Share this

The Paradox of Traditional Chiefs in Democratic Africa, Kate Baldwin

Reviewed by Michael G. Schatzberg



This is a book worth reading because it deviates from received wisdom in an intelligent and engaging way. In doing so, Kate Baldwin explores a fascinating paradox, namely, that “the empowerment of unelected traditional leaders often improves the responsiveness of democratic governments” (p. 5). The particular democratic government in question is Zambia, but the author makes a credible argument that her findings can be generalized to other democracies on the continent.

The problem of chiefs ultimately stems from the fact that all colonial powers in Africa were confronted with a similar dilemma. They wished to control vast stretches of territory but had to do so with few resources and little manpower. The “solution” to the dilemma of implementing colonialism on the cheap was to rule through the traditional leaders they found already on the ground or, in some locales, to create them where they did not exist. To be sure, the colonial powers all had different ideological and theoretical justifications for how they handled the customary authorities they found in place, but at the end of the day, the solutions usually resembled something akin to the British variant known as “indirect rule.” This meant that the alien power would rule through the already existing structures of governance. The primary responsibility of the chiefs, from

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

North Korea and the West

The Debate over North Korea


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

New APS Book

Continuing Issues in U.S. National Security Policy   CONTINUING ISSUES IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS