Popular Political Culture, Civil Society, and State Crisis in Liberia

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This study focuses on deeply embedded political values that are shared by the vast majority of Liberia’s population. The book’s conclusions that Liberian politics failed because of civil society’s illiberal overemphasis on stability and order at the expense of tolerance, accountability, and adaptability challenge much of conventional scholarship both about Liberia and about Africa in general. In terms of policy, the book suggests that far more attention will need to be paid to local norms and perspectives if strategies linked to democratization and economic rationalization are to succeed. While the overall theoretical concerns of the book are drawn from the fields of political science and history, it contains a large amount of anecdotal material on popular political culture and civil society, from wedding showers, pop songs, disciplinary practices at schools, and folk tales, to the constitution of a village soccer club. Using tools and methodology from anthropology, theology, and folklore, it interprets deep cultural values found in all segments of Liberian society.


“This book provides a unique and most welcome addition to the literature on democratization and civil society because of its challenge to the idea that civil society organizations provide a valuable contribution to democratic development….This particular conclusion is compelling, as it generates interesting hypotheses about the prevalence of violence in other societies widely regarded as ‘polite and orderly,’ such as the one in Rwanda. If Yoder is correct in his analysis of the Liberian context, we have reason to look at other civil societies differently as well, asking how well deeply democratic values permeate all levels of society, rather than just the elite, and questioning the societal capacity for criticism and conflict. These are important questions that have long-term implications for peace and security around the world.” – Sandra F. Joireman, Department of Political Science, Wheaton College

"His book is a timely as it is thought provoking, especially in relation to the new opportunities apparent in the post-Taylor period." - Prof. Paul Richards, Wageningen University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface by D. Elwood Dunn
1. Questions and Methods (responsibility; civil society; political culture; ethics and morality)
2. Historical Roots of Liberian Political Culture (indigenous peoples; re-captives; emigrants from America)
3. Creating a New Liberian Political Culture: Connecting the Congruencies (concealment; relations between settlers and indigenous Africans; integrative role of the “Recaptives”)
4. Stability and Order (constitution, power; patronage; compliance)
5. Tolerance (opinions, rights, Mandingos, Lebanese)
6. Accountability
7. Learning and Innovation elementary, civic, secondary, and higher education)
Bibliography; Index

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