The New States of West Africa. Ken Post. Penguin Books, 4s. 6d.
Ballot Box and Bayonet—People and Government in Emergent Asian Countries.
Hugh Tinker. Chatham House Essays, r.i.i.a., 8s. 6d.
These books, in their different ways, illustrate the dilemma of western political scientists confronted with the paroxysm of the ‘emergent’ world of post-colonial Asia and Africa. Traditional terms, hypotheses, assumptions clearly will not do: but what is to replace them? The authors, who differ in their experience, orientation and method, converge significantly in their failure to resolve this problem. Neither completely succeeds in liberating himself from debilitating ideological and methodological preconceptions; and, despite some penetrating observations, neither has been able to invent a unified and inclusive analytic scheme.
Hugh Tinker, former Indian Civil Servant turned academic, is Indophile, pragmatic, a liberal propelled towards a somewhat hazy paternalism. Conditions of historical backwardness, he finds, mock ‘institutional transfer’; nationalism almost irresistably degenerates into mystique and étatisme; the classical corporate and institutional groups (political parties, bureaucracy, military) prove variously incapable of assuring progress or democracy. Before this depressing perspective, Tinker turns to new solutions: the ‘politics of consensus’ (‘the outspreading of the sense of mutual loyalties, interests and obligations from the village or tribe to enfold the Great Society of the whole connexion’) or ‘pyramidal democracy’ as exemplified in Pakistan, Nepal and the Sudan. He has kind words for ‘bluff and genial’ Ayub Khan, for Mahendra, Vinoba Bhave, Jayaprakash Narayan; Swatantra ‘lays emphasis on the need to reaffirm moral and spiritual values’. His essay, which makes no pretensions to factual comprehensiveness, starkly discloses the fundamental inability of liberalism—lacking a global theory of society and history—to establish any autonomous purchase on the phenomena of the under-developed world.
Ken Post’s study, on the other hand, seems to be the uneasy issue of a battle between academic orthodoxy and political impulse in which the former won the day; one senses the textbook taking over from the pioneering analysis. A young political scientist with social democratic sympathies, he did his formative research in Nigeria, a fact which manifestly invades his conception of ‘politics’. Unlike Tinker, Post aims at inclusiveness: indeed, too much so. He fails to integrate historical with structural analysis, opening with a purely formal historical resumé which utterly fails to seize the dialectical complexity of decolonization. And he submerges his potentially interesting examination of social change and of political and institutional
There are, perhaps, two root weaknesses which explain one’s sense of profound dissatisfaction with these books: an absence of any serious socioeconomic analysis; and a grave banalization of politics. Both writers operate with superficial and unrefined sociological categories (Post’s ‘elite’, Tinker’s ‘mob’ etc), and both fail to posit any meaningful relationship between the phenomena of the different orders they discuss, economic, social, political, ideological. Secondly, both treat ‘politics’ as a crude ‘Pork Barrel’ or ‘interest group’ affair. By some curious migration, the ‘end of ideology’ has fled from over-developed to under-developed countries: ‘there are no real ideological divisions, no disputes over ends’ since all are devoted to ‘development’. Gripped in a sort of historical myopia, they seem unable to grasp the scale of the drama being played out in the ‘new states’. They could reflect profitably on this brief and simple sentence from the programme of the cnl, at present struggling for the future of the Congo: ‘It is not a question merely of a change of personnel, but of a qualititative change in the economic, political and social structures and conceptions of our country.’