Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat, 2nd. ed.
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, 392 pp.
Read together, the essays collected here provide a broad and sophisticated survey of the state of democratic politics in Africa. The volume's best general essays contribute both to democratic theory and to public policy, and its 15 country case studies are informative introductions to recent (and woefully underreported) political developments in the region. Almost all African countries moved to multiparty electoral politics in the early 1990s, but only a handful can be unambiguously characterized as democracies today. As a result, the view of the continent that emerges from these surveys is mixed, with encouraging democratic progress in some countries balanced out by failure and stagnation in others. Although constitutionalism and democratic institutions have undeniably strengthened over the course of two decades of competitive electoral politics, much political power remains personalized and unaccountable. Africans generally appear to be supportive of democratic forms of government, yet the region's enduringly mediocre economic performance and the failures of its state institutions threaten that support.