From African Socialism to Scientific Capitalism: Reflections on the Legitimation Crisis in IMF-ruled Africa

  • James Ferguson
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


In the summer of 1989, I travelled across a Zambia reeling from the effects of a newly imposed IMF structural adjustment regime .4 Prices of essential goods were skyrocketing, employment declining, and real incomes rapidly shrinking. Many wondered how they would manage to make ends meet. Many, indeed, were failing to make ends meet: with high food prices, many went hungry; with free medical care abolished, many sick could not receive treatment. For my part, I was trying to buy some blankets for a trip to the countryside; but everywhere I went, blankets were either unavailable or selling for preposterously high prices. Finally, after days of looking in the major centers of Lusaka and Kitwe, we found abundant, cheap blankets at a shop in the provincial town of Mansa. I wondered how it was that this merchant had in such abundance what was in short supply throughout the country. My research assistant, a young, educated Zambian man, had the answer: this merchant was widely known as a powerful sorcerer. He obtained his supplies by making potent medicines from the organs of human beings whom he murdered. It was the hearts, in particular, that he was after; this was what gave him his special supply lines, and had enabled him to grow very rich.


Structural Adjustment African State Moral Discourse African Government Moral Term 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Ferguson

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