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International Socialism, Spring 1963


David Cairns

Africa Mined


From International Socialism, No.12, Spring 1963, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Mind of Africa
W.E. Abraham
Weidenfield and Nicolson. 21s.

In this book Mr Abraham examines ‘the historic processes now moulding the continent of Africa.’ He opens with a chapter promisingly entitled Ideology and Society. Unfortunately, this discussion, which is principally: devoted, to the significance of ‘culture’, suffers from the same faults as the work of Raymond Williams (with whom Mr Abraham is compared on the jacket). That is to say Mr Abraham lacks the sociological knowledge to deal adequately with such a subject. As with Williams much of interest emerges, but the effect on the reader is orgastic disappointment – one is constantly in anticipation of some formulation, crystallization, schematization; but beyond the integrative function of African culture Mr Abraham does not progress.

There follows a Paradigm of African Society, which is certainly a misnomer. Undoubtedly much is to be learned here about broad cultural aspects of African society, but as it discusses only the Akan. Ghana’s largest linguistic group, it can hardly be said to take in the diversity of a whole continent. However, as a discussion of a very small segment of African life is a good piece of description, which would have been greatly enhanced by examining, for example, the social processes involved in the development of Akan religious belief and practice; with particular reference to the consonance between religious belief and social inequality and deprivation.

The chapter on colonial exploitation is the highspot of the book, for while containing nothing substantially new it is written with a concisely controlled and moving irony. Particularly important are the arguments against the transplantation of Western liberal democracy, the two-party system as a prerequisite of democracy and Western pressure-group politics. Also, discussed here is the ambiguous attitude of the Soviet Union.

Finally, Mr Abraham deals with the prospects for Africa. Curiously, he is at his most equivocal here, particularly in regard to the role of mass parties. Not so with pan-Africanism, for which he makes out a convincing case. In spite of the above reservations, this is a book to be read by all.

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