Neopatrimonialism and democracy

Authored by: Rachel Sigman , Staffan I. Lindberg

Routledge Handbook of Democratization in Africa

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138081246
eBook ISBN: 9781315112978
Adobe ISBN:


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One of the most common adjectives used to describe democracy in sub-Saharan Africa is “neopatrimonial.” Characterized by strong executives, pervasive clientelism, and use of state resources for political legitimation, neopatrimonial democracy has been (controversially) associated with a range of (mostly undesirable) social, political, and economic outcomes. This chapter discusses the theorized links between neopatrimonialism and democratization and conducts an empirical assessment of the relationship between neopatrimonialism, its underlying dimensions, and democratic progress in Africa. We show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, African regimes vary both quantitatively and qualitatively in their embodiment of neopatrimonial rule. Moreover, we find no clear evidence indicating that neopatrimonialism necessarily impedes the advancement or survival of democracy.

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