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date: 21 March 2019

Philosophical Perspectives on the History of African Socialism

Summary and Keywords

The heyday of African socialism as the animating force behind African political developments has passed. Yet, like other political doctrines of great revolutionary movements, its name and principles continue to be invoked by political and social leaders today. As recently as 2005, the Rev. Johnson J. Chinyong’ole of the University of KwaZulu-Natal argued that the principles of African socialism should guide the Anglican Church’s efforts in reducing poverty in Tanzania.

As part of the zeitgeist of early postcolonial Africa, the traditions and principles of African socialism have had a profound impact on how Africans have seen and shaped their world. An understanding of the central tenets of African socialism helps to explain the unique ways in which Africans have responded to and appropriated features of Marxism, socialism, and capitalism, as well as to illuminate distinctly African traditions of communalism, philosopher-kings, aestheticism, and perfectionism in politics.

Keywords: Nyerere, Marxism, Ujamaa, utopia, colonialism, democracy, negritude, Nkrumah, capitalism, socialism

Historical Background

African socialism as a political, social, and economic framework arose in the twilight of Europe’s colonial domination of Africa. The 1950s and 1960s were exciting years of change for a generation of African political leaders and intellectuals who for the first time saw a continent of independent African states. The rapid collapse of colonialism and the corresponding burst of independent states—nearly forty in all—fired the imaginations of Africans at the possibilities for the continent and gave new hope for what Africans could do, now that they had at last thrown off the yoke of European oppression and exploitation.

But independence also forced Africans to reflect on difficult, and often uncomfortable, questions as to what it meant to be African. Tom Mboya, a Kenyan political leader active in the Pan-African movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, wrote at the time: “We are immersed in a massive transition in which we are seeking new identities at personal, national, and international levels.”1 Significantly, they sought a distinctly African identity that would cut through the vast diversity of ethnic, religious, spiritual, and national identities scattered throughout the continent.

Of course, some conceptions of “the African” were well entrenched in the Western mind. Prominent scientists like George Louis du Buffon and leading philosophers—among them, Kant, Hume, Hegel, Locke, and even Marx—all held or defended the conception of “African” as connoting an inferior intellect, a slavish will, and, to some degree or other, moral inferiority.2

In the heady days of the 1950s and 1960s, Africans sought to counter this crude racial stereotype. Interestingly, such approaches shared with the European stereotypes the presumption that “the African” is defined in contrast with the European or Westerner. For instance, Léopold Sédar Senghor based his conception of a uniquely African identity on the notion of “negritude.” According to Senghor, negritude is a kind of emotional capacity to be contrasted to reason, and the possession of negritude is what makes one authentically African. Believing that reason is the essential quality of Europeans, but that feeling defines the African, he went so far as to assert “I feel therefore I am” as the African analogue to the Cartesian principle, “I think therefore I am” (which he regarded as uniquely applicable to Europeans). Indeed, for Senghor, the African’s relationship to the world and his or her knowledge of it is completely different from that of the European. “The Negro-African does not separate himself from the object, he does not hold it away from him, he does not look at it, he does not analyze it. More precisely, after having held it at a distance . . . he takes it into his hands, alive without killing it. He touches it, feels it. The Negro-African is a field of sensations.”3

The “African” way forward politically and economically was also to be distinguished from that of the Europeans and the West. Part of the “African” plan for development was to rely on the African people to assert their energy and creativity fully for the first time after generations of oppression. Thus, the newly inaugurated president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, declared to the world that “[w]e [Africans] shall achieve in a decade what it took others [Europeans] a century.”4 But the new generation of African leaders also conceived of a distinctly African approach to economic development. Instead of copying the economic and political structures of their former colonial masters, these leaders proposed that Africans tap into their native resources and traditions to organize their economies.

This project was African socialism. So what, then, is African socialism?

The Distinctive Nature of African Socialism

Socialism itself admits of different definitions and characterizations, which makes it difficult to pin down precisely those respects that make African socialism distinctive. To capture those distinctive features, it is useful to consider some of those more general conceptions of socialism with which African socialism can then be compared and contrasted.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “socialism” encompasses:

  1. 1. any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

  2. 2. a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property; b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.

  3. 3. a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

To see how the prefix “African” modifies this definition of socialism, let’s consider how African socialism is related to these three general characteristics. The first two are related in that each describes socialism in terms of the absence of private property and collective ownership of the means of production. They differ only in that the first characterizes socialism as a political or economic theory that makes normative claims about how society ought to be organized, while the second states the conditions under which a particular state or society would be considered socialist.

As presented by its leading advocates, African socialism is consistent with these first two features. As explained later, however, the framers of African socialism had a view of traditional African societies that was inconsistent with the Marxist’s understanding of the relation between socialism and capitalism. Specifically, the African socialist’s view of the “natural state” of African communities provided a distinct basis for the development of socialism—one that was independent from both any prior capitalistic structure and the class conflicts created by capitalism.

This independent social basis for socialism is what most clearly sets African socialism apart from other forms of socialism. The first and second characterizations turn on the absence of private property and communal ownership of the means of production. These are quite plausibly seen as essential qualities of any version of socialism, and so it is not surprising that the framers of African socialism advocated those points. Interestingly, however, advocates of African socialism regarded those characteristics as not just desired outcomes, but as features of the natural state of African communities. By embracing socialism, then, Africans would also embrace their own traditional values.

For example, Mboya defines African socialism as “those ideals and attitudes of mind in our tradition which have regulated the conduct of our people with the social weal as the objective.”5 He rejects private ownership of the means of production and any form of inequality and gives the following justifications:

[M]an is a social animal and his economic plight and destiny are bound up with the functions of the society in which he lives. Therefore every member of a society has certain obligations to the society in which he finds himself, and conversely, every society has certain responsibilities towards its members. Also, it occurred to those people that the society is an organic thing with individuals playing the role of cells in the organism. From this premise the interdependence of members of the society has been inferred. Thus in the society the rich are rich mainly because the society has made it possible; similarly the poor are poor because the society has made it possible. Therefore if, in any society, a group of individuals control the land, capital, skills, and other means by which members of the society make a living, and if they use these means to achieve selfish ends, then an abnormal situation develop[s] in the social organism . . . Therefore, the best and the most rational way of running a society is to do so in such a way as to give to each according to his needs and take from each according to his ability. That is why in the general concept socialism stands for equality.

