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"Big Men" in Sub-Saharan Africa: How Elites Accumulate Positions and Resources

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the differentiation between political, administrative, and economic elites remains far from being manifest. What is certain is that we are almost never dealing with impermeable groups, huddled up in their respective spheres. Notwithstanding the cohesive and hegemonic picture painted for ideological reasons by many intellectuals, these elites prove to be very divided in most instances. But this lack of unity is much more related to vertical ethno-regional or factional cleavages than to formal roles. Before analysing the particular character of sub-Saharan Africa in this respect by referring to the "Big Man" analytical model, this essay emphasizes the extent to which this question has been addressed in a partial way in available literature whether expressed through the development theories of the 1960s, the neo-Marxist dependency approaches of the 1970s or the so-called "third wave" of African studies from the 1980s.


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