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No. 17. Democracy and Modernity in Southern Africa: Development or Deformity?

Michael H. Allen
Democracy and Modernity in Southern Africa

This book looks at problems that have arisen with modernization and development in Africa and seeks an explanation for persistent increases in inequality, even in the context of improved technologies and institutions that were intended to better meet human needs for safety, nurture, belonging, and creative fulfillment. The author coins the term “deformed modernization” to describe this state of affairs. The work draws on the post-liberation experiences of five countries in Southern Africa—Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

In defining the problem, a distinction is made between modernization and development. Development literature is invoked in a discussion of the primary factors contributing to development’s failure or success—in the world generally and in Africa in particular. The book offers a theory to explain the evolution of organizing ideas and social structures in terms of the push and pull of motivations, modes of thought, creativity, speech, and the power of opposing forces. These abstract and tangible human capacities are always simultaneously at work in the reproduction and evolution of patterned social relationships. This conceptualization enables the joint evaluation of modernization strategies, political economic structures,  macroeconomic management, forms of  government,  ethnic configurations, collective imaginaries, archetypes of thought and encounter, and reflexes of leadership as variable factors in the metamorphosis of the societies under consideration. This approach is potentially applicable to the analysis and criticism of modernization in other regions of the world beyond Southern Africa. It should be of interest to scholars across the social sciences, to psychologists, and to humanists. This work could also be useful to policy makers in the Global South, and in marginalized and de-industrialized cities and provinces in the Global North.


Michael H. Allen holds the Harvey Wexler Chair in Political Science at Bryn Mawr College and serves as Co-Chair of International Studies. He is a graduate of the University of the West Indies at Mona and the London School of Economics, where he completed doctoral research as a Rhodes Scholar from Jamaica.

IAD 2018, No. 17, 83 pages, 978-0-9802223-7-1, 0-9802223-7-0, $12 paperback


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