For Mboya, however, the outcomes of equality and communal ownership that this argument purported to justify were generally just those already observed in traditional African communal society:

In Africa the belief that “we are all sons (and daughters) of the soil” has exercised tremendous influence on our social, economic, and political relationships. Arising from this belief are the logic and practices of equality because “we are sons (and daughters) of the soil.” Also arising from the same belief is the practice of communal ownership of the vital means of life—the land. The hoe became the symbol of work, every able-bodied male and female worked . . . There was equality of opportunity—everyone had land and hoe at the start of life. The acquisitive instinct, which is largely responsible for the vicious excesses and exploitation under capitalist system, was tempered by a sense of togetherness and rejection of graft and meanness.6

Thus, African socialism is clearly a form of socialism, broadly construed, in that it rejects private property and advocates common ownership of the means of production. But it should be distinguished from socialism as conceived in Europe and other developed countries in that the developed world required a prior stage of capitalism as a foundation, whereas indigenous African society was seen as sufficient for building a modern socialist system in Africa.

This distinctive character can be seen in considering African socialism in light of Marxist theory. As interpreted in Marxist theory, socialism is an intermediate stage of economic development that grows out of a prior capitalistic system. That is, it is the stage at which a market-based system that maximizes exchange value is replaced by a planned system designed to maximize use value. The framers of African socialism, however, quite consciously understood their program as “leapfrogging” the capitalistic system—the very capitalist system that Marxists regard as a necessary precursor to socialism.

For instance, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere rejected the Marxist’s account of economic development and its claims regarding the progression from feudalism to capitalism to socialism. In part, this was because he rejected the Marxist’s belief that class conflict was essential to the development of socialism:

European socialism was born of [the] conflict [between the forces of the Agrarian and Industrial Revolution and] its apostles sanctified the conflict itself into a philosophy. Civil war was no longer looked upon as something evil, or something unfortunate, but as something good and necessary . . . Brought up in tribal socialism, I must say I find this contradiction quite intolerable. It gives capitalism a philosophical status which capitalism neither claims nor deserves. For it virtually says “without capitalism, and conflict which capitalism creates within society, there can be no socialism!” This glorification of capitalism by the doctrinaire European socialists, I repeat, I find intolerable. African socialism, on the other hand, did not have the “benefit” of the Agrarian Revolution or the Industrial Revolution. It did not start from the existence of conflicting “classes” in society.7

As understood by the Marxist, socialism requires a prior class conflict that (at least according to Nyerere) simply did not exist in Africa. If there was going to be a foundation for socialism, one must either identify in Africa some plausible analogue to the conflict between labor and capital or posit a fundamentally different foundation for socialism.

Nyerere’s way—and that of African socialism generally—was the latter. He found that distinctive foundation in the communal nature of indigenous African traditions:

The foundation and the objective of African socialism is the extended family. The true African socialist does not look on one class of men as his brethren and another as his natural enemies. He does not form an alliance with the “brethren” for the extermination of the “non-brethren.” He rather regards all men as his brethren—as members of his extended family.

“Ujamaa,” then, or “familyhood,” describes our socialism. It is opposed to capitalism, which seeks to build a happy society on the basis of the exploitation of man by man; and it is equally opposed to doctrinaire socialism which seeks to build its happy society on a philosophy of inevitable conflict between man and man.8

African socialism thus has a strikingly positive basis that highlights Africans’ natural affections to one another, rather than (perhaps equally natural) tendencies toward conflict and strife. Underlying African socialism are the natural human affections of family members, rather than the clash of economic interests between oppressed and oppressing classes. For Nyerere, this African version of socialism merely made explicit what was implicit in African societies and reflected preexisting socialist tendencies in African communities: African socialism—and by extension, African democracy as well—was lodged in African traditions that had been interfered with by European colonialism.

We, in Africa, have no more need of being “converted” to socialism than we have of being “taught” democracy. Both are rooted in our own past—in the traditional society which produced us. Modern African socialism can draw from its traditional heritage the recognition of “society” as an extension of the basic family unit. But it can no longer confine the idea of the social family within the limits of the tribe, or, indeed, of the nation. For no true African Socialist can look at a line drawn on a map and say, “The People on this side of that line are my brothers, but those who happen to live on the side of it can have no claim on me;” every individual on this continent is his brother.9

African socialism was thus not intended to be a revolutionary creed but a restatement of the principles underlying inchoate African communalism or African familyhood writ large. Communalism captured the organic relationship that existed between the individuals and their community. African leaders, such as Tsiranana of Madagascar, Nkrumah of Ghana, Nasser of Egypt, and Nyerere, stressed this organic relationship as the source of an ethic of hard work, public spiritedness and self-sacrifice—and as the basis for the various brands of socialism they advocated. According to Mboya, African socialism

refers to those proven codes of conduct in the African societies which have, over the ages, conferred dignity on our people and afforded them security regardless of their station in life. I refer to universal charity which characterized our societies and I refer to the African’s thought processes and cosmological ideas which regard man, not as a social means, but as an end and entity in the society.10

Similarly, Nyerere argued that African communities always had exemplified qualities of a socialist society, since “every member of society—barring only the children and the infirm—contributed his fair share of effort towards the production of its wealth.”11 The traditional African community gave to each according to his or her needs and took from each according to his or her ability. The framers of African socialism thus rejected the Marxist understanding of socialism as necessarily arising from class conflict born of capitalism.

It is, of course, one thing to claim that traditional African societies form a sufficient basis for a socialist state and quite another to show that that is true—and still another thing to show that those practices would still exist but for the introduction of ‘colonialism,’ or that bringing back such practices would be good. The plausibility of that assertion depends largely on how accurate the African socialists’ vision of traditional societies really was—that is, how closely the facts of communal life approximated the normative aims of socialism.

On that basis, we have good reason to be skeptical of the African socialists’ suggestions that traditional African societies were in fact socialist. It is, for instance, doubtful that there was any total state ownership of land even in those places and times in which it makes sense to say there was a state at all. It is perhaps more plausible to think of indigenous African societies as traditionally exemplifying communal ownership of certain important resources—land, timber, and cattle—but even that is likely to be riddled with exceptions and to fall far short of any socialist or communist ideal. Descriptive claims about a diverse people occupying varied geographical regions with differing local circumstances are bound to be oversimplified at best. In short, it is doubtful that the pristine African past on which advocates of African socialism built their hopes ever truly existed.

But while it is implausible to think that African communities were naturally socialist, it remains possible that something about those traditional communities is particularly amenable to socialism and that this amenability could make dispensable the prior stage of capitalism that was required for socialism in Europe. In that sense, the distinctive feature of African socialism is not its principles or content, but its contingent relationship to the past. That is, what distinguishes African socialism from its Marxist and European varieties are the path taken and its historical antecedents, rather than the destination they all share.

