State Building, States, and State Transformation in Africa: Introduction

Authors: Njoku, Carol Ijeoma; Bondarenko, Dmitri M.
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 17, Number 1 / March 2018


Postcolonial societies are a unique event in world history. Their emer-gence in the mid-twentieth century did not result from centuries-old internal social processes, but was directly determined by the formation and short-lived (by historical standards) existence and disintegration of the European colonial empires. The colonial borders reflected primarily the balance of forces between the metropolitan powers in this or that region, but not the preceding course of the region's own political, social, economic, and cultural history. With rare exceptions, many different peoples were forcibly united within a colony. Not only kinship but also cultural affinity among those peoples was often absent. At the same time, the colonial borders would divide one people or break the historically established regional systems of economic and cultural ties not less infrequently. Likewise, the colonialists would forcibly unite peoples that had never formed regional political and economic systems; moreover, had different levels of sociocultural complexity, and sometimes did not even know about each other or were historical enemies. At the same time, the colonial borders would often separate historically and economically connected peoples and societies. These features were supplemented by stadial and civilizational heterogeneity of the colonial societies. The elements of capitalism, implanted by the Europeans in different spheres, did not synthesize with a set of pre-capitalist features of the local societies. There was also a little intersection between the autochthonous and new sectors of public life, in which essentially different value systems dominated.