Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/4841
Neopatrimonial State and Lumpenproletariat: The Poetics of Ideology and Revolutionary Identity In Sierra Leone
What I will discuss in this essay is the importance of the use of the concept of class as an
analytic tool when studying specific socio-political moments. The way I will do that is by
investigating class structures as agents of ideology. Ideology is in a continuous negotiation
with identity and they are constructing each other through socio-cultural processes. The state, being an ideology (Abrams 1977), reproduces itself but always as a vehicle of the dominant classes and in this way the neopatrimonial state is being used by the African elites. The failure though of the elites of Sierra Leone to redistribute vertically the capital they were accumulating brought large numbers of people in the margins of the state (Abdullah 2005); especially young uneducated, unemployed and petty criminals, what Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin called the lumpenproletariat (Thoburn 2002). When the rage of those people found its expression through the revolutionary left-wing ideologies that came in contact with them through the university students, the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF/SL) started to formulate. In this way RUF/SL became the vehicle of the lumpenproletariat and conflicted with the ideology of state. Furthermore, an argument of this paper is that conflicts must be viewed in socially and culturally specific context from which they arose. I am particularly interested in this conflict because it was the anger against class oppression rather than ethnic hatred that became the focus of the war in Sierra Leone, giving it a non-ethnic character an unusual motive by African standards (Richards 2008: 545).