Accepted Paper:

The power of mutuality: authority and legitimacy among traditional and state elites in Southern Ghana  


Umberto Pellecchia (Università degli Studi di Siena)

Paper short abstract:

Examining the deposition of a paramount chief in the Sefwi-Akan area of Ghana, this paper discusses continuities in the ideologies (e.g. the notion of "abundance") and power strategies on which both "traditional" (chiefs) and "modern" elites (politicians, senior civil servants) rely.

Paper long abstract:

Which role traditional authorities (chiefs) should play in a modern nation-state is a much debated and controversial issue in present-day Ghana. While some regard chieftaincy as an institution that constitutes the core of local political culture, others consider it as an obstacle to democracy. Examining the case of the recent deposition of a paramount chief in Sefwi-Wiawso, the paper discusses conflicts and alliances between "traditional" and state elites. and analyses the ways in which authority and elite status are legitimate. At the centre of the ideologies and practices of legitimation of both "traditional" and "modern" elites stands the concept of abundance. Political authority is regarded as a mechanism for redistributing wealth and, at the same time, manufacturing subordination as well as consensus. The power of elites, whether chiefs, politicians or civil servants, rests on their capacity to operate in accordance with ideals of mutuality and "abundance" that inform their relations with non-elite constituencies.

Panel W025
Elite strategies of distinction and mutuality