Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow Integral polity, integrating nature, СЃulture, society and economy


A prebendal type is typically preoccupied with the protection and reproduction of the immediate interests of a regime and its associates. At the same time, the economy becomes a source of personal and group enrichment, usually in the form of shady rent-seeking, and the political institutions amount to little more than a haven for personal privilege. A key feature of a prebendal state is high dependency – a combination of subservience to external powers, venality, and despotism at home. Unless turned around, and there is time and space for such action, these liabilities increasingly blunt any developmental propulsion, creating a general culture of disregard for the common good.

Nigeria has been the archetypical prebendal state, though in recent years there have been moves afoot to evolve in a developmental, if not even integral (4), direction. In fact, it even degenerated into a predatory institution under successive civilian and military regimes. The cost of predation became exceedingly onerous under General Abacha's regime. Consequently, key organs of civil society struggled against the regime during much of the 1990s. At the end, the military retreated and a civilian government was elected. Retired General Obasanjo's leadership of the past decade made some encouraging attempts in rebuilding public institutions so they could gain legitimacy and sufficient capacity to meet the development needs of the Nigerian society. Nonetheless, heavy reliance on rent from oil, ethnic and religious antagonism, and a misappropriation of national wealth continue to be part of political practice, which some members of Trans4m's doctoral research community are seeking to redress.


The predatory state is synonymous with diabolical politics. When the prebendal state loses what little functional capacity and stability it had, alienation mounts apace. No more even a symbol of disordered legitimacy, the last veils of collective belonging drop, and scavenging over dwindling public resources becomes openly vicious. For the regime, with an ever-narrowing grid, leadership turns into its antithesis – that is, cruel selfishness that slides into open criminality. In the meantime, as decay advances, a mixture of dismay and hyper-anxiety over personal and family survival becomes the paradigm of social and political conduct. With the full atrophy of the vital functions of the state, the centaurs become one-dimensional beasts.

Together, these factors dissipate the stock of citizenship and mark the beginnings of the death of civic virtue. Moreover, without development of the material and intellectual productive forces, any society risks becoming gradually and unwittingly stagnant and turning in on itself, becoming less able to cope with the effects of internal conflicts. Mobutu's Zaire, and Taylor's Liberia, for the Samatars, come to mind as proximate examples.


Sadly, the predatory state may not be the last stop in the slide towards optimum degeneration; it can get worse: the disintegrated state. With heightened physical and economic insecurity, and the evaporation of public discourse and life, many take flight to anywhere before the final curtain. Those who stay behind are enveloped by a new barbarism, one defined by a looting of what is left of the commons, further retailing of identities, and prodigality of terror. Thus spoke Nigerian literary giant Wole Soyinka (5), as he reflected on such happenings in parts of the continent:

How does a sculptor begin to carve with only stumps for arms? How does a village griot ply his trade with only the root of the tongue still lodged at the gateway of memory? The rest has been cut out—often the hand that wields the knife is the hand of the future, the ubiquitous child-soldier—and the air is bereft even of the solace of its lament. A lament can be purifying, consoling, for a lament still affirms the retention of soul, even of faith, yes, it is a cry of loss, of bereavement, an echo of pain but is, therefore, an affirmation of humanity, a reaching out to the world that is still human or to forces that shape humanity.

A lament does not emerge from atrocities, for an atrocity is the very silencing of the human voice. It deadens the soul and clogs up the passages of hope, opening up in their place only sterile accusations, the resolve of vengeance, or else a total surrender to the triumph of banality no longer speak of wars on the continent, only arenas of competitive atrocities.

The end point of such an experience is the disintegrated state. Every frame is damaged to such an extreme extent that civic life is, simply put, no more. An immediate lesson is how easy it is to demolish in quick time what has taken years to build. The Somali case is an instantiation of this type. So where, for the Samatars, does an Islamic society (not Islamist) like Somalia go from here?

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics