(Re)conceptualizing the political economy of the African state form: The strong/weak state contradiction in Angola
This article is a theoretical contribution to the debate on African statehood. We use the Angolan state as a 'sounding board' for a mainstream neo-Weberian perspective and an oppositional historicist approach. We argue that the neo-Weberians inadequately explain the genealogy of state power and the historicists fail to provide a functionalist account of the state's relation to society. Neo-Weberians capture some of the basic facts related to a 'successful failed Angolan state' and historicists focus on governance legitimation strategies. As a way forward, we propose an eclectic theoretical alternative which draws on the work of Mahmood Mamdani and Robert W. Cox. We argue that their approaches provide us with the outlines of an explanation of state - society relations in Africa which is contextualized in both space and time. This explanation, which regards history as a process, focuses on and encourages us to identify an African ideal-type of the state, which is different from the Eurocentric neo-Weberian ideal-type. © 2011 South African Association of Political Studies.