Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat

Article excerpt

Diamond, Larry, and Marc F. Plattner, eds. Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2010. 360pp. $30

In some ways, publishing a book that purports to capture contemporary African political trends, particularly involving the "progress of democracy," faces the same basic problem as do books attempting to explain state-ofthe- art computers. Both information streams are now flowing so quickly that the truth you write about today may be very different from that of tomorrow. In fact, the African scholar has even harder going than his information-systems contemporary, because unlike computer technology, the course of democracy in Africa frequently changes direction and from time to time even reverses itself.

The editors of Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat are, as the title indicates, well aware of this challenge. This is not surprising. This volume is part of the International Forum for Democratic Studies' Journal of Democracy book series, and both Diamond and Plattner have edited numerous volumes.

The book is well written, well researched, and well organized. The reader is first treated to a selection of seven readings, all looking at themes involving "progress and retreat." The remainder of the book is divided into three sections, covering West Africa, East Africa, and southern and central Africa. Given the events in North Africa, the lack of coverage along Africa's Mediterranean shore is regrettable and underscores the point about "lag time."

In general, the first section of the book is thought provoking and arguably the most useful. …

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