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The theory and practice of Meles Zenawi

de Waal, Alex (2013) The theory and practice of Meles Zenawi. African Affairs, 112 (446). pp. 148-155. ISSN 0001-9909

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Identification Number: 10.1093/afraf/ads081

Abstract

In the months following his death on 20 August, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been eulogized and demonized in equal measure. But his policies, and the transformational paradigm on which they were based, have rarely been elucidated. While alive, Meles was equally indifferent to praise and blame. To those who acclaimed Ethiopia's remarkable economic growth, he would ask, do they understand that his policies completely contradicted the neo-liberal Washington Consensus? To those who condemned his measures against the political opposition and civil society organizations, he demanded to know how they would define democracy and seek a feasible path to it, in a political economy dominated by patronage and rent seeking? Meles did not hide his views, but neither did he ever fully present his theory of the ‘democratic developmental state’ to an international audience. Over nearly 25 years, I was fortunate to be able to discuss political economy with him regularly, including critiquing his incomplete and unpublished master's dissertation. During this time, his thinking evolved, but his basic principles and sensibilities remained constant. World leaders have lauded Meles' economic achievements without acknowledging their theoretical basis. Human rights organizations have decried his political record as though he were a routine despot with no agenda other than hanging on to power. Reviewing his writings on the developmental state, this essay shows the unity of his theory and practice. Meles had the quiet certitude of someone who had been tested – and seen his people tested – to the limit. Along with his comrades in arms in the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), he had looked into the abyss of collective destruction, and his career was coloured by the knowledge that Ethiopia could still go over that precipice. Many times during sixteen years of armed struggle in the mountains …

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > International Development
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2015 08:25
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2019 01:07
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/63566

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