That socialism would have to be adapted somewhat to fit the distinctive history and traditions of Africans should not be surprising. Socialism itself is not some ahistorical concept that fell to earth once upon a day; it has a European pedigree and hence, a particular history. And while “socialism” is an abstraction, it is an abstraction from a particular history and cultural milieu—a European history and milieu. Marx’s own account of European socialism, according to which he posited certain necessary conditions for socialism to develop, coincided with the economic and social history of the Europe that sired him. Marx identifies slavery, feudalism, and peasant agriculture as the first part of the journey to socialism, which in turn eventually leads to a communist world of ends. As he wrote in his Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,

No social formation ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.12

According to Marxism, peasants deprived of ownership and the means of control became wage earners motivated to work for their survival and livelihood. Those few who owned the means of production, now inchoate capitalists, were equally motivated by the surpluses they earned from deployment of their means of production. Eventually, they had the peasants who could not return to the land they no longer owned at their mercy.

This new class of dispossessed peasants—the proletariat—was a class of capitalist society, one without ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence was to sell their labor. The proletariat and bourgeoisie (capitalist class) are, according to Marx, in necessary conflict, since capitalism is a system based on exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie—workers want their wages to be as high as possible, while owners of the means of production want those wages to be as low as possible.

The eventual outcome of this conflict, Marx argued, was the displacement of capital and deprivatization by the proletariat, giving rise to socialism. Thus, Marxism presents the surplus and oppression and later lower class’s uprising produced by capitalism as the preconditions for socialism, which in turn is understood as a specific historical phase of economic development and whose corresponding set of social relations eventually supersede capitalism and end in communism, a society in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

This theory of socialism is therefore intimately connected to the specific history of Europe—so intimately connected, indeed, that it could be of only limited value to advocates of socialism for Africa. Those champions of African socialism had to reject that European strain of socialism for at least three reasons. First and most clearly, the history of Europe was vastly different from that of Africa, and so the historical basis of European socialism was absent. Second, those Africans who hoped to create modern African socialist states were also bound up in efforts to define a distinctly African identity. This aim, which is conceptually distinct from their socialist ambitions, made it imperative that they create their own way forward, rather than merely subject themselves to yet another European import. Third, even if it were true that the most effective way to usher in socialism were to install capitalism first, the African socialists did not have the time (or, perhaps, the will) to force Africa down Marx’s path of industrialization and capitalism.

What the new generation of postcolonial African leaders needed, then, was a version of socialism that rested on Africa’s own history, that was distinctly African, and that would make socialism possible for Africa in the near term without unduly upending existing life. This last point—that the transition to socialism was not supposed to overturn the lives of ordinary Africans—is particularly interesting and betrays African socialism’s concern for attaining socialism without dispossessing peasants (land owners) and without fomenting the conflict implicit in the development of European socialism.

Advocates for socialism in Africa were acutely aware of the historical conditions of European socialism and were adamant in rejecting the conflict bound up in those conditions. Here is Nyerere on this point:

European socialism was born of the Agrarian Revolution and the Industrial Revolution which followed it. The former created the “landed” and the “landless” classes in society; the later produced the modern capitalist and the industrial proletariat. These two revolutions planted the seeds of conflict within society, and not only was European socialism born of that conflict, but its apostles sanctified the conflict itself into a philosophy. Civil war was no longer looked upon as something evil, or something unfortunate, but as something good and necessary. As prayers is [sic] to Christianity or to Islam, so civil war (which they call “class conflict”) is to [the] European version of socialism—a means inseparable from the end. Each becomes the basis of a whole way of life. The European socialist cannot think of his socialism without its father—capitalism.13

Socialism for Africa was to be conflict free, devoid of class conflict since with their departure the capitalist imperialists left behind an allegedly classless African. It is against this background that we can begin to grasp the point of the Arusha Declaration issued by the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) on February 5, 1967, which in many ways is a statement of African socialism’s commitment to eschewing conflict in its efforts to promote socialism:

  1. (a) Absence of Exploitation

    A truly socialist state is one in which all people are workers and in which neither capitalism nor feudalism exists. It does not have two classes of people, the lower class composed of people who work for their living, and an upper class of people who live on the work of others . . .

    In a socialist country, the only people who live on the work of others, and who have the right to be dependent upon their fellows, are small children, people who are too old to support themselves, the crippled, and those whom the state at any one time cannot provide with an opportunity to work for their living . . .

  2. (b) The Major Means of Production and Exchange are Under the Control of the Peasants and Workers

    To build and maintain socialism it is essential that all the major means of production and exchange in the nation are controlled and owned by the peasants through the machinery of their government and their co-operatives.. . .

  3. (c) The Existence of Democracy

    A state is not socialist simply because its means of production and exchange are controlled or owned by the government, either wholly or in large part. For a country to be socialist, it is essential that its government is chosen and led by the peasants and workers themselves. . . .

  4. (d) Socialism is a Belief

    Socialism is a way of life, and a socialist society cannot simply come into existence. A socialist society can only be built by those who believe in, and who themselves practice, the principles of socialism. . . . In particular, a genuine TANU leader will not live off the sweat of another man, nor commit any feudalistic or capitalistic actions.14

African socialism is therefore presented as uniquely African, classless, and free of both a capitalist ancestor and the attendant conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie.

But these are not the only aspects in which African socialism was to be distinguished from its European cousin. African socialism theorists imagined that their socialist future would reflect not just this absence of conflict, but also Africa’s unique religions and spiritual traditions. Leopold Senghor, one of the “high priests” of African socialism, cited African socialism’s special relationship to religion, observing that unlike European socialism, it “is neither atheistic communism nor, quite, the democratic socialism of the Second International.”15 To the African socialists, the abnegation of religion and spirituality implied in European socialism was anathema to what they saw as an essential part of African life. President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, one of the chief advocates of African unity and African socialism, echoed this sentiment when he stated that “Islam in its early days was the first socialist state.”16 Similarly, the first president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, insisted that African socialism was

that of solidarity and association as members of one family united in all circumstances. . . . These qualities are not foreign to us. They were the characteristics of the Prophet’s companions in the first century of Islam, who were socialists before the invention of the word.17

The Algerian communist, Omar Ouzegane, argued that the

incompatibility of Islam and socialism was a false image of Marxist theory. Their coexistence reflects a socio-economic reality and expresses a certain relationship of forces within the underdeveloped countries.. . . We need a new kind of Jihad to achieve the Algerian revolution, the triumph of national democracy, the conquest of social justice.18

African socialists thus saw a close relationship between the forces of tradition, religion, and change—a further testimony to African socialism’s devotion to its understanding of Africa’s unique tradition of nonviolence, spirituality, and African democracy. African socialism should thus be seen as a reflective political, social, and economic development for and by Africans on an ethnofoundation set in place by their ancestral responses to peculiarly African circumstances for the maximum satisfaction of humans’ political, material, and spiritual needs. As such, African socialism as a political conception is an alternative to violence; it is also peculiarly African.

