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Book Reviews Guy Martin Africa Today, Volume 47, Number 3/4, Summer/Autumn 2000, pp. 177-181 (Review) Published by Indiana University Press For additional information about this article http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/at/summary/v047/47.3martin.html Access Provided by School of Oriental and African Studies at 10/24/11 10:59AM GMT Book Reviews Bayart, Jean-François, Stephen Ellis, and Béatrice Hibou. 1999. THE CRIMINALIZATION OF THE STATE IN AFRICA. Oxford: James Currey. 126 pp. Chabal, Patrick
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  Book Reviews Guy Martin Africa Today, Volume 47, Number 3/4, Summer/Autumn 2000,pp. 177-181 (Review) Published by Indiana University Press For additional information about this article Access Provided by School of Oriental and African Studies at 10/24/11 10:59AM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/at/summary/v047/47.3martin.html  Book Reviews Bayart, Jean-François, Stephen Ellis, and Béatrice Hibou. 1999. THE CRIM-INALIZATION OF THE STATE IN AFRICA. Oxford: James Currey.126 pp.Chabal, Patrick and Jean-Pascal Daloz. 1999. AFRICA WORKS: DISOR-DER AS POLITICAL INSTRUMENT. Oxford: James Currey. 170 pp.It is fortunate that in the same year, the excellent “African Issues” seriesof London’s International African Institute gives us the best that FrenchAfricanist scholarship has to offer. The Criminalization of the State in Africa is exemplary of the École de Paris , whose chef de file is none otherthan France’s premier Africanist, Jean-François Bayart, and which includessuch other luminaries as Jean-Pierre Chrétien and Achille Mbembe.  AfricaWorks is representative of the École de Bordeaux  , centered around thatUniversity’s famed Centre d’étude d’Afrique noire and the journal Politiqueafricaine , led (inter alia) by Patrick Chabal, Jean-François Médard, andDaniel Bourmaud, a School which ostensibly differs from—but often agreeswith—Bayart’s group in its approach to the study of African politics andsociety, as this review will demonstrate.First published in French in 1997 as La criminalisation de l’État en Afrique (Editions Complexe), The Criminalization of the State in Africa definitely bears Bayart’s intellectual imprint and builds on the author’searlier seminal work, The State in Africa (Longman, 1993), in which hedeveloped the concepts of  la politique du ventre (“the goat grazes where itis tied,” “those in power intend to ‘eat’”) and of the “rhizome state” (so-called because of its metaphorical resemblance to a tangled undergroundroot system). Resolutely taking a  longue durée historical perspective à laFernand Braudel, the authors suggest that contemporary Africa is return-ing to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness : “a slide towards criminalizationthroughout the subcontinent is a strong probability” (pp. 30–31). Further-more, following Charles Tilly’s Coercion, Capital , and European States (1990), they argue that in Africa, the interaction between power, war, capi-tal accumulation, and various illicit activities constitutes a specific politi-cal trajectory which must be viewed in a long-term historical perspective.According to the authors, this process of criminalization of politics andthe state in Sub-Saharan Africa reflects the increasing normalization ofpatently criminal practices: “the relationship between economic accumu-lation and tenure of political power in Africa now exists in new condi-tions. These have been created by the restoration of authoritarian regimes,. . . through a process of economic and financial rot, by the erosion of state   af     r   i      c a T  O DA Y   B  O OK R E V I   E W S  1        7         8         sovereignty, and by the multiplication of armed con fl icts covering entireregions ” (pp. 8 – 9). Each of the authors then proceeds to give substance tothis argument by focusing on various dimensions of the criminalization ofthe state in Africa: the political (Bayart), the economic (Hibou), and SouthAfrica as a case study (Ellis) (in my view a better sequence than the book ’ soutline, where South Africa is sandwiched between the two disciplines).In an incisive and thought-provoking chapter strangely entitled “ The ‘ Social Capital ’ of the Felonious State, or the Ruses of Political Intelli-gence ” (by which he really means: “ the political resourcefulness of Africanactors ” ), Bayart argues that historically war was endemic to Africa: “ Inas-much as the  pax britannica or the  paix coloniale ever existed at all, it wasno more than a brief parenthesis in a history haunted by the specter ofwar ” (pp. 43 – 4), and that the current political economy of low-intensitycon fl ict linked to international organized crime “ would be no more thanan illustration of the reappearance of this mode of government ” in Africa(p. 44). Indeed, Bayart goes as far as to argue that war has, in fact, become the dominant mode of state formation in contemporary Africa: “ Perhapswhat is really at stake in these con fl icts is less the disintegration of thestate, but the opposite, its formation . . . . Dissidence, war and banditry . . .do not necessarily threaten the formation or existence of a state. They can,on