Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

The Political Economy of Tanzania: Decline and Recovery

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

The Political Economy of Tanzania: Decline and Recovery

Article excerpt

The Political Economy of Tanzania: Decline and Recovery. By Michael F. Lofchie. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. Pp. 262; notes, bibliography, index. $59.95.

As its title suggests, The Political Economy of Tanzania aims to offer an overview of the politics of Tanzania's economic development since independence. In particular, Michael Lofchie is interested in Tanzania's dual transition, during the 1980s and early 1990s, from a socialist to market-based economy and from a single-party to multiparty political system. Although Lofchie fills the pages of his book with a variety of sometimes thoughtful reflections on this process, equally treating the socialist and contemporary eras that preceded and succeeded it, he fails to articulate a discrete set of questions animating his study. As a consequence, the reader will search in vain for a clear argument anchoring The Political Economy of Tanzania.

More fundamental problems perhaps account for this relative lack of structure. The book is not based on anything that a serious scholar would consider primary research; in his acknowledgments, for instance, Lofchie mentions that casual conversations with Tanzanian taxi drivers and hotel staff comprised an important source base for his study. Yet such exchanges do not receive methodological scrutiny or even explicit citation within the text. Instead, Lofchie frequently makes sweeping generalizations about the nature of Tanzanian popular opinion-regarding everything from ujamaa villagization in the early 1970s to currency devaluation in the 1980s-without grounding such statements in actual evidence. Though Lofchie does draw upon secondary literature to support a number of his empirical claims, particularly when dealing with the mechanics of government bureaucracy, he often does so without substantively engaging recent debates in the fields of Tanzanian studies and African studies in a sustained way. This shortcoming compounds the absence of original research and compromises the academic rigor of his analysis.

Lofchie's familiarity with the ins and outs of the economic and political liberalization process in Tanzania is not in question. …

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