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Rethinking Patrimonialism and Neopatrimonialism in Africa

From: African Studies Review
Volume 52, Number 1, April 2009
pp. 125-156 | 10.1353/arw.0.0163



Current usages of the terms patrimonial and neopatrimonial in the context of Africa are conceptually problematical and amount to a serious misreading of Weber. His use of the term patrimonial delineated a legitimate type of authority, not a type of regime, and included notions of reciprocity and voluntary compliance between rulers and the ruled. Those reciprocities enabled subjects to check the actions of rulers, which most analyses of (neo)patrimonialism overlook. We apply these insights to a case study of Botswana and suggest that scholars reconsider the application of Weber’s concepts to African states.