The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly, 2nd Edition
July 2009, Polity
Africans themselves speak of a ‘politics of the
belly’ – an expression that refers not only to the
necessities of survival but also to a complex array of cultural
representations, notably those of the ‘invisible’ world
of sorcery. The ‘politics of the belly’ attests to a
distinctively African trajectory of power that we need to
understand as part of a long-term historical development.
While acknowledging the insights of Western social scientists
from Weber to Foucault, Bayart never loses sight of the realities
of African politics and social life and he is careful to allow
African voices – from the ‘small boy’ in the
street to the ‘big men’ in the presidential palaces
– to speak for themselves.
This new edition of Bayart’s classic book includes a new
introduction on Africa in the world today.
This book has established itself as an indispensable text on the state and politics in Africa. It also provides a nuanced reading of what we have come to call ‘development’ and opens the way for a more general reflection on the invention of politics in African and Asian societies.
Preface to the second English edition (2009)
Preface to the first English edition (1993)
Preface to the original French edition (1989)
Part One: The Genesis of the State
Part Two: Scenarios in the Pursuit of Hegemony
Part Three: Political Action
Conclusion: Of Terroirs and Men
· Bayart rejects the assumption of African
‘otherness’ based on stereotyped images of famine,
corruption and civil war and invites the reader instead to see that
African politics is like politics anywhere else in the world, not
an exotic aberration.
· At the same time, we need to see that African politics
has distinctive characteristics – what Bayart calls
‘the politics of the belly’, an expression that refers
not only to the necessities of survival but also to the
‘invisible’ world of sorcery.
· This new edition of Bayart’s classic book includes a major new introduction on Africa in the world today.
Professor John Dunn, King’s College, Cambridge
"A masterpiece in Africanist literature."
Corruption and Reform
"Every now and then, something comes along which changes the way
in which we think about our subject. Such a book is Jean-Francois
Bayart's The State in Africa."
"This book should be read by all those (whether scholars or not)
who are seriously concerned with understanding post-colonial
African politics. Here, at last, is a book which goes beyond facile
generalizations and intellectual or cultural prejudice, which
respects rather than demeans Africa. The State in Africa is
without doubt one of the most challenging books on contemporary
Africa to have appeared in the last few years."