In This Review

The Culture of Politics in Modern Kenya
The Culture of Politics in Modern Kenya
By Angelique Haugerud
Cambridge University Press, 1995, 266 pp.

This book is an exciting attempt to bring methods and concepts from contemporary anthropology to bear on African politics. Discarding the simplistic images of Kenya as an African success story that became a disaster under the autocratic leadership of Daniel arap Moi, the author analyzes continuity and change in Kenyan political culture as expressed in both public and private discourse and behavior. She explores ways in which the realities of power and tradition are shaped and challenged by the use of rhetoric in various media, including popular songs, plays, and especially the baraza (public meeting). At the microeconomic level, she downplays the assumptions of both development specialists, who attribute peasant prosperity where it exists to the adoption of progressive innovations, and class theorists, who see the structural features of an economy as the main determinant of who becomes rich or poor. Instead, from her extensive study of peasant producers in Embu, a central area of Kenya, she explains individual household fortunes by taking into account the subtle micropolitics of local relationships between patrons and clients.