In this historical conjuncture of profound socio-economic disorders, the condition of the peoples of the so-called periphery is as desperate as it has ever been. Understanding the making and nature of their predicament is certainly one of the most basic conundrums in development studies in general, and the study of Africa in particular. A useful way of looking at the continent's dilemma is to focus on two broad factors: structural constraints and subjective conditions. The first speaks to the complex of historical circumstances, habits, and rules bequeathed by the past – ‘the grid of inheritance’, to borrow from E. P. Thompson – and the overbearing logic of the contemporary global systems of production, exchange, and information. The second signifies political choices that are made as the battle with the past, the present, and for the future continues.