The Bureaucratic Mode of Governance and Practical Norms in West Africa and Beyond

  • Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan
Part of the Governance and Limited Statehood Series book series (GLS)


An excessive divide exists between Middle Eastern studies and African studies (that is, the study of sub-Saharan Africa), and very few comparisons are initiated between these two regions although they share many common features. This book provides an opportunity to confront the results of studies our team has conducted in Niger and other francophone West African countries1 with more or less similar research carried out in Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, or Jordan. The volume is also a dialogue between sub-disciplines among the social sciences. We conduct anthropological analyses using ethnographic data (produced through extended fieldwork) but on topics of interest that are closer to political science (which is at the core of this book) than to those of mainstream anthropology. Dialogue and comparison need typological concepts on which to rely. This chapter2 revolves around two concepts: modes of governance and practical norms. The concept of modes of governance is not new, but it is usually polysemous, loosely defined, and often used without the necessary context. Here, I have redesigned the phrase to give it a specific meaning, focused on a diversity of public service delivery. Practical norms as a concept emerged from comparative studies about public services and the local delivery of public goods in different sites in Niger and other West African countries, in order to understand how practices not complying with formal rules are nevertheless regulated (compare Blundo and Olivier de Sardan, 2006; Jaffre and Olivier de Sardan, 2003). As such, it may be labeled ‘grounded theory’ (Glaser and Strauss, 1973).


Civil Servant Arab Country Authoritarian Regime Resource Rent West African Country 
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© Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan 2013

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  • Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan

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