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What determines people's willingness to consider punishment for human rights abusers? This article investigates this question in the context of Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the country's violent presidential election campaign of June 2008. Based on a national probability sample survey, the paper shows that exposure to violence was reportedly widespread and that attitudes to transitional justice are mixed. In considering how to handle abuses, Zimbabweans weigh the pros and cons carefully and, recognising that peace and justice are difficult to obtain simultaneously, generally prefer the former. The article analyses the various factors that together predict a citizen's proclivity to claim transitional justice in its most demanding retributive form. Reflecting power relations, the results indicate that political partisanship is almost as important as individuals’ personal experience of actual and threatened acts of violence.
This lean volume digs into the roots of African politics by exploring the foundations of political order. The author sees state formation as originating in rulers' political decisions about how to extract wealth from society. Specifically, do they use coercion—the defining attribute of state power—to protect their subjects or to prey on them? If rulers—whom he characterizes as “specialists in violence”—calculate that their own political and economic interests are best served by taxing production, they will establish the infrastructure of a bureaucratic state. If, however, they conclude that the costs of providing protection to society's producers outweigh the expected benefits, then they will be tempted to turn the state apparatus into an instrument of predation.
As one of the world's youngest democracies, South Africa seeks to escape a bitter political legacy. During the second half of the twentieth century, its white minority government systematically built a powerful, militarized state around institutions of racial oppression. Starting even earlier, the discovery of minerals enabled the development of an industrial economy, which thrust Africans and the descendants of European settlers into close contact in the country's burgeoning urban areas. Predictably, political conflicts erupted between blacks, who provided labor, and whites, who benefited from economic growth. Because the old regime was dead set against political change until the late 1980s, the struggle over apartheid (as extreme racial segregation was called in South Africa) seemed destined to end in a cataclysm of violence.
That a bloodbath was averted was one of the most remarkable stories of an eventful interlude of global democratization. Against the odds, political leaders from both sides (but especially the visionary Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress) came to recognize that the long-term interests of South Africa's deeply divided communities were inextricably intertwined. Through tough negotiation and painful compromise, hardheaded opponents forged an elite pact, albeit against the backdrop of popular mobilization, that allowed the country to hold an open election and to install the country's first democratic government in 1994. The world welcomed this transition as marking both the end of colonial rule in Africa and the burial of the last twentieth-century government based on myths of racial supremacy.
If democracy consists of “rule by the people,” then the values, attitudes, and behaviors of ordinary folk are central to considerations of the fate of democracy. If it turns out that democratic stability in the medium- to long-term depends on the economic well-being of citizens, then democracies can be expected to be especially fragile in world regions where many people live in poverty.
This chapter explores the relationship of poor people to democratic citizenship in sub-Saharan Africa. It is prompted in part by intriguing research results emerging from South Asia that suggest that poor people are equally or more likely to hold democratic values, support democratic regimes, and vote in democratic elections. For example, Yadav finds for India in the 1990s “a participatory upsurge” among scheduled castes and tribes leading to “turnout of the lower orders of society…well above that of the most privileged groups” (2000: 120, 133). Bratton, Chu, and Lagos have replicated this result using National Election Survey data for India, confirming that Indians of lower material status were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the 1999 election (2006).
To test these and related results in African contexts, data are drawn from the Afrobarometer. The Afrobarometer is a series of comparative national surveys that, among other things, measures the economic living conditions and political orientations of ordinary Africans. Each national survey – covering fifteen countries in Round 2 – is based on a probability sample representing the adult population eighteen years and older.
This book is a fascinating exploration of public opinion in sub-Saharan Africa. Based on the Afrobarometer, a comprehensive cross-national survey research project, it reveals what ordinary Africans think about democracy and market reform, subjects on which almost nothing is otherwise known. The authors find that support for democracy in Africa is wide but shallow and that Africans feel trapped between state and market. Beyond multiparty elections, people want clean and accountable government. They will accept economic structural adjustment only if it is accompanied by an effective state, the availability of jobs, and an equitable society. What are the origins of these attitudes? Far from being constrained by social structure and cultural values, Africans learn about reform on the basis of knowledge, reasoning, and experience. Weighing supply and demand for reform, the authors reach cautious conclusions about the varying prospects of African countries for attaining fully-fledged democracy and markets.0
We have argued that, far from emanating from the deep structures and cultures of African societies, public opinion about liberalization springs mainly from recent political and economic learning. Mass attitudes about regime changes are primarily the product of acquired knowledge and instrumental calculation. But a critic might reasonably interject: “so what?” Does it really matter what ordinary Africans think and feel about public affairs? Don't the prospects for democratization and economic reform depend more critically on what these actors actually do? Surely public opinion can only be taken seriously if attitudes are converted into action?
We happen to think that attitude change is central to processes of regime consolidation and thus is worth studying in its own right. But, to address valid concerns about practical consequences, this chapter explores whether attitude change results in active citizenship. The focus is on political participation in all its variegated dimensions, from voting and protesting to what we all have called communing and contacting. These topics were broached earlier. On the extent of participation, we showed that the Africans we interviewed are politically busy during elections but less so between elections (see Chapter 5). Yet we found that people who contact their leaders and engage in collective action are also early adopters of democratic and market reforms (see Chapter 10). In this chapter we search for the underlying determinants of political participation and try to settle whether such behaviors are best regarded as a cause or an effect of reform.
