Nic Cheeseman, "Institutions and Democracy in Africa" (Cambridge UP, 2018)


In Institutions and Democracy in Africa: How the Rules of the Game Shape Political Developments (Cambridge University Press, 2018), the contributors challenge the argument that African states lack effective political institutions as these have been undermined by neo-patrimonialism and clientelism. Scholars such as Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz have argued that Africa's political culture is inherently different from the West and that African political system is actually working through what they term "instrumentalization of disorder." While acknowledging some of the contributions that Chabal and Daloz have made to the understanding of Africa institutions, the contributions in this volume challenge this notion that political life in Africa is shaped primarily by social customs and not by formal rules. The contributions examine formal institutions such as the legislature, judiciary, and political parties and they show the impact of these institutions on socio-political and economic developments in the continent. Their contributions show that political and institutional developments vary across the continent and African states should not be treated as if they are the same. They argue that informal institutions have helped to shape and strengthen formal institutions. The authors of the different chapters are cutting-edge scholars in the field and they make a clear and convincing argument that formal institutions matter and that it is impossible to understand Africa without taking into consideration the roles played by these institutions. The book is edited by Nic Cheeseman. He is a professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham and was formerly Director of the African Studies Centre at Oxford University. He is the recipient of the GIGA award for the best article in Comparative Area Studies (2013) and the Frank Cass Award for the best article in Democratization (2015). He is also the author of Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures and the Struggle for Political Reform (Cambridge University Press, 2015), the founding editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of African Politic, a former editor of the journal African Affairs, and an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan's African Progress Panel.
Bekeh Utietiang Ukelina is an Assistant Professor of History at SUNY, Cortland. His research examines the ideologies and practices of development in Africa, south of the Sahara. He is the author of The Second Colonial Occupation: Development Planning, Agriculture, and the Legacies of British Rule in Nigeria. For more NBN interviews, follow him on Twitter @bekeh or head to

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Bekeh Utietiang

Bekeh Ukelina is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center of Gender and Intercultural Studies at State University of New York, Cortland. Twitter: @bekeh/ Instagram @mwalimuwakusafiri/

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