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Sovereignty and Underdevelopment: Juridical Statehood in the African Crisis

  • Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg


When we speak of ‘the state’ in Tropical Africa today, we are apt to create an illusion. Ordinarily the term denotes an independent political structure of sufficient authority and power to govern a defined territory and its population: empirical statehood. This is the prevailing notion of the state in modern political, legal, and social theory1, and it is a fairly close approximation to historical fact in many parts of the world – not only in Europe and North America, where modern states first developed and are deeply rooted, but also in some countries of South America, the Middle East, and Asia, where they have more recently emerged. The state is an inescapable reality. The military credibility of Argentina during the Falklands war, when it was by no means certain that Britain would prevail against its air force, is an indication of the reality of the state in some parts of the Third World today.



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Page 1 note 1 See, for example, Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, edited by Oakeshott, Michael (Oxford, 1946);Austin, John, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, edited by Hart, H. L. A. (London, 1954); and Weber, Max, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, edited by Parsons, Talcott (New York, 1964).

Page 2 note 1 We have elaborated on this point in ‘Why Africa's Weak States Persist: the empirical and the juridical in statehood’, in World Politics (Princeton), 35, 1, 10 1982, pp. 124.

Page 2 note 2 We follow Wight's, Martin definition: ‘By international legitimacy I mean the collective judgment of international society [i.e. sovereign states] about rightful membership of the family of nations’, in Bull, Hedley (ed.), Systems of States (London, 1977), pp. 114–16.

Page 3 note 1 Weber, op.cit. p. 154;

Austin, op.cit. p. 194.

Page 3 note 2 Manning, C. A. W., ‘The Legal Framework in a World of Change’, in Porter, Brian (ed.), The Aberystwyth Papers: international politics, 1919–1969 (London, 1972), p. 307.

Page 3 note 3 Tilly, Charles (ed.), The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, 1975).

Page 4 note 1 Jones, E. L., The European Miracle (Cambridge, 1981);Wesson, R. G., State Systems (New York, 1978); and Cohen, Youssef, Brown, Brian R., and Organski, A. F. K., ‘The Paradoxical Nature of State Making: the violent creation of order’, in The American Political Science Review (Washington, D.C.), 75, 4, 12 1981, pp. 901–10. For a modern statement of this classical view, see DeLio, Ludwig, The Precarious Balance: the politics of power in Europe, 1494–1945 (London, 1963).

Page 4 note 2 Jones, op.cit. pp. 118–19.

Page 4 note 3 Wight, Martin in Bull, Hedley and Holbraad, Carsten (eds.), Power Politics (Harmondsworth, 1979), p. 106.

Page 5 note 1 Brownlie, Ian, ‘The Expansion of International Society: the consequences for the law of nations’, in Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam (eds.), The Expansions of International Society (Oxford, 1984), pp. 359–61, and Curtin, Philip D., The Image of Africa, Vol. 1 (Madison, 1964), p. 280.

Page 6 note 1 Kirk-Greene, A. H. M., ‘The Thin White Line: the size of the British colonial service in Africa’, in African Affairs (London), 76, 314, 01 1980, pp. 2544.

Page 6 note 2 Kimble, G. H. T., Tropical Africa, Vol. 2 (New York, 1962), pp. 292–3, and Perham, Margery, The Colonial Reckoning (London, 1963), p. 95. See also Crowder, Michael, ‘The White Chiefs of Tropical Africa’, in Gann, L. H. and Duignan, Peter (eds.), Colonialism in Africa, 1870–1960, Vol.

Page 6 note 3 The History and Politics of Colonialism, 1914–1960 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 320–50.

Page 7 note 1 Delavignette, Robert, Freedom and Authority in French West Africa (London, 1968), p. 18.

Page 7 note 2 Kimble, op.cit. pp. 291–2.

Page 7 note 3 Young, Crawford, Politics in the Congo (Princeton, 1965), p. 10.

Page 7 note 4 The Pax Europea was disrupted and broke down only during World War I when there were some minor skirmishes between British and German forces in East Africa, and during World War II by the British-Italian conflict in Ethiopia.

