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Published in The New Republic in 1925, this essay challenges the standard question, “What is wrong with Liberia?” and the reflexive American view that Liberia must have failed to develop because of inferior abilities. An early account of what would come to be called neocolonialism, it analyzes the distinctive form of white domination suffered by vulnerable but formally independent Black states such as Liberia: economic exploitation on the part of white states and capitalists through foreign control of natural resources and markets, ruinous loans to the government, and the imposition of costly and ineffective outside experts.
This chapter answers a set of central questions that concern intermediaries’ backgrounds, profiles, networks, and self-perceptions. It suggests that intermediaries’ backgrounds are important as they give an indication of whom they respond to as well as what their strategies and interests are. The chapter also analyses intermediaries’ capital (social and foreign) to show how the political capital that gave intermediaries local clout came in part from the risks that they took in favour of democratic ideals during the authoritarian period. The chapter shows that while rule of law intermediaries’ access to international capital ‘amplifies’ their work on rights-related issues at home, the use of foreign capital is not solely to intermediaries’ benefit because distrust of foreign interests affects the value of their capital. This ambivalence led intermediaries to apply different strategies to hide their connections to foreign actors. Still, they needed to be in a position where they could use their networked resources to channel aid money or development activities to local levels, in order to gain political influence.
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