Criticisms of Multiparty Democracy: Parallels between Wamba-dia-Wamba and Arendt

New Political Science 20 (1):35-52 (1998)
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The IMF, World Bank, and former colonial powers have put pressure on African countries to adopt multiparty democracy. Because of this pressure, many formerly one‐party states as well as some military dictatorships have embraced Western and Parliamentarian democratic forms. But does this mean that democracy has succeeded in Africa? Ernest Wamba‐dia‐Wamba of the University of Dar‐es‐Saalam and CODESRIA argues that embracing Western paradigms in an unthinking fashion will not bring real democracy, i.e. people's liberation. He advances criticisms of party politics and statism, and suggests that African palaver and people's movements are a surer site of political action. In his criticisms of representative government he parallels the thoughts and criticism of Hannah Arendt. Arendt advocated a council system that shares many of the attributes of African palaver communities. By consulting the criticisms of Arendt and Wamba‐dia‐Wamba, we can see that an easy optimism about the multiparty system is unfounded.

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Gail Presbey
University of Detroit Mercy


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