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This chapter dons political economy glasses to review Madagascar’s economic and political history from precolonial times to the present day, drawing on the theories developed by North and his co-authors (2009 and 2012b), Acemoglu and Robinson (2005 and 2012) and Khan (2010), and applies the concepts they have fashioned (institutions, social orders, control of violence and rents, elite coalitions, etc.) to the Malagasy case. Significant changes have taken place and we have seen the gradual expansion of the elite political and economic circle. At the same time, democratic aspirations have surfaced and found a voice to speak out against the different regimes’ abuses and precipitate their fall. Yet the fact remains that the system and practices at the highest levels of the state have barely changed. Each regime has systematically sought to increase its power by concentrating it, personalising it and securing the support of a small group of influential players. Unable to think outside of the short-term box, none has sought the support of the masses by trying to meet popular aspirations.
The role of the elites in Madagascar's trajectory, especially in the formation and widening of inequalities as a known source of chronic socio-political instability, calls for a closer study of the elite group. This chapter establishes a sociography of the elites based on statistical surveys, including a unique representative survey focusing on the Red Island's elites. It provides insights into their strategies to attain and remain in power, but also their opinions on the running of society and especially their views of the obstacles to and the drivers of the country's long-term development. The majority of elites are from the old aristocracy. Social capital made up of a rich network in terms of its size, diversity and the intensity of the connections established within the elite circle and straddling is used as a strategy to access the highest hierarchical positions. This dominant class displays rather mixed attitudes to democratic principles. The main point of disagreement between elites and the rest of the population concerns the order of priorities on the political agenda. Although maintaining order counts the most for the elites, the rest of the population prioritises improved living conditions for the poor.
Malagasy society is historically highly hierarchical, endlessly differentiating and ranking individuals in keeping with a hereditary inegalitarian order that has lost none of its symbolism over time. Social inertia is further reinforced by weak formal and informal intermediary bodies, a missing vertical link between president and the population. This phenomenon is accentuated by the subsistence of a traditional political theology that instils the state with a providential quality and attaches Raiamandreny status (duly respected father and mother of their subjects) to those who embody it. The upshot of these elements is a yawning divide between the elites and the people.Social fragmentation is also a factor in the chronic political instability. Madagascar features a lack of stable, long-term coalitions of elites. The scant attention paid the populations and the fragility of the clientelistic connections do not afford broad-based popular support for the men in power.External factors form one last explanatory element for the long-term political instability. The consequences of the donors’ ongoing operational actions, which effectively weakened the state from the early 1980s to the 2000s, were disastrous. This pressure, combined with the people’s poor capacity to demand accountability, brought on the gradual institutional decay and loss of legitimacy.
The general conclusion wraps up the main findings of the book highlighting its innovative approach to considering how Madagascar functions in order to understand the country’s trajectory since independence. It investigates the hybrid nature of contemporary Malagasy society, a mix of external and internal influences in fateful combination (a chimera), despite the conclusion that endogenous dynamics are leading the dance. Drawing on the most recent trends, the chapter elaborates three potential scenarios for the years to come. Chaos is not the least probable. The second is the road to a more positive societal change, by establishing sustainable coalitions among elites and more organised top-down patron-client system. This scenario would establish a stable social order, but would mean the abandonment of the democratic process. The third scenario called democratic consolidation would be achieved by means of an inclusive social, political and economic dynamic. Perhaps the most ambitious, it would build on Madagascar most positive assets: the institutional capacity for regulation demonstrated in the past, the taboo on violence and the democratic aspirations of the population. The only avenue is for Madagascar to consolidate countervailing institutions and develop intermediary bodies, and giving more voice to the people.
The first chapter first presents the data on the Malagasy mystery: not only has per capita GDP been trending downward since 1960 (the puzzle), but every time the country has set out on a growth path, it has been stopped in its tracks by a socio-political crisis that has shattered the hopes it raised (the paradox). The chapter uses a range of information sources (macro aggregate and micro surveys) to allow for data triangulation to underpin the diagnosis of Madagascar’s puzzle and paradox. We looked for explanations first in the economists’ toolbox, i.e. growth and development theory and its offshoots. We then sounded out a broad spectrum of possible determinants (the usual suspects) to decide whether any of them displayed dynamics tentatively specific and deficient enough to be potential suspects to explain Madagascar’s misfortune. Yet these factors generally put forward by the development theories appeared powerless to explain Madagascar’s poor long-run performance. This first sweep fails to provide satisfactory answers to our question and even adds to the veil of mystery surrounding Madagascar’s trajectory, in that most of the conditions found appear to be positive. This leads to making a foray into political economy as a potential solution to the problem.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world today, with gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of less than 400 dollars in 2016 and a colossal rate of monetary poverty (over 90% on the international poverty line). Yet nothing appears to have ever marked the country out for such a terrible fate. Far from it, in fact. Although the latest political crisis that started in early 2009 and found an electoral conclusion in late 2013 has played a role, it is a mere blip on the historical radar. Madagascar’s long-term economic trajectory is a real mystery, which raises farther-reaching questions as to what is behind the divergent development processes observed in the world today. Not only has per capita GDP been trending downward since 1960, but also every time the country has set out on a growth path, it has been stopped in its tracks by a socio-political crisis that has shattered the hopes it raised.
Madagascar's long-term trajectory is unique: not only has GDP per capita been trending downward since 1960 (the puzzle), but every time the country has set out on the path of growth, it has been stopped in its tracks by a socio-political crisis that has shattered the hopes it raised (the paradox). No satisfactory explanation of this failure has been provided so far. This book elaborates a model of intelligibility of Madagascar's downfall, based on an integrated political economy approach as well as mobilizing the most recent development theories. Combining a review of historical literature with original and sometimes unique statistical surveys, it proposes a general interpretative framework for the workings of Malagasy society. Richly documented and accessible, Puzzle and Paradox allows readers to understand Madagascar's sociopolitical history while more broadly offering an opportunity to grasp the different dimensions of development in the Global South.
This chapter discusses the country’s key structural assets: control of violence; formal institutional capacities as shown by the dual economic and political transition as well as bureaucratic accomplishments; and expression of the population’s democratic aspirations.Episodes of violence are flare-ups rather than deliberate political strategies. In the light of the country’s long history, no non-state organisation appears to have any real power to whip up violence. Although violence exists in Malagasy society, it is largely repressed and, when it does surface, it tends to take the form of infrapolitical eruptions expressing a discontent that does not clearly pinpoint its causes or directly designate those responsible.Depending on the period, Madagascar posts capacities and achievements that could place it at an advanced stage of natural state in all three economic, bureaucratic and political arenas. Three examples illustrate this: the success of the export processing zones, significant results in the fight against bureaucratic corruption and the process of democratic transition.Last but not least, population matters. Changes of government have often been driven by large-scale movements. Escalating economic and unfulfilled democratic governance aspirations are a major source of popular frustration and potential mobilisation.