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State Failure and Challenges to Democratization in Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009

Michael Bratton
Michigan State University


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.

Review Symposium
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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