Poverty, political instability, and ineffectual administration have plagued the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau since its independence from Portugal in 1974. Forrest's carefully researched study explains this failure, and Portugal's earlier lackluster attempts at modernization, with the thesis that state weakness in Guinea-Bissau is the result of the resilient strength of its rural society. Chiefs, lineage heads, spirit mediums who oversee shrine-based secret societies, and rural networks with roots in the precolonial past so dominate land allocation and rural trade that neither colonial nor postcolonial governments have been able to exercise clear authority over the nation's agricultural resources -- an intriguing analysis that challenges prevailing theories of state-building.
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