African Philosopher-Kings, Social Engineering, and African Socialism

The African socialists’ apparent commitment to continuity contrasts vividly to the turbulent historical backdrop against which they were operating. Never before in Africa had there been such a dramatic break with tradition than when Europeans carved up Africa in Berlin (1884–1885).

Yet, despite their theoretical commitment to preserving the underlying structure of African life, the champions of African socialism were destined to unleash their own form of chaos on the continent. The cataclysm of African partitioning was dwarfed by the even more abrupt transition from colonialism, when a band of African men with little or no experience in governing entered the cockpit of African states in the 1950s and 1960s. Often with one foot in Africa and the other in European intellectual salons, these men lived in a kind of limbo, between Africa and Europe. Ordinary Africans might have expected this peculiar band of leaders to embody the best features of both Africa and Europe. What they got instead was a political potpourri that ultimately seemed only to serve the interests of the political elite at the expense of ordinary Africans—a doubly ironic result given African socialism’s theoretical commitment to avoiding subjecting Africans to class conflict. As it was implemented, then, African socialism emerged as a kind of artistic endeavor by these new African leaders, one they used to satisfy their own dreams for a new Africa at the cost of the people in whose name they claimed to govern.

Seen in these terms, African socialism was a utopian blueprint to be realized on a canvas of ordinary Africans. Isaiah Berlin saw the irony of such efforts, remarking on “the sinister artist whose materials are men—the destroyer of old societies and the creator of new ones—no matter at what human cost: the superhuman leader who tortures and destroys in order to build on new foundations.”19 The new generation of African leaders—Nyerere, Nasser, Sekou Toure, Nkrumah, Mamadou Dia, Tom Mboya, Senghor—were, in this respect, artists par excellence. Like most artists, they prized the satisfaction of realizing their blueprint more than the consequences of that realization. And despite that blueprint’s theoretical commitment to preserving African traditions, it proved too brittle and inflexible to accommodate the dizzying jumble of real African life—the eclectic collage of capitalism, socialism, rotating credit organizations, savings and thrift arrangements, fellowship associations, trade by barter arrangements, open-air markets; the crazy-quilt of private and communal property; the zigzag blend of individualism and communalism; the mosaics of acephalous societal arrangements sitting alongside kingdoms, fondoms (i.e., kingdoms), lamidos, sultanates, emirs, presidents, and prime ministers. As a matter of doctrine, African socialism was committed to extending African traditions, at least those represented in the highly idealized visions of African socialists. As a matter of fact, however, African socialism was incapable of coexisting peacefully with those traditions. In the end, African socialism could not take heed of the Nso admonition to “build your house next to the one that is standing.”20

The African socialist’s sweeping aesthetic representation of a society resembles Plato’s philosopher-king.21 For Plato, politics was “the Royal Art” for which philosophers are uniquely fitted. His trained philosophers were men “who have seen the truth of what is beautiful, just and good.”22 As interpreted by Karl Popper, Plato believed politics to be

an art—not in a metaphorical sense in which we may speak about the art of handling men, or the world. It is an art of composition, like music, painting, or architecture. The Platonic politician composes cities, for beauty’s sake.23

The philosopher-king, according to Plato, should work hard to “realize his heavenly vision in individuals as well as in the city,” without which a city “will never know happiness unless its draughtsmen are artists who have the divine as their model.”

The “heavenly vision” in our case is African socialism. Realizing that vision required working on a “clean canvas”:

They will take as their canvas a city and the characters of men, and they will, first of all, make their canvas clean—by no means an easy matter. But this is just the point, you know, where they will differ from all others. They will not start work on a city nor on an individual (nor will they draw up laws) unless they are given a clean canvas, or have cleaned it themselves.24

That “clean canvas,” however, requires radical change. In Plato’s case, it required that

[a]ll citizens above the age of ten must be expelled from the city and deported somewhere in the country . . .” of the philosopher kings. Plato said: “Whether they happen to rule by the law or without the law, over willing or unwilling subjects; . . . and whether they purge the state for its good, by killing or by deporting some of its citizens . . .—so long as they proceed according to the science and justice, and preserve . . . the state and make it better than it was, this form of government must be declared the only one that is right.25

Plato’s euphemism of “canvas cleaning” means that the artist-politician must clear away the existing institutions and traditions, banishing or executing those who would otherwise stain the canvas. Short of banishment, Plato urged the philosopher-kings to use a “noble lie” to realize their objectives.

The African philosopher-kings—those politicians-cum-intellectuals on the cutting edge of African socialism—saw themselves as having the same role as Plato’s philosopher-king: to “clear the canvas”—that is, Africa—of the rubbish of attitudes of the laity, traditions and existing institutions that might stand in the way of their socialist plans.

Like Plato’s philosopher-king, those African leaders enlisted the aid of “noble lies.” The first of these lies was to disparage anything and everything about the existing inherited Western attitudes, institutions, and traditions that were inconsistent with their own vision of Africa’s future. This involved promoting a highly idealized view of “Africanness” as a foundation for the new socialist edifice. As part of this lie, the African leaders preached that with their apparent diversity African political institutions and traditions were merely degenerate versions of a purer, more genuinely African past. African socialism, according to this interpretation, was just a way of correcting the errors introduced by colonialism and outside interference that had led to these degenerate forms and restoring the pristine African past through the new socialist institutions. For instance, Senghor, one of these latter-day philosopher-kings, asserted confidently that African history, when properly understood, would teach Africans that “we had already realized socialism before the coming of the Europeans.”26

But as suggested earlier, this idealized description of the African societies of the past, those societies that were uniformly harmonious, communalistic, cooperative, and collectivist, was just a “noble lie” in the best Platonic tradition, one that presented the new structure as a means of restoring a preexisting, superior state that had been lost. This restoration of Africa’s past—just as Plato had envisioned the perfection of the Republic—was to be achieved through social engineering and science. Nkrumah insisted that “there is only one socialism—scientific Socialism”27—and that “our Socialist ideology, Nkrumaism, is the application of scientific Socialism to our African milieu.”28

