locate the sources of political disorder midst the factors that
lead states to break down.
I anchor this book in the work of Weber (1958) and view
coercion as the distinctive property of politics. As will become
clear in the next chapter, I depart from Weber – and his “struc-
turalist” descendants1 – by turning to the theory of games.
Driven by the realities of Africa, I view political order as
problematic: In light of the evidence Africa offers, political
order cannot be treated as a given. Rather, I argue, it results
when rulers – whom I characterize as “specialists in violence” –
choose to employ the means of coercion to protect the creation
of wealth rather than to prey upon it and when private citizens
choose to set weapons aside and to devote their time instead
to the production of wealth and to the enjoyment of leisure.2
When these choices constitute an equilibrium, then, I say,
political order forms a state.3
To address the collapse of political order in late-century
Africa, I therefore return to theory – the theory of the state – and
to theorizing – the theory of games. I do so because proceeding
in this fashion points out the conditions under which political
order can persist – or fail. I devote Chapter 2 to an informal
1 Evans, P., T. Skocpol, and D. Rueschmeyer (1985), Bringing the State Back In, Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press provides perhaps the best-known example.
2 I am drawing on Bates, R. H., A. Greif, et al. (2002), “Organizing Violence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46(5): 599–628.
3 The ambiguous phrasing is intended.
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