The Future of the State in Africa
THE FUTURE OF THE STATE IN AFRICA CLAUDE AKE The state is a specific modality of class domination, a generic phenomenon in capitalist and socialist formations. The unique feature of the socioeconomic formations in postcolonial Africa is that the state, if we can properly talk of such an existence at all, has very limited autonomy. The state in Africa is only a particular modality of class domination. In the social formations of Africa that are supposedly capitalist, we find a rudimentary autonomization of class domination. In the African social formations that are purportedly socialist we find a limited possibility of class domination being mediated and autonomized effectively by commodity production and exchange. As far as the state and social forces are concerned, we can state that much of postcolonial Africa remains essentially an enclave capitalism marked by the class domination typical of capitalism. The concept of state remains one of the most difficult in the social sciences. Rich in meaning and beset with controversy, it appears to become more elusive still with every attempt to clarify it. It is difficult enough to write about the state, much more its future. To the extent that we hardly understand the state and its laws of motion, it is difficult to see our way toward its future development. All these difficulties are compounded in the case of Africa where the common sense notions of the empirical referents of the state do not appear to apply. It is not clear whether we have states in formation or a new complex totality that is already fully formed. In these circumstances, it seems that the way to proceed is to state as clearly as possible what I understand the state to be as a generic phenomenon and to work from there to characterize the state in Africa and indicate what can be reasonably conjectured about its future development. So what is the state? The state is a specific modality of class domination. This modality is one in which class domination is mediated by commodity exchange so that the system of institutional mechanisms of domination is differentiated and dissociated from the ruling class and even the society, and appears as an objective force standing alongside society.