The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / History / Political Science


The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State
Crawford Young and Thomas Edwin Turner

"A major contribution to the study of African politics."

Zaire, apparently strong and stable under President Mobutu in the early 1970s, was bankrupt and discredited by the end of that decade, beset by hyperinflation and mass corruption, the populace forced into abject poverty. Why and how, in a new African state strategically located in Central Africa and rich in mineral resources, did this happen?  How did the Zairian state become a “parasitic predator” upon its own people?


In this broadly researched study, Crawford Young and Thomas Edwin Turner examine the political history of Mobutu’s Zaire, looking at critical structures and patterns of societal flux, inequality, and cleavage, in particular the urban-rural nexus, the problematic of class formation, and the fluid patterns of cultural pluralism.


The authors begin with a succinct history of the origins of the Zairian state (formerly the Belgian Congo), examining in particular the problems, inherited from its colonial heritage, that led to the first few tumultuous years of independence. They then turn to the critical aspects of transformation of civil society, including the relationships between urban and rural factions, class formation, and the rapidly shifting nature of ethnicity as a sociopolitical factor. They offer a comprehensive overview of the major political trends, tracing the regime through its successive phases of power seizure, consolidation, growing personalization, crisis, and decline. Finally, Young and Turner assess the state’s actual performance in several policy areas: economy, international relations, and its package of “Zairianization” and “radicalization” measures.


Young and Turner’s thorough research, informed analysis, and straightforward style will do much to illuminate the political workings of a major African state long considered an enigma by most Western observers.


Crawford Young was, at the time of publication, Rupert Emerson professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He is also author of The Politics of Cultural Pluralism, published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Thomas Edwin Turner was associate professor of political science at Wheeling College.


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Title text is dark brown on a tan background with a thin band with design near the bottom

April 2013

LC: 84-040204 DT
522 pp.   6 x 9
2 illus., 3 maps

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Paper $39.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-10114-5
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