Like any other large-scale attempt at social engineering, the efforts of the African socialists were fraught with dangers and unforeseen consequences. Intoxicated by their own ambitions and theory, African socialists were led to the same excesses that have doomed other forms of utopianism. Popper sums up the effect of such intoxication well when he writes that:

Aestheticism and radicalism must lead us to jettison reason, and replace it by a desperate hope for political miracles. This irrational attitude which springs from an intoxication with dreams of a beautiful world is what I called Romanticism. It may seek its heavenly city in the past or in the future; it may preach “back to nature” or forward to a world of love and beauty; but its appeal is always to our emotions rather than to reason. Even with the best of intentions of making heaven on earth it only succeeds in making it a hell—that hell which man alone prepared for his fellow-men.29

Lest this sounds too abstract, let us consider African socialism according to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.30 Nyerere continued to hold on to the title “Mwalimu” (literally “teacher” in Kiswahili) after he became the president of Tanzania, a telling gesture signifying the patronizing view he took of ordinary Tanzanians.

On February 5, 1967, Nyerere proclaimed the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his vision of African socialism under the principles of Ujamaa. November 1973 marked the beginning of the drought that would continue throughout the agricultural season, reducing Tanzania’s grain harvest substantially. On November 6, 1973, Nyerere announced in a speech broadcast over the radio that all Tanzanians would have to live in Ujamaa villages by the end of 1976—a policy designed to break the power of smallholder farmers who, he realized, had few incentives to go along with his plans.

Nyerere’s address revealed his general attitude toward the common citizen of Tanzania. As described by Goran Hyden,

Nyerere stressed the moral obligation of the peasantry to contribute to the successful implementation of the Ujamaa policies. His tone was sterner than usual, barely hiding his anger. He was talking as a teacher upset with the behavior of his pupils.31

Like an overly strict teacher who has lost his patience with his class, Nyerere imposed a severe form of discipline on these “uncooperative students.” The compulsory resettlement in Tanzania between 1973 and 1976 was the largest resettlement effort in the history of Africa.32 It forced people to abandon their ancestral homes, their previous homes, their ancestors buried beneath their feet, and their residences and to move to the settlements designed by Nyerere. Where people refused to relocate, violence and force were used. According to Hyden,

people refusing to move into villages were portrayed as backward. The peasants in the Rufiji valley . . . refused to move [and were] castigated in an editorial in Daily News . . . as “selfish individuals” and people failing to know what was in their interest. . . . The editorial concluded that the peasants in Rufiji must be made to “hang their superstition” and be moved into villages compulsorily.33

What was happening? The smallholder farmers who refused to move were just part of the messy African reality that had no place in either Nyerere’s idealized vision of Africa’s past or his view of its socialist future. The smallholder farmers were too independent to bow to Nyerere’s plans for Tanzania’s development, which was centered on concentrating the population in villages.34 As a contemporary editorial noted:

Mwalimu [Nyerere] has frequently reiterated during the last ten years the importance of people congregating in villages. Such proximity is a necessity of development. For when people abandoned their isolation and come together into well-planned and laid out villages, they can be reached by social services, and they can effectively operate in co-operation. Only then can they begin to develop.35

Villagization was one among a series of policies taken in the wake of the Arusha Declaration to realize Nyerere’s dreams of a new Tanzania. Measures were taken to “replace the capitalist market with the political market-place as the principle [sic] forum for interaction with the peasants.” These efforts were accelerated after 1973 by reorganizing political party and government structures to reach the peasants more effectively.36 For instance, in February 1976, the government initiated a mass campaign entitled “Operation Maduka.” The aim of the campaign was to establish communally owned shops (“maduka” is the Kiswahili translation of “shops”) in each village and to close all private retail outlets. Private shop owners in the rural areas of Mwanza Region and Lindi Region had ten days to close. In the Lindi Region, the Party Regional Committee further declared that it would thereafter supervise the distribution of all essential commodities. Similarly, the Regional Party Secretary in the Kyela District and the Mbeya Region closed forty private shops, replacing them with three Ujamaa shops.37

The effect on ordinary Africans was devastating. Being stripped of their local institutions robbed them of the most vital thing in their lives: the freedom to be part of public affairs that concerned their lives and to have a hand in governing themselves. Worse still, they were now subject to a generally nonresponsive and incompetent national authority. The principle that one must learn from one’s mistakes generally has no place in the scheme of the philosopher-king, and Nyerere and his regime were no exception. Officials find it embarrassing to admit failures or mistakes, and instead of learning from them, they try to cover them up. To the extent that state authorities had something to offer the public, that public was frustrated by the state’s lack of control over much of the country. As such, Nyerere (like many of the other African leaders of his generation) lacked centralized control over his country, perhaps in part (ironically) because Africa didn’t have the benefit of internal developments implicit in the growth of a modern capitalist and industrialist state. Hyden puts it this way:

The paradox of this situation is that vis-à-vis each other, both government and peasants have a considerable degree of autonomy, but because they are not functionally integrated in the productive sense, the powers that stem from this autonomy cancel each other out. What government proudly initiates can easily be undone by the peasants in conjunction with the implementation of these policies.38

The effects of the African socialists’ social engineering experiments stand in contrast to the fine words of African socialists regarding the dignity of individuals and their rights to autonomy. In principle, African socialism was—like its European cousin—committed to the principle that no human being should be treated as a means to an end, no matter how elegant or satisfying that end might be. Yet, African socialism did exactly that, and the results were plain for all to see. True, during the period of its ascendancy, African socialism showered the African peasant with great attention, but the ultimate effect of that “attention” was generally negative. By imposing its own unrealistic vision of what it saw to be “genuinely African,” the African socialist betrayed his own (theoretical) commitment to preserving and sustaining traditional African societies and their values.

Backlash to African Socialism: The IMF, World Bank, and Laissez-Faire Economics

If the 1960s and 1970s were marked by African leaders’ undoing of imperial capitalist establishments for socialist arrangements, then, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed the undoing of socialist arrangements and the return to laissez-faire capitalism. While the African philosopher-kings were the major players in the drama of African socialism, international organizations, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and donor countries (new African philosopher-kings) were—and still are—the major actors in the laissez-faire capitalism in Africa.

