(OLDIE!) Review: “Politics in Sierra Leone, 1947-1967” -John R. Cartwright

(This is an OLDIE – an old review from years ago! My views and opinions might have changed since then.)

John R. Cartwright, in “Politics in Sierra Leone, 1947-1967,” attempts to provide a thorough analysis of how Sierra Leone’s political system.

I write that the author ‘attempts to provide’ because whether he is successful in that depends on one’s conception of ‘democracy’.

If, as the author seems to, one believes that the existence of competing parties or individuals in a political system, regardless of whether those parties or individuals respond to people’s needs or not, is the pinnacle of human progress, then the author is successful in that.

If, as I do, one believes that there can be no real political democracy without economic democracy, that is, while the means of production remain privately owned, which the author makes a strong case for although no doubt unintentionally, then the author fails to offer a serious analysis of Sierra Leone’s political system. All the author is really interested in analyzing is how Sierra Leone managed to become a liberal’s paradise: a country in which the ruling elite can freely and peacefully enrich themselves at the expense of working-people and peasants without having to resort to more brutal methods. (The book was published in the early 1970s, thus does not include anything about the civil war in the 1990s.)

Although interesting from a historical perspective, the fact that the country collapsed into a brutal civil war in 1990s makes the author’s liberal analysis of Sierra Leonean politics seem somewhat immature and superficial.  

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