International Relations Student wins E-IR award for essay on Neopatrimonialism

International Relations finalist Elliot Kratt has won the E-IR essay award.

Elliot's essay entitled "To What Extent Is Neopatrimonialism the Unchanging Way in Which ‘Africa Works’?" was written and assessed as part of his degree programme. Publication on E-IR allows readers to broaden their understanding of what is possible when answering similar questions in their own studies.

Elliot explores the relationship between public and private spheres in Africa. It provides an analysis of democracy, corruption and business and how they relate to economic growth in a number of countries from Ghana to Rwanda.


Neopatrimonialism is the unchanging way in which ‘Africa works’ to the extent that it has persistently characterised the way in which ‘Africa works’ since independence. However, neopatrimonialism itself is always changing in determining how different African states work, at different points in time. Neopatrimonialism is a combination of two forms of Weberian types of rule. It is a syncretic fusion of “rational-legal authority” and “patrimonial rule” (Pitcher et al., 2009, p.130; Erdmann and Engel, 2007, p.99; Matter, 2010, p.69; Bach, 2011, p.277; Chabal and Daloz, 1999, p.145). Essentially it is patrimonial practices taking place in the context of a ‘modern’ state (Hyden, 2000, p.19). These patrimonial practices involve characteristics including patronage, clientelism, rent-seeking and corruption (Médard, 2002, p.379; Dawson and Kelsall, 2011, p.4; Szeftel, 2007, p.427; Pitcher et al., 2009, p.129). Conversely, the rational-legal state or ‘modern’ state, is one largely defined through formal impersonal democratic institutions where there is a clear separation between public and private sectors, often exemplified in the literature as a Western state (Beresford, 2014, p.1; Pitcher et al., 2009, p.130). Under neopatrimonialism both these forms of rule are combined.

The full article can be viewed online.