Abstract

In the Samoan polity today, the indigenous institution of the matai (chiefs) continues to play a pivotal role in governance. In determining leadership, the fa'asāmoa (Samoan way) and the fa'amatai (way of the chiefs) are the most influential factors. Yet this has not prevented Sāmoa from experiencing governance problems found in other countries of the region, although perhaps on a lesser scale: misunderstanding, frustration, alienation, migration, discrimination, malpractice, patronage, and violence. Reasons for this may be (1) a lack of correspondence between fa'asāmoa and liberal democracy; (2) a lack of general understanding and critical assessment of the principles of liberal democracy in Sāmoa; (3) a combination of misuse, abuse, or misunderstanding of fa'asāmoa; and (4) a lack of publicity and critical assessment of the principles of fa'asāmoa. This paper examines aspects of these four characteristics of the Samoan polity and looks at ways of reassessing governance. It draws on literature that deals with some of the main features of Samoan political thought, as well as on discussions with Samoan scholars and thinkers. This introduction to a different approach to Samoan governance also briefly reviews some of the political forces and tensions at play in Sāmoa to show how they impact current political conceptualization.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 311-333
Launched on MUSE
2005-07-29
Open Access
No
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