If a commonplace exists about African political societies, it’s that of ‘failed states’. And if there’s a lesson to be learnt from these societies, it is precisely the vacuity of such a notion. In reality, the incisive ‘failed state’ thesis merely betrays the incapacity of the new theory of international relations to free itself from the trap it got into when it created the academic artifice of the so-called ‘New World Order’ in the 1990s. Over the last two centuries, we have witnessed a global generalisation of the principle of the nation-state as a regime of territorial sovereignty and ‘autonomisation’ of the political sphere. Albeit imported by the colonial powers, the state in Africa has been the subject of complex processes of ‘appropriation’ that have rapidly added their own social and cultural foundations.
When did globalisation begin and how has it evolved? This essay addresses one of the liveliest debates of our time with a thumbnail analysis of the positions taken on the issue by some of the most authoritative scholars on the international scene. Stressing the procedural nature of this economic and social phenomenon, the author pinpoints the three stages in its development: episodic, relational and integrative. This dynamic analytical perspective, capable of reconciling the transnational asymmetries and domestic dynamics of each society, may prove a useful tool for comparative and interdisciplinary analysis.