The academic sub-discipline of development studies is too often shorn of politics, but that field too is usually divorced from its material dimension: the unity of political economy (which constitutes the essence of ‘development’) has been sundered. Concentration on the relationship between consent and coercion – between freedom and force – perhaps the core element of the politics behind the pursuit of power and the formulation and execution of accumulation strategies, could reopen analysis of the construction of capitalism in Africa. All societies’ transitions to capitalism have been accompanied by a large degree of violence; Africa’s history has been especially so and the transition is far from complete now – if indeed it can be fulfilled. Yet the ‘legitimacy’ of ruling classes in the making – the consent to their rule that builds hegemony for them and the new socio-economic system they are constructing – is important too. This contribution’s main question is: how can one understand the relationship between coercion and consent while Africa ‘develops’, unevenly and haltingly, towards capitalist democracy? The query ranges theoretically and empirically; its tentative conclusion emphasises the necessity for the deepening of democracy at time when it seems to be diminishing.


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pp. 106-131
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