the contrary, [facilitate] its centralization ” (pp. 44, 115).Further evidence of these disquieting developments is adduced byB é atrice Hibou. In an exhaustive, carefully documented, and aptly arguedchapter on the “ ruses of economic intelligence ” (by which she really means: “ the economic resourcefulness of African actors ” ), Hibou shows how theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank ’ s Structural Adjust-ment Programs (SAPs) imposed on African countries have, in fact, led tothe opposite of the outcome sought, namely the further erosion of the state ’ sadministrative capacity, and the privatization and criminalization of pub-lic authority, government services, public administration, and developmentassistance, all in the name of “ liberalization ” and “ privatization. ” Finally,in an informative and well-documented chapter entitled “ The new fron-tiers of crime in South Africa, ” Stephen Ellis chronicles in painstakingdetail the srcins and underlying causes of the wave of crime which is cur-rently affecting the country. Ellis clearly shows that from the mid-1980s to1994, South Africa ’ s major black townships became the site of a strugglefor control between the security forces of the apartheid regime and theANC-SACP alliance, both arming their supporters in the townships in pur-suit of this strategy. As a result, the criminalization of security forces, theprivatization of security, regionally based warlordism, and a culture of vio-lence have become endemic in South Africa.While presenting a fresh and intriguing perspective on African poli-tics and society, Bayart et al. ’ s thesis may be faulted on a number of counts.To begin with, Bayart paints a resolutely pessimistic (and somewhat inac-curate and ethnocentric) picture of African history, referring to “ the his-   af     r   i      c a T  O DA Y   B  O OK R E V I   E W S  1        7         9         torical trajectory of a sub-continent whose main characteristics have in-cluded a limited development of its productive capacity, a limited degreeof social and cultural polarization, and a relatively feeble amount of politi-cal and administrative centralization as a result of social struggles, eco-logical or demographic constraints, and foreign interference ” (p. 42). Ina strange, postmodernist rewriting of history, Bayart further argues thatAfrica ’ s dependence “ has often been created by Africans ” (pp. 42 – 3), andthat while initially introduced by the French colonizers, “ the long threadof forced labor has never been completely broken South of the Sahara ” (p.45). In other words, African leaders are held responsible for their own de-pendence (as if they were somehow dissociated from their European mas-ters), and they have maintained to their bene fi t the hated colonial practiceof forced labor! More signi fi cantly, however, and except for the richly tex-tured case studies of Ellis and Hibou, this work is long on theory, but shorton substance. In particular, Bayart ’ s argument that war has now become the dominant mode of state formation in Africa — echoing William Reno ’ sconcept of “ warlord politics ”— does not resist closer scrutiny, particularlyif one takes into account the progress of democratization in such countriesas Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, and Niger. Further-more, Bayart misinterprets Tilly ’ s argument (con fi rmed by an analysis ofAfrica ’ s precolonial history) that various European states used either capi-tal, coercion, and/or war in state formation, which explains their differenttrajectories. And while there are grounds for an Afro-pessimistic reading ofrecent developments in the DRC (Congo) or Sierra Leone, one could alsoargue that far from descending into the Heart of Darkness , Africa is, inmany ways, showing clear signs of hope and promise because out of theashes of the postcolonial state, a new and improved state will rise.While the objective of the authors of The Criminalization of the State in Africa was wisely modest, that of the authors of  Africa Works is farmore ambitious and aims at nothing less than to “ attempt to make senseof what is happening in Africa today, ”   “ to provide the analytical frame-work . . . which we believe can help explain the condition of contemporaryAfrica ” (p. xv), and to offer “ both a much sharper understanding of present-day politics in Africa and a more plausible framework for comparing Africa ’ sevolution with that of the rest of the world ” (p. 143). Having set them-selves such lofty objectives, they (unsuccessfully) struggle to achieve themin the book ’ s remaining 170 pages.Evidently, Chabal and Daloz are irritated by the absence of innova-tive thinking on Africa: “ the motivation for our book lies partly with ourimpatience with existing intellectual sloth in respect of Africa ” (p. xx). Asthey point out, their approach is fi ve-dimensional in that: (1) they stressthe importance of actual events (empirical observation of contemporaryrealities); (2) they use “ universal ” analytical tools (a Weberian conceptionof the state and bureaucracy) rather than Africa-speci fi c concepts; (3) theyadopt a multidisciplinary approach; (4) they use a comparative method of
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