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The Victory of Popular Forces or Passive Revolution? A Neo-Gramscian Perspective on Democratisation

    • Published online: 01 March 1997

In the flourish of literature now attempting to explain transitions to democracy in sub-Saharan Africa a curious consensus has emerged concerning the relative importance of internal and external causes. It is almost uniformly maintained that the real causes were internal, and that international factors were merely supportive. Accordingly, John Wiseman claims in the introduction to his recently edited volume on democratic reform that changes in the global political environment ‘made things marginally less difficult for those in Africa seeking to democratise their political systems and marginally more difficult for those (mainly incumbent authoritarian elites) who sought to prevent them from doing so’, emphasis added.

This article takes issue with such reductionism of politics to the domestic level. Internal and external causes are interlinked and intertwined in such complex ways that what at first glance appears to be internal may on closer inspection reveal strong external influences. The attempt to determine the relative importance of each is thus deemed futile and prone to ideological bias. The assertion that exogenous factors are only inspirational and supportive implies that the international financial institutions (IFIs) and bilateral donors are neutral and disinterested observers of current events, rather than active and ideologically motivated participants in global and national debates and developments.

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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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