Page 7 note 5 Oliver, Roland, ‘Initiatives and Resistance’, in The Times Literary Supplement (London), 8 08 1985, p. 867.

Page 8 note 1 Hance, William A., African Economic Development (New York, 1967), p. 3.

Page 8 note 2 See Lee, J. M., Colonial Development and Good Government (Oxford, 1967), ch. 3.

Page 8 note 3 Cowen, L. Gray, Local Government in West Africa (New York, 1958).

Page 8 note 4 van Bilsen, A. A. J., Vers l'Indépendance du Congo et du Ruanda-Urundi (Brussels, 1956).

Page 9 note 1 Everyman's United Nations: a complete handbook (New York, 1968), pp. 370–1 and 396–9.

Page 9 note 2 Cf. Kimble, David, The Machinery of Self-Government (Harmondsworth, 1953).

Page 9 note 3 Lee, op.cit. pp. 280–1.

Page 10 note 1 Low, D. A., ‘The Asian Mirror to Tropical Africa's Independence’, in Prosser Gifford, and Louis, Wm. Roger (eds.), The Transfer of Power in Africa: decolonization, 1940–1960 (New Haven and London, 1982), pp. 129.

Page 10 note 2 Nicholas, H. G., The United Nations as a Political Institution (London, 5th edn. 1975), pp. 154–6.

Page 10 note 3 Louis, Wm. Roger and Robinson, Ronald, ‘The United States and the Liquidation of the British Empire in Tropical Africa, 1941–1951’, in Gifford, and Louis, (eds.), op.cit. pp. 3155.

Page 10 note 4 Brownlie, Ian (ed.), Basic Documents on African Affairs (Oxford, 1971), p. 3.

Page 10 note 5 See Gareau, Frederick H., ‘The Impact of the United Nations Upon Africa’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge), 16, 4, 12 1978, pp. 565–78.

Page 11 note 1 See Mayall, James, ‘Self-Determination and the OAU’, in Lewis, I. M. (ed.), Nationalism and Self Determination in the Horn of Africa (London, 1983), pp. 7792.

Page 12 note 1 France has on occasion intervened in the continent, but these involvements have apparently been either by previous accords with the governments concerned (e.g. Gabon, 1964), or by solicitations from other African states (e.g. Central African Republic, 1979). See our analysis in ‘Pax Africana and Its Problems’, in Bissell, Richard E. and Radu, M. S. (eds.), Africa in the Post-Decolonization Era (London, 1984), p. 176.

Page 12 note 2 Ibid. pp. 157–82.

Page 12 note 3 Quoted in Legum, Colin (ed.), Africa Contemporary Record: annual survey and documents, 1980–1981 (London and New York, 1982), p. A69.

Page 12 note 4 Quoted in Newsom, David D., ‘African Tragedy’, in Christian Science Monitor (Boston), 18 04 1984.

Page 12 note 5 On the value of counter-factual analysis in African political studies, see Dunn, John (ed), West African States. Failure and Promise: a study in comparative politics (Cambridge, 1978), pp. 214–16.

Page 13 note 1 These conditions are examined by Wight, in Bull, (ed.), Systems of States, pp. 168–72, and Mayall, loc.cit. pp. 77–92.

Page 14 note 1 The distinction between negative and positive sovereignty is explored in terms of ‘freedom’ by Berlin, Isaiah, Four Essays on Liberty (New York, 1970), ch. 3.

Page 14 note 2 Plamenatz, John, On Alien Rule and Self-Government (London, 1960), pp. 22–3.

Page 15 note 1 See Červenka, Zdenek, The Organisation of African Unity and Its Charter (New York, 1969), pp. 92–4.

Page 16 note 1 We address this issue at greater length in Personal Rule in Black Africa: prince, autocrat, prophet, tyrant (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1982), ch. 7, and ‘Personal Rule: theory and practice in Africa’, in Comparative Politics (New York), 16, 4, 07 1984, pp. 412–42. See also Nwabueze, B. O., Constitutionalism in the Emergent States (London, 1973), ch. 6, and Sir Burns, Alan (ed), Parliament as an Export (London, 1966).

