chapter  1
Personal Rule: Theory and Practice in Africa
ByRobert H. Jackson, Carl G. Rosberg
Pages 27

Political images can often be sharpened by the careful selection of terms with which they are designated. This chapter presents a theory of personal rule and its integral practices in independent African countries. The assumptions of personal rule are quite different, and an instructive way to approach them is to recall the concept of rulership in Machiavelli's masterpiece, The Prince. African politics resembles a game without legitimate and effective institutional rules: most African states have not succeeded in becoming institutionalized in a formal-legal sense, and political life is highly dependent on the politicians and factions to keep it civil and non-violent. The metaphor of the ruler as commander of the ship of state is as old as political philosophy and as new as cybernetics. In many Black African countries the concrete practices of governance much more closely approximate the image of political seamanship, however.