Claude E. Ake: Political Integration and the Challenges of Nationhood in Africa


  • Jeremiah O. Arowosegbe

    1. is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. His major areas of teaching/research interest include African politics, African political thought, political theory and political thought. His other areas of interest include critical theory, development studies, post-colonial studies and subaltern studies. His publications have appeared in Africa Spectrum and Review of African Political Economy, among others.
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This article was originally written between September and November 2008, during which time the author was a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. He would like to thank the Nordic Africa Institute for organizing a seminar at the African Studies Centre, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in November 2008, at which an earlier version of this article received helpful discussion. He is also grateful to Adigun A.B. Agbaje, Cyril I. Obi, Fredrik Soderbaum, Lisen Dellenborg, Partha Chatterjee and the anonymous reviewers for their incisive suggestions on earlier versions of this article.


Claude Ake (1939–1996) is one of the most influential voices in African political thought. While nation building was an important theme in the theoretical literature on Africa in the immediate post-independence period, Ake offers a seminal treatment of the disintegrative impact of the colonial presence on the emergent states in the continent. As an original contribution for understanding centrifugal forces and movements of the excluded in post-colonial societies generally, his work is important reading for all historians of Africa, whatever their regional specialization. Focusing on the experiences of the ‘new states’, Ake engaged brilliantly with the emergent fissiparous challenges of the period. These had to do with rising conflicts based on post-independence political alliances; the emergence of separatist tendencies; the effects of modernization on political stability in new and transitional societies; and the impacts of cultural heterogeneity, low regime legitimacy, economic backwardness and the ethnic factor on the continuity of these societies across the newly independent states.