In “War and the State in Africa,” Jeffrey Herbst states that "

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Intro to Comparative Politics

In "War and the State in Africa," Jeffrey Herbst states that "…it should be recognized that there is very little evidence that African countries, or many others in the Third World, will be able to find peaceful ways to strengthen the state and develop national identities."

Do you agree with Herbst's argument? Why?

Lei Zhang

Professor Dickson


Although African countries are facing many severe problems including weak national identities and limited governmental capabilities, war might not be the only way to strengthen the state and develop national identities. When we consider the intense globalization undertaken by the world, collaboration by African unification provides another choice
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Weak national identity in African states is one of the problems discussed by Herbst. If Africa is united as a whole and becomes strong over time, national identities, or even ethnic identities attached to each individual state or ethnic group will gradually erode, and "Africanness" will become the new identity. The definition of national identity is "a group of people bound together by a common set of political aspiration".� Since Africans share similar colonial history and face equally impoverished situations, why can't African states collaborate and unite as a whole, like the European Union has since 1952 and the existing African Union since 2002. This "Africanness" can be the new "national identity" which holds Africans together. For example in the history of the United States, during the early period after independence, citizens traveling abroad didn't recognize themselves as the citizens of the U.S. as a whole, but rather identified themselves with the individual state they originally resided from. As the country became stronger over time, the state identity was replaced with the real national identity.�

Someone may argue the fact that "some confronting societies that are often fragmented and have little orientation to the state as a whole".� Therefore, how is each state and ethnic group willing to

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