Aristide Zolberg and African Studies – by Jon Soske

Among scholars of sub-Saharan Africa, Zolberg will be remembered primarily for two ground breaking books on West Africa politics, One Party Government in the Ivory Coast (1964) and Creating Political Order (1966). It’s not just that these works remain engaging and thought-provoking almost half a century after their publication—no small feat as several schools of African political science have swelled and crashed in their wake. It’s that Zolberg’s scholarship combines an effort to analyze African political parties in universal terms (that is, as politics, confronting some of the same dilemmas as mass movements or machine politicians anywhere) with deep suspicion towards the universalizing theories of 1960s social science and their pseudo-biological notion of development.

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