“Good” State, “Bad” State: Loss and Longing in Postcolonial Zimbabwe

  • Julia Gallagher
Part of the Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies book series (NCSS, volume 20)


This chapter explores the ways in which Zimbabwean citizens experience their state—the “bad state”—and the ways in which they imagine an ideal, “good state.” Drawing on stories of the state that were collected during fieldwork in 2011 and 2012, it establishes two key arguments. The first concerns the continuing belief many Zimbabweans have in the state, despite its failures and the problems they have had with it in recent years, and the importance they attach to getting their relationship with it on the right footing. This complicates an assumption made in parts of the literature that state inadequacy has led many Africans to withdraw from the state. The second relates to the fact that Zimbabweans’ idea of the state is deeply and inextricably connected to the wider world, and to Britain in particular. This challenges the assumption that Africans have become increasingly critical of western capitalism and powers. I situate Zimbabwean connections between the “good” or “bad” state and the ethical potential of citizens within it, within Hegel and Rousseau’s conceptualizations of an ideal political life in the “good state” and “social contract” respectively. Zimbabwean views both support and challenge these western canonical notions of what a good state is, and where it comes from.


Good State Social Contract Civil Society Activist Colonial State Society Relation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUK

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