An Arc of Authoritarianism in Africa: Toward the End of a Liberal Democratic Dream?

David Moore


Authoritarianism from below and above, and much of it at violent extremes, is filling the vacuums left by liberal democracy’s unfulfilled expectations. This essay will attempt to trace its arc, from Africa’s southernmost tip in South Africa, up the western coast to Nigeria, across the north and centre to the east in Kenya, and down again to Zimbabwe just across the Limpopo from South Africa. Of course, these social formations vary greatly: as the cliché goes, Africa is not a country. But as the universalists proclaim, excessive emphasis on the contingencies of difference and identities hide commonalities, promote relativism and discourage collective struggles. A wide theoretical angle attempting to merge the processes of primitive accumulation, nation-state formation and hegemonic construction, and democratic deepening can offer a way, broad though it may be, to view Africa’s new arc of authoritarianism.

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