Democracy Paradox
Democracy Paradox
Feb 23, 2021
Nic Cheeseman and Gabrielle Lynch on the Moral Economy of Elections in Africa
Play • 46 min

A full transcript is available at

It’s common for Westerners to lecture Africans about democracy. Most Africans will admit their different political systems have many problems. Money is exchanged for votes, elections are rigged, and sometimes violence even breaks out. But the challenges African countries face in the process of democratization are not absent in the rest of the world.

The 2020 American Presidential Election exposed many problems in the United States. The storming of the American capital proved that even violence is possible in the world’s oldest democracy. My point here is not to disparage American democracy, but to recognize every nation has a lot to learn. 

Nic Cheeseman and Gabrielle Lynch along with Justin Willis offer us an opportunity to consider democracy in an unfamiliar context. Their examination of Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda allow us to identity universal aspirations and ideals citizens hold in very different settings. But it’s not the differences which I believe are important. It’s their similarities. 

Nic, Gabrielle, and Justin are the authors of the book The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa: Democracy, Voting, and Virtue. Nic is the kind of political science rock star who gets quoted in The Economist. He is among the foremost experts on democracy in Africa, a professor of political science and democracy at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and the co-editor of the website Democracy in Africa. Gabrielle Lynch is a professor of comparative politics at the University of Warwick. 

I invited Nic and Gabrielle to discuss their new book, because their research is always informative, not just because it exposes us to another part of the world, but because they are able to draw connections to larger ideas from their experiences. This is a conversation about Africa. This is a conversation about democracy. This is my conversation with Nic Cheeseman and Gabrielle Lynch…

Music from Apes of the State.

Key Content

Ghana: The Ebbing Power of Incumbency

The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa

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