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State Failure and Challenges to Democratization in Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009

James D. Fearon
Affiliation:
Stanford University

Extract

When Things Fell Apart manages to be wonderfully concise but still compelling. The thing Robert Bates seeks to explain is the secular trend in sub-Saharan Africa toward civil war, although he often characterizes this in broader terms, as a trend toward “political conflict” or “political disorder.” He explains the trend as follows: Public revenues fell in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of commodity price declines, effects of the second oil shock, and bad economic policy choices that overtaxed farmers so that politicians could dispense patronage to smaller, politically more important urban constituencies. The decline in public revenues led elites to become more predatory, which caused an increase in political conflict by mobilizing opposition. Popular demands for political reform, along with increased international pressure for the same at the end of the Cold War, heightened elite insecurity and led to more predation. This had the effect of “provoking their citizens to take up arms” (p. 109). Further, state decline and national-level conflicts exacerbated simmering subnational conflicts, typically in the form of land disputes between locals and migrants from other tribes.

Type
Review Symposium
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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References

Bates, Robert H. 1981. Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Besley, Timothy, and Persson, Torsten. 2008. “The Incidence of Civil War: Theory and Evidence.” London School of Economics and IIES, Stockholm University. Typescript.Google Scholar
Dal Bó, Ernesto, and Dal Bó, Pedro. 2008. “Workers, Warriors, and Criminals: Social Conflict in a General Equilibrium.” Stanford University and Brown University. Typescript.Google Scholar
Dal Bó, Ernesto, and Powell, Robert. 2009. “A Model of Spoils Politics.” American Journal of Political Science 53, 1 (January), 207222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fearon, James D. 2004. “Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer Than Others?” Journal of Peace Research 41 (May): 275302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fearon, James D. 2008. “Economic Development, Insurgency, and Civil War.” In Institutions and Economic Performance, ed. Helpman, Elhanan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 292328.Google Scholar
Fearon, James D., and Laitin, David D.. 2007. “Civil War Termination.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science AssociationChicago.Google Scholar
Olsson, Ola, and Fors, Heather Congdon. 2004. “Congo: The Prize of Predation.” Journal of Peace Research 41 (May): 321–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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