What brought about the sudden change from the so-called command economies to capitalist-framed economies in the 1980s? The short answer is the collapse of communism. This collapse led to a belief in the power of the free market to fix Africa’s economic and political problems, and entrenched a new orthodoxy to replace the doctrine of African socialism. The IMF and the World Bank saw one main highway leading to free market: privatization of state-owned enterprises. Privatization, in the broadest sense in African states, entails the full or partial transfer of either ownership rights or management control of state-owned enterprises to the private sector. This process included divestiture, that is, the sale of equity or assets or state-owned enterprises, as well as the outright liquidation of enterprises as legal entities. According to the African Development Report of 1998, forty-one of sub-Saharan Africa’s forty-eight countries have reported privatization.

Yet this “solution” to Africa’s problems suffers from some of the same limits that its predecessor did. The accordion economic and political policies in Africa reflect the misdiagnosis of what it is that ails African states. Obviously, economic systems are not ends in themselves, but they are valued (or not valued) as a means of allowing citizens to live freely, unmolested by others be they governments or private citizens. Efficient economic systems need a government and an engaged political community; in most African states, however, it is apparent that there are serious limits to how engaged citizens actually are in their own governance. African states and governments, unlike those of the United States and Europe, are not the product of the people. They are the products of Europe that were appropriated by a selected elite of Africans for their own self interest, and they are sustained for that same purpose.

The problem of generating a politically engaged citizenry is exacerbated by the practical independence of citizens from their governments, which was remarked on earlier. In Europe and the United States, ordinary citizens have generally relied on selling their labor, which immediately enmeshes them in a larger economic system and ultimately facilitates interactions with the state. In contrast, many ordinary Africans live, as it were, “off the grid,” by necessity relying only on themselves and their immediate community to sustain themselves. Many ordinary Africans, even the government functionaries and elites who own land, could grow their own crops, produce their own clothing, and build their own shelters. Likewise, African states are also cut off from many of their citizens, relying on lucrative mining and oil proceeds and generous foreign aid, rather than directly taxing their citizens.

The disconnect between African states and its people is one of the principal ailments that have kept African economic developments frozen in time. The autonomy that the state and citizens have with respect to each other has its superficial virtues. Many citizens, for instance, enjoy benefits such as free education, postal services, highways, and health care, since the government—which is unable to effectively collect taxes for these public goods—has other means of funding those services. The cost of that “free ride,” however, is that government is not at all or hardly accountable to its citizens.

Those who call for public accountability as if it were something that can be summoned by simply recognizing the need for it should realize that whatever government accountability there is depends on what citizens demand and are willing to make persistent sacrifices to realize. Where this quality is lacking in a citizenry, one cannot expect government accountability. And this has a further effect on citizens, who, realizing that government will not respond to their needs, invest in their own autonomy so as to protect themselves from their own government’s indifference and ineffectiveness.

African Socialism: Myth or Reality

One day Monkey was taking a walk along a river. He saw a fish in the water and cried out, “Look at that fish in the water! It will drown! It needs my help!” With a determined look, Monkey reached into the water and pulled out the fish. He looked at himself with pride as the fish struggled, and congratulated himself on his good deed: “Look at that fish—isn’t it happy?” Eventually, of course, the fish died in his hands, leaving Monkey to sit, heartbroken, on the riverbank. “If only I had come a little earlier, was his only regret.”

Mozambique Folktale39

Regardless of the myriad similarities among humans the world over, humans do not all share the same circumstances of life, and a political theory that does not embody this truth is worse than useless. In politics, good intentions are not enough; the hard work of balancing the universal and the particular is needed. While African socialism erred on the side of particularity, laissez-faire capitalism erred on the side of universality. There is nothing incoherent about either African socialism or Western capitalism. But what is wrong about these systems is that they are hijacked from particular histories that have no resemblance to Africa’s and then are applied to Africa without the kind of debate that could help illuminate these medicines and the conditions of the patients.

Those whose thoughts exercise great influence over contemporary debates on Western free markets are not hard to pinpoint; they include Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Popper, and Peter Drucker.40 Mises and Hayek sired the Chicago School of free market macroeconomics. Schumpeter described the “creative, destructive” powers of capitalism. Popper is known for his defense of the “open society,” along with his theory of totalitarianism. Drucker is best known for his theory of management. This cast of characters complements one another.41 All of them were born in Austria and shared concerns about their native land, particularly about the economic and political catastrophes that occurred in the interregnum between the world wars that engulfed their homeland. They were devoted to diagnosing the reasons for the failed socialist municipal experiment in Vienna that was followed by a reactionary coup in 1934 and then, four years later, by the Nazis’ invasion and occupation of Austria:

All were forced into exile by these events and all—Hayek in particular—were to cast their writings and teachings in the shadow of the central question of their lifetime: why had liberal society collapsed and given way—at least in the Austrian case—to fascism? Their answer: the unsuccessful attempts of the (Marxist) left to introduce into post-1918 Austria state directed planning, municipally owned services and collectivized economic activity had not only proven delusionary, but had led directly to a counterreaction.42

The Austrian tragedy had been brought about by the left—socialism. That fact significantly shaped the conclusion these men drew and led each of them to believe that

the best way to defend liberalism, the best defense of an open society and its attendant freedoms, was to keep the government far away from economic life. If the state was held at a safe distance, if politicians—however well intentioned—were barred from planning, manipulating, or directing the affairs of their fellow citizens, then extremists of the right and left alike would be kept at bay.43

John Maynard Keynes, the English economist, was confronted with the same challenges—how to diagnose what happened in the interlude of the two world wars and prevent their recurrence. According to Judt, Keynes’s Englishness set him apart from his contemporaries. Unlike the cast of Austrian economists, philosophers, and political scientists, Keynes

grew up in a stable, confident, prosperous, and powerful Britain. And then, from his privileged perch at the Treasury and as a participant in the Versailles peace negotiations, he watched his world collapse, taking with it all the reassuring certainties of his culture and class. Keynes, too, would ask himself the question that Hayek and his Austrian colleagues had posed. But he offered a very different answer.44

Keynes’s contribution to economics put uncertainty front and center. He insisted on the unpredictability of human affairs. Uncertainty was the lesson, he believed, to be drawn from the depression, fascism, and war. According to Keynes, uncertainty, insecurity, and collective fears are the forces that have threatened and might again threaten the liberal world. He therefore prescribed an increased role for the social security state, including but not confined to countercyclical economic intervention.45

For much of the 20th century, Great Britain was governed by Keynesian principles. Social security and communal provision of public services for the masses reduced the Gini Coefficient and created a cushion that allowed citizens enough disposable income for consumption, which ultimately accelerated the economy even as it created a sense of cohesion and joint purpose among the citizenry.

