Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival

In This Review

Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival

By Christopher Clapham
Cambridge University Press, 1996
340 pp. $59.95
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This important book proposes a major overhaul of the conventional framework for analyzing international relations in Africa. Taking off from the fertile concept of "juridical statehood" -- that is, legal but not substantive statehood -- posed a decade ago by Carl Rosberg and Robert Jackson, the author, a leading British Africanist, argues that the sovereignty of most African states was never much more than a convenient myth, even before the World Bank's imposed structural adjustment programs of the 1980s and 1990s resulted in the virtual recolonization of much of the continent. In all sorts of ways not usually perceived as interconnected and cumulative, he explains, international considerations during the Cold War -- trade, aid, investment, arms purchases, externally backed insurgencies -- shaped and determined the domestic political strategies of African rulers in search of resources to maintain themselves in power. African states and those who have ruled them, in short, have in large measure been products of the international system.