Princeton), 35, 1, 101982, pp. 124;

Timothy M. Shaw , Towards a Political Economy for Africa: the dialectics of dependence (London and Basingstoke, 1985);

Michael Bratton , ‘Beyond the State: civil society and associational life in Africa’, in World Politics, 41, 041989, pp. 407–30; and the compislation of works found in Rothchild and Chazan (eds.), op. cit.

Henry Bernstein , ‘African Peasantries: a theoretical framework’, in Journal of Peasant Studies (London), 6, 4, 1979, pp. 421–33;

Carl Eicher , ‘Facing up to Africa's Food Crisis’, in Foreign Affairs (New York), 61, 1982, p. 17;

Sara S. Berry , ‘Food Crisis and Agrarian Change in Africa: a review essay’, in African Studies Review (Los Angeles), 27, 2, 061984, p. 90.

Cf. B. Hindess , ‘Rational Choice Theory and the Analysis of Political Action’, in Economy and Society (London), 13, 3, 1984, pp. 255–77.

cf. E. Wayne Nafziger , ‘A Critique of Development Economics in the U.S.’, in Journal of Development Studies (London), 13, 1976, pp. 1834, and Sara S. Berry, ‘Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Africa; a critical essay’, African Studies Center Working Paper, Boston University, 1981, pp. 7–8.

Frederick Cooper , ‘Africa and the World Economy’, in African Studies Review (Los Angeles), 24, 2–3, 06091981, pp. 313, for an overview of this debate with reference to the general literature.

Jane I. Guyer , ‘Food, Cocoa, and the Division of Labor by Sex in Two West African Societies’, in Comparative Studies in Society and History (Cambridge), 22, 3, 1980, pp. 355–73;

Victor Azarya and Naomi Chazan , ‘Disengagement from the State in Africa: reflections on the experience of Ghana and Guinea’, in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 29, 1, 011987, pp. 106–31, and Rothchild and Chazan (eds.), op. cit., especially the introduction by Victor Azarya, ‘Reordering State-Society Relations: incorporation and disengagement’, pp. 3–21.

E. Feige , ‘How Big is the Irregular ‘U.S.’ Economy?’, in Challenge, 11121979.

Nelson Kasfir , ‘Are African Peasants Self-Sufficient?’, in Development and Change (London), 17, 041986, pp. 335–57.

W. Halligan , ‘Self-Selection by Contractual Choice and the Theory of Share-Cropping’, in Bell Journal of Economics (Hicksville, N.Y.), 9, 2, 1987, p. 344–54, on this point.

Sara S. Berry , ‘Social Institutions and Access to Resources’, in Africa, 59, I, 1989, p. 47.

Arjun Appadurai , ‘The Past as a Scarce Resource’, in Man (London), 16, p. 201–19.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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