Article from ROAPE Volume 34 Number 114
Filling in Blanks: Potency of Fragmented Imageries of State

Filling in the Blanks: The Potency of Fragmented Imageries of the State
Vol.34 No.114 (Dec 2007), pp695-708
Recent neo-patrimonial approaches to the state see the sub-Saharan state as a facade that serves - with different degrees of effectiveness - to disguise the play of clientalistic relations and the interests of kin and kith. Drawing on an analysis of how ideas are reproduced in peri-urban areas of Maputo, Mozambique, this article argues that no pre-given causality exists between encounters with a dysfunctional state apparatus and subjectively held understandings of ordinary people. We cannot a priori determine that incoherent and partial state practices necessarily lead individuals to perceive the state as devoid of legitimate moral value. On the contrary, locally situated individuals use ideas associated with the state to define entitlements and create standards for evaluating state-defined programmes or international donor-driven initiatives. Ideas of the state can thus be a basis for social action; even when the reality of state dysfunction is widely accepted, ‘ordinary people’ continue to invest themselves in these ideas.