Ironically, the success of the Keynesian system was responsible for its own collective amnesia. In the 1970s and 1980s, Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States would introduce a number of reforms—tax and employment reforms followed by deregulation of the financial sector. A liberal president, Bill Clinton, would follow with the reform (almost dismantling) of the welfare system, for instance, with his “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.” These reforms were cheered on by the Chicago School of Free Market.46

The financial meltdown that started in the United States in 2008 and rippled throughout the world has led many to question the Chicago School of Economics. In fact, one of their own, former Federal Judge Richard Posner, now calls for the introduction of Keynesian economics. We know that the financial meltdown was largely the result of overderegulation of the financial markets and corporations.

Today privatization is ongoing in African states. The arguments for privatization (as those for African socialism) are almost always posited in financial terms and as economic benefits and developments. It is not only the process of privatization as much as the whole idea of it that is wrong in the African case. Collapse the problems of African states to economics, and you miss the real problems that ordinary Africans face. Raising the capacity of citizens to produce the conditions—political, economic, and social—for their success is a complicated phenomenon that goes far beyond mere economics. It calls for developing the capabilities, dispositions, courage, security, and equanimity of citizens to allow them to be autonomous—speaking and acting for themselves, rather than having reformed members of the oppressed groups or international organizations and foreign government speaking on their behalf. Creating these dispositions comes well before the kind of infrastructures needed for free markets that African states lack. It needs, among other things, a sense of cohesion—citizens must feel that they belong to a political community. This feeling is absent in almost all of Africa. Neither the state nor the population is accountable to each other.

The outcome of African socialism was that African states were characterized by a high level of government ownership of enterprises and of economic regulation and suppression of financial markets. The World Bank highlighted this problem in a 1986 paper on public enterprises, where it stated that “public enterprises represent a depressing picture of inefficiency, losses, budgetary burdens, poor products and services.”47 The report made two key observations. First, African states had squandered much of their wealth by getting into hotel businesses, vehicle assembly plants, national airlines, oil refineries, fertilizer production, and so on—businesses in which they had neither expertise nor aptitude. Second, African states were privatizing what/where they should not—such businesses as bus services to remote areas, health services, and education. These are services which contrary to the Chicago School of Free Market’s views should be owned and operated by states because for private businesses they are neither profitable nor efficient. They are services that help to create the infrastructure for free enterprise by providing citizens with the mobility, minimal safety net, education, and other basic resources they need to function effectively in the polity.48

No well-ordered state in the Western world is devoid of some elements of socialism. State enterprises have often been used by governments to intervene in the economy in order to provide certain types of goods. Social safety nets of various degrees are ubiquitous in the developed capitalist world. Even in the United States, with its traditional adherence to capitalism and free markets, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have played a role in promoting home ownership, and other public–private partnerships have been instrumental in allowing the development of public highways, airports, public schools, bus services, post offices, libraries, and railways. Furthermore, state intervention to regulate corporations is a lesson that Keynes taught but whose successes have been responsible for its pushback. African states face many problems—an uncaptured (?) citizenry and governments, electoral corruption, the “president for life” phenomenon, poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, absence of an independent judiciary and legislature, and so on. What is to be done must be tied to Africa’s particular situation without neglecting the universal. Africans will do well to learn from Keynes; thus: “The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all.”49 If the debate is couched as one between African socialism and free market economy, it can be stated that both have a place in the lives of Africans–which again evokes the sage saying of the Nso people: “Build your house next to the one that is standing.”

Discussion of the Literature and Primary Sources

The literature on African socialism is an important part of the broader literature on African development in the colonial and postcolonial eras. For historical scholarship on this subject, see Crawford Young, The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective; Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry; John Reader, Africa; and more recently, Guy Martin, African Political Thought.50 Works such as these provide valuable and often illuminating general discussions of the issues and problems facing Africa on a continent-wide scale.

As fruitful as these approaches often are in satisfying intellectual curiosity, they do not always fully capture the challenges faced by contemporary Africans, nor do they necessarily suggest the most promising ways forward for Africans. As has been suggested here, policy prescriptions for African development often amount to plans designed to make Africa more closely resemble the economies of the West or those of other fast-growing states such as China, Indonesia, Brazil, or Singapore. The unspoken presumption behind such prescriptions is that those methods and institutions are portable and that they need only be transplanted to African soil for African states to reap the benefits of growth and development, just as advocates of African socialism ultimately did. As laudable as this approach is, one could still ask the following question: what Western economic concoction has Africa not tried? Africans have had a steady diet of such prescriptions for decades, much of which has had little effect. If a half century of economic prescriptions and experiments in African economic reform from outside-in or top-down hasn’t obviously worked, then maybe Africa’s real problem lies not at the level of policy prescriptions, institutions, and techniques, but at the deeper level of the purposes and aims of individual Africans.

A fruitful way forward is to follow one of the insights of the champions of African socialism that Africa realized—the untapped potential of traditional African societies. From that perspective, African problems may be solved by examining more closely the achievements of particular individuals such as Akhenaton, the Pharaoh of Egypt of the 18th Dynasty, the true founder of monotheism (of which see, for example, Freud’s Moses and Monotheism);51 Nelson Mandela, one of the founding fathers of modern South Africa; Ngonnso, a woman who founded the thriving fondom of the Nso people of the North West Region of Cameroon and established a sophisticated constitutional system complete with checks and balances; and local environmental activists like Wangari Maathai. (For a general introduction to the philosophical significance of such founders, see Ajume Wingo, “The Immortals in Our Midst.”52 Similarly, we may look to the indigenous institutions developed by small groups of economically industrious people like the Bamilike of the Western Region of Cameroon, as well as cooperative farming like the one that led to the economic boom in the North West Region of Cameroon in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Other particularly important sources include documents like the Oath of the Manden, circa 1222, a powerful but often overlooked charter of individual human rights written during the reign of the Malian ruler Sunjata Keita, and the Kouroukan Fouga, the constitution of the ancient Mali Empire that put emphasis on property rights, environmental protection, and personal responsibility. For further information regarding the Oath of the Manden, see Ajume Wingo, “The Odyssey of Human Rights.53 Focus can also be on events like the Rwandan and Bamilike genocides, the Haitian revolution, and the common everyday human beings and citizens in Africa, considering their purposes and aspirations and whether historically realized or not realized. Emphasis can also be placed on small African kingdoms and acephalous communities such as the Fulanis of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. For a point of departure on this subject, see Linda Melvin, Conspiracy to Murder; Leila Fielding, Female Genocidaires during the Rwandan Genocide; and George B. Ayittey, Indigenous African Institutions.54