Half a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Linz and Stepan noticed the divergent destinies of new regimes in the postcommunist world. Whereas, in East Central Europe, open politics and free markets were “near to becoming the only game(s) in town,” the newly independent states of Central Asia clung to staged elections and economic planning. These distinct paths were all the more intriguing because they emerged against a monolithic background of communist rule. The fact that regime change proceeded smoothly in some parts of the former Soviet empire, yet was derailed in others, draws attention to:
The unanalyzed variation within the region in democratic (or non-democratic) transition paths … (which) is explicable in terms of distinctive regime types (or subtypes) … comparative path-dependent analysis is called for.
This chapter takes national histories into account. African countries underwent liberalization during much the same period as Eurasia and also embarked on paths of change defined jointly by shared and special legacies. Across the continent, Africans had long endured a debilitating economic crisis, a deep dependence on external finance, and a pervasive culture of neo-patrimonial rule. This common ecology helps to explain why, in every country we have studied, mass satisfactions with regime reforms are heavily influenced by popular impressions of the economic performance of national presidents. As in other world regions, however, national political and economic legacies are not constant across sub-Saharan Africa. Even crisis-ridden African states diverge in their levels of wealth and trajectories of growth.
The late twentieth century was an era of reform. Most often, change ran in a liberalizing direction. Closed polities and economies became more open. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergent hegemony of the United States heralded much more than the end of the Cold War. This period was characterized by the global diffusion of democracy and markets as organizing principles for society. The 1980s and 1990s were periods of fundamental regime change around the world, in which prevailing strategies for the development of poor countries were stood on their heads. In the realm of ideas and policies — and more gradually within institutions — an ascendant democratic capitalism displaced the doctrine of state socialism.
The spread of democratic and market values has been global in scale but uneven in impact. In much of Eastern Europe and Latin America, reformers effected a dual regime transition by transforming elements of both political and economic life. They pried open ossified bureaucratic systems by reducing the role of the state and increasing the amount of freedom available to individuals and groups. Wholly or partly, contested elections and competitive markets began to replace authoritarian rulers and centrally planned economies. The relaxation of official controls held out the promise that, henceforth, citizens and consumers would exercise a greater measure of choice in the governance of the state and the direction of the economy.
This book explores public opinion in the parts of Africa that have recently experienced political and economic reforms. What views do Africans hold about democracy and a market economy? How do they behave in response to liberalization? Why do citizens think, feel, and react as they do? And what are the implications of mass opinion for the consolidation of fragile new regimes? In short, we explore the nature of public opinion — its content, origins, and outcomes — in all its glorious diversity in the leading reformist countries of the sub-Saharan subcontinent.
Needless to say, very little is presently known about these subjects. Thus, our first task is descriptive: to fill a gaping empirical hole and to help give voice to otherwise silent majorities of ordinary men and women. But we also harbor theoretical ambitions and an abiding interest in public policy. Why does public opinion vary cross-nationally and among different social and opinion groups within countries? What sort of theory — of interests, identities, or institutions — best explains African patterns of mass attitudes and action? By accounting for popular demands and satisfactions — or, more likely, dissatisfactions — this book enters evidence into long-standing, often heated, debates on the suitability of political democracy and market-friendly policies to African needs and conditions.
To introduce our topic, we present two vignettes — one apiece about democratic and market reforms — that illustrate the above preoccupations.
We live in an age of shrinking states and expanding markets. The idea has diffused globally that market incentives are more likely than administrative commands to encourage economic production, distribution, and exchange. In Africa, as elsewhere in the developing world, a neoliberal intellectual and policy paradigm has influenced and redirected official development strategies. Since the early 1980s, governments in the sub-Saharan subcontinent have embarked, more or less voluntarily but sometimes with heavy-handed encouragement from international financial institutions, on programs to relax controlled economies. A broad consensus has emerged among scholars and policy analysts about the desirability of stabilizing public expenditures and liberalizing market prices, but debates continue about the pace of reform, its sequencing, and institutional arrangements. At issue is the size of the state. And the impacts of adjustment on poverty and inequality remain matters of intense dispute.
Since professional economists cannot agree, it would be startling if the inhabitants of African countries spoke with one clear voice on the subject of a market economy. We find that Africans who live in countries undergoing neoliberal reforms express ambivalent and contradictory views about these developments. On one hand, they assert personal self-reliance and tolerance of risk but, on the other, they insist that the state retain a preeminent presence in economic life. They are dissatisfied with the past and present performance of the economy, but optimistic (often unrealistically so) about the future. They support some elements in the structural adjustment package, but not others.
Noting that “blatant reversions to military or one-party authoritarianism” were rare in Africa in the 1990s, Richard Sandbrook ventures that, among Africans today, “democracy … (is) widely perceived as the only legitimate form of government.” The present chapter tests empirically the reliability of this seasoned scholar's informed intuition. We confirm from survey research that popular support for democracy is indeed widespread among the general public, at least in almost all African countries where governments have attempted political reforms. For ease of presentation, support for democracy (along with satisfaction with democracy, and perceptions of the extent of democracy) is initially discussed as if political sentiments were aggregate attributes of whole “countries.” We reserve explorations of variations among social and opinion groups within countries until Part III. Having established that support for democracy is widespread, however, we issue a warning that it is also shallow.
UNDERSTANDINGS OF DEMOCRACY
Some see democracy in Africa as a “unique case.” Many writers distinguish indigenous conceptions of popular rule from liberal democracy, which is portrayed as an alien form of government derived from Western political experience. Along these lines, Claude Ake proposes that, rather than placing emphasis on “abstract political rights,” Africans “will insist on the democratization of economic opportunities, the social betterment of people, and a strong social welfare system.” Similarly, Osabu-Kle considers that an alternative “culturally compatible” model of democracy can be reconstructed in Africa from consensual modes of decision making practiced in the precolonial past and applied in the present by an “encompassing coalition capable of enjoying the support of all sections of society.”