Michael Bratton, ‘Beyond the state: civil society and associational life in Africa”, World Politics 41 (1989), pp. 407-430.

(This is a actually a book review of four volumes)


Important Insight: argues that Africanist political scientists should devote more research attention to the associational life that occurs in the political space beyond the state’s purview. A statist perspective must be tempered by an account of the dynamic influence of society. With few exceptions, African political elites have been unable to engineer a lasting consolidation of power, the reproduction of a governing class, or an improvement of living standards for members of society at large.






*despite efforts at inclusionary corporatism and mass de-politicization, ‘politics’ has not become coterminous with ‘the state’. Because of the shallow penetration of society by weak state institutions, there is a relatively larger realm of unoccupied political space in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

*this terrain has yet to be adequately explored and mapped, and we therefore need to refocus attention on a more pluralistic array of political actions. Civil society has an independent effect upon economy and society, as well as upon the formation, consolidation, and performance of the state itself.