Further Reading

Arrighi, Giavanni, and John Saul. “Socialism and Economic Development in Tropical African.” Journal of Modern African Studies 6 (1968): 141–169.Find this resource:

Bennell, Paul. “Privatization in Sub-Saharan Africa: Progress and Prospects during the 1990s.” World Development 25.11 (1997): 1785–1803.Find this resource:

Chinyong‘ole, Rev. Johnson J. “The Anglican Church and Poverty in Tanzania: A Review of Development Programs in the Dioceses of Morogoro.” MA Thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, July 5, 2005.Find this resource:

Fatton, Robert, Jr. “The Political Ideology of Julius Nyerere: The Structural Limitations of ‘African Socialism.’” Studies in Comparative Development 20.2 (Summer 1985): 3–24.Find this resource:

Friedlan, William H., and Carl G. Rosberg, Jr., eds. African Socialism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964.Find this resource:

Gourevitch, Philip. “The Monkey and the Fish.” The New Yorker, December 21, 2009.Find this resource:

Judt, Tony. “What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?” The New York Review of Books 56.20 (December 17, 2009): 3.Find this resource:

Nyerere, Julius. Ujama: Essays on Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.Find this resource:

Okaru, Paul. “Privatization in Africa: Lessons from Experience.” African Economic Analysis (2000).Find this resource:

Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.Find this resource:


(1.) Tom Mboya, Appendix IV, in William H. Friedlan and Carl G. Rosberg Jr., eds., African Socialism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964), 250.

(2.) The racist views of these philosophers toward Africans should be familiar to anyone who attends to them. In a July Letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist competitor, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx wrote, “[I]t is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a nigger. Now the union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also niggar-like.”

Here is Immanuel Kant: “Mr. Hume challenges anyone to cite a simple example in which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousand of blacks who are transported elsewhere from their countries, although many of them have been set free, still not a single one was ever found who presented anything great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality; even among the whites some continually rise aloft from the lowest rabble, and through superior gifts earn respect in the world. So fundamental is the difference between the two races of man, and it appears to be as great in respect to mental capacities as in color.” Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, trans. John T. Goldthwait (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 110–111. For more on Kant’s racist views, see Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, “The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race” in Kant’s Anthropology,” in Post Colonial African Philosophy, ed. Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze (Cambridge, U.K.: Blackwell, 1977), Chapter 4.

(3.) Senghor, Nation et voie africaine du socialism (Paris, 1961), 100.

(4.) Nkrumah, Ghana: An Autobiography (London: Nelson Press, 1957), 34; quoted in George B. Ayittey, Africa in Chaos (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998, 1999), 7.

(5.) Mboya, Appendix IV, in Friedlan and Rosberg, African Socialism, 253.

(6.) Mboya, Appendix IV, in Friedlan and Rosberg, African Socialism, 252.

(7.) Julius Nyerere, Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 11.

(8.) Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Unity (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1967), 169–170 (emphasis added).

(9.) Quoted in Friedlan and Rosberg, eds., African Socialism, 246.

(10.) Mboya, Tom, “African Socialism,” in William H. Friedland and Carl G. Rosberg Jr., eds., African Socialism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964), 250–258.

(11.) Mboya, Transition, VIII.

(12.) Karl Marx and Engels, Selected Works, I (Moscow, Russia): Foreign Language Publishing House, 1958), 363.

(13.) Nyerere, Ujamaa, 11.

(14.) Nyerere, Ujamaa, 15–17.

(15.) Friedlan and Rosberg, African Socialism, 264.

(16.) Jitendra Mohan, “Varieties of African Socialism,” Socialist Register, 3, 235.

(17.) Mohan, “Varieties of African Socialism,” 235.

(18.) Mohan, “Varieties of African Socialism,” 235.

(19.) Quoted in H. G. Schenk, The Mind of the European Romantics: An Essay in Cultural History (New York: Frederick Unger, 1967), xvii.

(20.) Nso is an ethnic group in the North West Region of Cameroon from where the author hails.

(21.) For overall details, see Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. 1 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962).

(22.) Plato, Republic, Book 7, section 520c. For the “Royal Art,” see especially the Plato, Statesman; cp. Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. 1 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962), Chapter 8, n.57.

(23.) Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 165.

(24.) Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Chapter 9, n. 12.

(25.) Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 166.

(26.) Quoted in Friedlan and Rosberg, African Socialism, 53. For detail, see, for instance, numerous statements on “African Socialism” by African leaders quoted in the special issue of African Report, VIII (May 1962).

(27.) Ghanaian Times (Accra), December 20, 1965.

(28.) The Worker (Accra), May 1, 1965, 31. Also quoted in Mohan, “Varieties of African Socialism,” 220.

(29.) Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 168.

(30.) This example is paraphrased from Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania.

(31.) Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 130.

(32.) Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, 130.

(33.) Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, 130.

(34.) For details, see Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania, 130–131.

(35.) Daily News (Dar es Salaam), November 15, 1975. Also quoted in Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa.

(36.) Daily News (Dar es Salaam), November 15, 1975. Also quoted in Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, 131.

(37.) Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, 132.

(38.) Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, 210

(39.) Quoted in Philip Gourevitch, A Reporter at Large, “The Monkey and the Fish,” The New Yorker, December 21, 2009, 98.

(40.) This description benefited from Tony Judt, “What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?” The New York Review of Books 56.20, December 17, 2009.

(41.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(42.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(43.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(44.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(45.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(46.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(47.) John R. Nelli. Public Enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank Discussion Paper No.1 (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1986).

(48.) For details, see Judt, “What Is Living.”

(49.) Judt, “What Is Living.”

(50.) Crawford Young, The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994); Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa; John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent (New York: Vintage, 1999), and more recently, Guy Martin, African Political Thought (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

(51.) Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (London: Hogarth Press, 1939).

(52.) Ajume Wingo, “The Immortals in Our Midst: Why Democracies in Africa Need Them,” Journal of Ethics 19.3–4 (2015), 237–255.

(53.) Ajume Wingo (2010), “The Odyssey of Human Rights: Reply to Diagne,” Transition 202 (2010), 120–138.

(54.) Linda Melvin, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide (London: Verso, 2004); Leila Fielding, Female Genocidaires during the Rwandan Genocide: When Women Kill (Hamburg, Germany: Anchor Academic Publishing, 2014); and George B. Ayittey, Indigenous African Institutions (New York: St. Martin’s, Press, 1992).