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New Left Review 51, May-June 2008


David Laitin on Paul Nugent, Africa Since Independence. Lucid comparative assessment of the trajectories of 50 sub-Saharan states, from colonial inheritance to debt crises and Structural Adjustment.

DAVID LAITIN

AFRICAN OUTCOMES

In Africa Since Independence, Paul Nugent traces the trajectories of sub-Saharan African states from their post World War II anti-colonial movements, a time of hope and optimism, through the early twenty-first century, when many of them, with newly created quasi-democratic institutions, were recovering from state collapse and economic crisis. He offers no governing thesis; his talent lies in sensitively steering between the Scylla and Charybdis of every major debate that has put Africans and Africanists on opposing shores. This includes such concerns as the impact of nationalism on decolonization, the roles of chiefs versus politicians in the transition to independence, the socialist as against the capitalist path to development, whether military rule offered any improvement compared to discredited nationalist leaders, the impact of international financial institutions on African economic growth, the staying power of the current wave of democratization, and whether there are any remaining national foundations for reconstituting Africa’s states—a major agenda, by any measure.

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