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Transcending the Impasse: Rethinking the ‘State’ and ‘Development’ in Africa

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Abstract:

This paper contributes to the ongoing debate on alternative development strategies in Africa by considering some of the alternative theories of ‘development’ that have been advanced in response to the developmental impasse faced by African states. It argues that a serious re-evaluation of what ‘development’ entails is now required that should involve a clear theoretical break with mainstream development theory. After a brief overview of the main alternative theories of development that have been proposed, the paper argues that the way to transcend the development impasse in Africa is through the concept of the ‘developmental state’. It then discusses the major concepts of the developmental state before considering the feasibility of the developmental state in Africa and the key issues of state strength, state autonomy, authoritarianism and the role of the bourgeoisie. The paper argues for the centrality of democratic rural development for the feasibility of developmental states in Africa and concludes with a call to rethink the concept of development and the developmental state from the point of view of democracy and the collective.

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