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African Studies Quarterly

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African Political Cultures and the Problems of Government

by Elliott P. Skinner

Introduction

The thesis of this essay is that African countries will continue to be racked by conflicts unless leaders agree about how to govern their multi-faceted nation-states and how to distribute their economic resources equitably. Without a compromise that would ensure “ethnic justice”, neither so-called “liberal democracy”, nor any other species of government will succeed in Africa. If “liberal democracy” presently has any evolutionary advantages, it will have to adapt to local realities, and its contours will be shaped by indigenous African socio-cultural traditions. These have been changing over time, and now face the challenge of a Post-Cold War world where people are demanding equity. Can anthropologists contribute to the debate about these issues?

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Elliott P. Skinner an Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, where he held the Franz Boas Chair of Anthropology. He served as US Ambassador to Upper Volta.

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