The idea of the state in Africa as institutionless underlies much contemporary theorizing about African politics. The term "neopatrimonialism" - widely employed in the comparative politics literature to describe African political systems - implies lack of institutionalization, centralization of power in the hands of a supreme ruler, and government through personalized, shifting networks. The counterpart of this idea is institution-less conceptualization of society, and most importantly perhaps, of rural society, which accounts for 50-90% of the total population of almost all African states. This paper reverses this image of structure-less states and societies. It focuses on rural land tenure institutions and argues that they are the product of institution-building strategies of Africa's modern rulers, both colonial and postcolonial.
Africa Neopatrimonialism Land-tenure Institution Rural society