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The Political Modernization of Africa in the 21s

The Political Modernization of Africa in the 21s

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Published by jamesmulli
Modernization begins with colonialism and the European assumption of native African backwardness and the general inadequacy of Africans to be independent, equal and fit. This assumed inadequacy was brought to bear by the marginalization of African intellectuals and the denial of African participation in the early process of modernization.
Modernization begins with colonialism and the European assumption of native African backwardness and the general inadequacy of Africans to be independent, equal and fit. This assumed inadequacy was brought to bear by the marginalization of African intellectuals and the denial of African participation in the early process of modernization.

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Published by: jamesmulli on Nov 08, 2008
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THE POLITICAL MODERNIZATION OF AFRICA IN THE 21
ST
CENTURYA HISTORIOGRAPHICAL REVIEW
 
Most modernization theorists have claimed that colonialism inaugurated the process of modernization in Africa. Therefore, inauguration of modernization beginswith colonialism and the European assumption of native African backwardness and thegeneral inadequacy of Africans to be independent, equal and fit. This assumedinadequacy was brought to bear by the marginalization of African intellectuals and thedenial of African participation in the early process of modernization.
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 European racism combined with the colonial subjugation of Africa marginalizedAfrican intellectuals. The persistence of the marginalization continues to present Africanintellectuals with a dilemma as they continue to seek to define their own version of modernity. Even though Africans have participated more in decision-making processes,the dichotomy between tradition and modernization remains academically andinstitutionally established. Nevertheless, Africans have increasingly challenged the stateof affairs. In addition to demanding that Africans be more represented in policy makingforums, African scholars have increasingly challenged western percepts. These demandshave opened the door for Africans to finally begin defining their own path to modernity, but it still remains to be seen whether an adequate ideology can evolve.Before discussing that ideology, it is necessary to first analyze the evolution of modernization theory itself. Modernization theory is also complex and multifaceted. Thefollowing analysis primarily addresses a discussion of political modernization. Such adiscussion will incorporate social and economic elements, but the literature beingreviewed essentially involves the works of political modernization which had raised anote of high optimism and generated appeal and enthusiasm in African and in the west.
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The classification of nations in the process of modernization and political development has a longstanding tradition going back to social Darwinism and its racist origins. This theory was expounded byAli Mazrui in a paper delivered to a plenary session of the Second International Congress of Africanistsheld in Dakar on December 11-21 1967. See Ali A. Mazrui, "From Social Darwinism to Currenttheories of Modernization,"
World Politics
21(1967): 69-89.
2
 
Early Modernization TheoryThe systematic study of political modernization in Africa can be correlated to thedemise of colonialism after the second world war. Non-African events such as theUnited Nations charter statement on the issue of self-determination, combined with theagitation of indigenous Africans, forced the colonial powers into begrudgingly acceptingthe demands for independence.
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As a result, both African leaders and western policy-makers needed models for the newly independent governments. Political modernizationcame forward to fill this need.Initially, a majority of the modernization literature was embroiled with themultiple issues of the cold war. There was grave concern that the new African stateswould adopt communism and become a part of the Eastern bloc. Therefore, westernscholars focused on creating institutions that would be compatible with western ideasthan with indigenous systems and structures.The net result was that modernization theory involved transplanting idealizedtheories into Africa, emphasizing democracy and introducing non-traditional values.These scholars assumed that African values would fall to the wayside in the face of superior European values. The result in this was that these scholars completely ignoredindigenous complexities. Indeed on the few occasions that it was discussed, they viewedthe indigenous element as an impediment and refused to incorporate traditional systemsinto their models. Such a failure not only perpetuated colonial racism, but it alsoforeshadowed the continued perception that Africans lacked originality. The westernassumptions also suggested that Africans best displayed an imitative genius and couldtherefore assimilate what the west would bequeath to them.
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See United Nations, Purpose and Principles, Chapter I, Article I, 2, San Francisco, California, June 26,1945.
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