Friday, 5 February 2010

An introduction to 'Africa's Development Impasse'

Stefan Andreasson presents his latest book, Africa's Development Impasse - Rethinking the Political Economy of Transformation. Exclusively on Zed Books' blog.

Is it possible to say anything new and interesting about social, political and economic drivers of development in Africa? This was one of the key questions which motivated me to write Africa’s Development Impasse: Rethinking the Political Economy of Transformation. With this book I intended not only to challenge the so-called neoliberal hegemony in development thinking, which was never as hegemonic as is generally assumed and which in any case has undergone significant change over time. Nor did I think it sufficient to combine scepticism about liberal thinking on development with an argument highlighting the many intractable problems with socialist varieties of state-led development and the simplistic notion that African countries can replicate the ‘developmental states’ of decades past.

Instead I aimed to rethink the theoretical and socio-political foundations of development, in this case as they relate to three Southern African countries – Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe – that capture a range of problems faced by postcolonial African states and which they have not managed to resolve. To do this, I have written a book which argues for the rediscovery and re-articulation of a post-development vision that moves beyond the strictures of orthodox development thinking, whether liberal or socialist in origin, to thereby provide the possibility of a socially and politically sustainable future. The book is in this sense iconoclastic, but hopefully also one that makes a novel contribution to the political economy of development. It is a sign of Zed’s genuine commitment to ‘provoking ideas’ that they have provided the support for this book to come into being. It does not quite fit with much that is currently written on development and Africa’s political economy, but I hope you find it has something important to say.

‘A bold and imaginative reflection, in the context of southern Africa, on what the post-development injunction to seek alternatives to development can actually mean. This book contains the most sensitive and nuanced treatment of post-development thinking I have read. I highly recommend this volume not just to Africanists, but to all those who, with an open mind, are willing to reconsider just what the ‘development’ enterprise is and might be’. – Richard Sandbrook, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

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