Page 16 note 2 See Hodgkin, Thomas, African Political Parties (Harmondsworth, 1961), and Morgenthau, Ruth Schachter, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964).

Page 16 note 3 Zolberg, Aristide R., Creating Political Order: the party-states of West Africa (Chicago, 1966).

Page 16 note 4 See our ‘Democracy in Tropical Africa: democracy vs. autocracy in African politics’, in Journal of International Affairs (New York), Winter 1985, pp. 293305.

Page 16 note 5 It is too early to determine how long Zimbabwe will retain its 1980 independence constitution. Recent remarks by Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, and statements issued by the ruling party, suggest that it will be replaced by a new one-party constitution after 1990.

Page 17 note 1 Kuper, Leo, Genocide (Harmondsworth, 1981), ch. 9.

Page 17 note 2 We address the relation of juridical statehood to these problems in ‘Popular Legitimacy in African Multi-Ethnic States’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 22, 2, 06 1984, pp. 177–98.

Page 18 note 1 For an excellent survey of political clientelism in Africa and elsewhere, see Schmidt, Steffan W., Scott, James C., Lande, Carl, and Guasti, Laura (eds.), Friends, Followers, and Factions: a reader in political clientelism (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1977).

Page 18 note 2 Roth, Guenther, ‘Personal Rulership, Patnmonialism, and Empire-Building in the New States’, in World Politics, 20, 2, 01 1968, p. 203, argues that ‘one of the major reasons for the predominance of personal rulership…in the new states seems to lie in a social, cultural, and political heterogeneity of such magnitude that a more or less viable…pluralism of the Western type, with its strong but not exclusive components of universality, does not appear feasible.’

Page 18 note 2 McGowan, Pat and Johnson, Thomas H., ‘African Military Coups d'État and Underdevelopment: a quantitative historical analysis’, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 22, 4, 12 1984, pp. 633–66.

Page 19 note 1 The World Bank, Toward Sustained Development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Washington, D.C., 1984), p. 20

Page 19 note 2 Lee, op.cit. pp. 280–1; also see Sir Jeffries, Charles, Transfer of Power (London, 1960), ch. 15.

Page 20 note 1 According to Colson, Elizabeth, ‘Competence and Incompetence in the Context of Independence’, in Current Anthropology (Chicago), 8, 1–2, 0204 1967, p. 93: ‘Not only are new men in the official positions; they have brought with them an entirely new set of unofficial linkages by which they can bypass official channels.’

Page 21 note 1 See Green, Reginald Herbold, ‘The East African Community: death, funeral, inheritance’, in Legum, (ed.), Africa Contemporary Record, 1977–1978, pp. A125–37.

Page 22 note 1 Twitchett, Kenneth J., ‘African Modernization and International Institutions’, in Orbis (Philadelphia), 14, 4, Winter 1971, p. 873.

Page 22 note 2 Clough, Michael and Ravenhill, John, ‘Regional Cooperation in Southern Africa: the Southern African Development Coordination Conference’, in Clough, (ed.), Changing Realities in Southern Africa: implications for American policy (Berkeley, 1982), pp. 161–86.

Page 22 note 3 See Joseph, Richard A., ‘Class, State and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria’, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Political Studies (London), 21, 3, 11 1983, pp. 2138;Jeifries, Richard, ‘Rawlings and the Political Economy of Underdevelopment in Ghana’, in African Affairs, 81, 324, 07 1982, pp. 307–18; and LeVine, Victor T., Political Corruption: the Ghana case (Stanford, 1975).

Page 22 note 4 Weber, op.cit. pp. 346–58.

Page 23 note 1 ‘Political and Economic Situation in Zaire– Fall 1981’, Sub-Committee on Africa, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatioes, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 15 September 1981 (Washington, D.C., 1981).

Page 23 note 2 Kwitny, Jonathan ‘Where Mobutu's Millions Go’, in The Nation (New York), 19 05 1984, p. 607. Mobutu's Belgian landholdings are estimated at $100 million and his Swiss bank holdings at $143 million, according to loc. cit. p. 606.

