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date: 16 July 2024


A Dictionary of African Politics

Nic Cheeseman,

Eloïse Bertrand,

Sa’eed Husaini

A theoretical framework for understanding the practice of politics in Africa from the colonial era onwards. Whereas ‘patrimonialism’ refers to a traditional form of government described by influential German sociologist Max Weber, the term ‘neopatrimonialism’ is intended to signify that, following the imposition of the colonial state, African political systems can no longer be treated as purely traditional. The reason for this is that patrimonial modes of conducting politics were grafted onto the trappings of the modern state, including political parties, legislatures, and judiciaries. In the process, both patrimonial and formal institutional structures were transformed. On the one hand, institutions such as legislatures did not perform as expected because they conformed to a patrimonial, rather than a rational–legal, logic. On the other hand, the fusion of traditional forms of authority with the centralized political structures of colonial rule often served to empower the position of ... ...

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