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Capsule Review

Electoral Politics and Africa’s Urban Transition: Class and Ethnicity in Ghana

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Electoral Politics and Africa’s Urban Transition: Class and Ethnicity in Ghana
Electoral Politics and Africa’s Urban Transition: Class and Ethnicity in Ghana
By Noah L. Nathan
Cambridge University Press, 2019 363 pp. Purchase

Most observers of electoral politics in poor countries argue that higher incomes would create an urban middle class that would then eschew the parochial considerations of poor rural voters and demand universalistic policies to improve the general welfare. Nathan’s careful deconstruction of electoral politics in Accra, Ghana’s increasingly prosperous capital, shows one instance in which the theory does not hold. Middle-class Ghanaians continue to vote for politicians who follow a logic of ethnic favoritism and clientelism, promising rewards to their bases of support. He argues that the low capacity of the Ghanaian state, the huge unmet demand for state resources, and the presence in Accra of many poor recent migrants from the countryside all push politicians to continue their successful past strategies.

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