Page 23 note 3 Diamond, Larry, ‘Nigeria in Search of Democracy’, in Foreign Affairs (New York), 62, 4, Spring 1984, pp. 911–12.

Page 24 note 1 Quoted in Callaghy, Thomas M., ‘External Actors and the Relative Autonomy of the Political Aristocracy in Zaire’, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Political Studies, 21, 3, 11 1983, p. 75.Also see his ‘Africa's Debt Crisis’, in Journal of International Affairs, 38, 1, Summer 1984, p. 68.

Page 25 note 1 Valpy, Michael, ‘Tanzania's Aid Donors Wield Growing Influence in Economy’, in The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 27 09 1985.

Page 25 note 2 Donnelly, Jack, ‘Human Rights, Humanitarian Intervention and American Foreign Policy: law, morality and politics’, in Journal of International Affairs, 37, 2, Winter 1984, p. 314.

Page 25 note 3 Quoted in Hall, Richard, ‘The Paymasters Who are Africa's New Colonialists’, in The Observer (London), 31 07 1983. For an excellent analysis of ‘international debt effects’, see Haynes, J., Parfitt, Trevor W., and Riley, Stephen P., ‘The Local Politics of International Debt: sub-Saharan Africa’, Annual Conference of the [British] Political Studies Association, University of Manchester, April 1985.

Page 26 note 1 In Britain, Wight, Martin and others maintained an interest injuridical statehood and related topics. See, for example, Wight, , in Bull, (ed.), Systems of States,Donelan, Michael (ed), Reason of States (London, 1978),Mayall, James (ed.), Community of States (London, 1982), and Bull and Watson, op.cit.

Page 27 note 1 See Levi, Werner, Law and Politics in the International Society (Beverly Hills, 1976), and Tucker, Robert W., The Inequality of Nations (New York, 1977).

Page 28 note 1 The change can be identified with the publication of David Easton's modern classic, The Political System: an inquiry into the stale of political science (New York, 1953). In comparative politics perhaps the most influential representative of the new behavioural approach was Almond, G. A. and Coleman, James S. (eds.), The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton, 1960).

Page 29 note 1 The best traditional institutional studies avoided such a view. See, for example, Friedrich, Carl J., Constitutional Government and Democracy: theory and practice in Europe and America (Boston, 1950 revised edn.).

Page 29 note 2 This is the major theme of our Personal Rule in Black Africa.

Page 29 note 3 See our ‘Pax Africana and Its Problems’, loc. cit.

Page 29 note 4 Almond and Coleman, op.cit. p. 4.

Page 30 note 1 Huntington, Samuel P., Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven and London, 1968), p. 12.

Page 30 note 2 The term ‘political system’ was particularly appropriate to anthropologists precisely because their objects of analysis were lacking in the specific institutional characteristics — sovereignty, international law, etcetera — of states. The comments of Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. on this point are quite explicit in Meyer Fortes and Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (eds.), African Political Systems (London, 1940), p. xxi.

Page 30 note 3 Debates within Marxism over the significance of the state are extensive, but the socio-economic character of the state is not usually at issue. See Poulantzas, Nicos, Political Power and Social Classes (London, 1973).

Page 30 note 4 Mackenzie, W. J. M., Politics and Social Science (Harmondsworth, 1967), p. 279: ‘There have been…independent outbreaks of reaction in different fields against the distinction between formal and informal, between law and practice, between what “the book” says and what we actually do. The second member of each pair was for a while treated as being the reality studied by social science… [but] neither law nor practice is intelligible alone’.

Page 31 note 1 Vile, M. J. C., Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers (Oxford, 1967), p. 314. The distinction between ‘convention’ and ‘nature’, ‘social institutions’ versus ‘sociological laws’, is analysed in characteristically brilliant fashion by Popper, Karl in The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. I (London, 1962), ch. 5.

* Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of International Studies in the University of California at Berkeley. This is a revised version of a paper delivered at the International Political Science Association World Congress, Paris, 15-20 July 1985. The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments of the late James S. Coleman to whom this article is dedicated.

Sovereignty and Underdevelopment: Juridical Statehood in the African Crisis

  • Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg


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