The Making of an Organic Intellectual: Claude Ake, Biographical and Theoretical Orientations

In: African and Asian Studies
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  • 1 Department of Political Science, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Ibadan Ibadan Nigeria, West Africa, Email:, URL:
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Although the ideas of political leaders in Africa provide a popular entrée to African politics, the exploration of their contributions and profiles still remains a largely underdeveloped genre. This is especially the case with intellectuals and scholar-activists on the continent. Yet by challenging existing hierarchies and oppressive institutions as well as truth regimes and the structures of power that produce and support them, engaged scholars occupy a critical position in society as vanguards of various popular struggles. The world therefore has a lot to learn from their contributions and failings as progressive social forces. This article examines Claude Ake’s corpus as a basis for filing this gap. It discusses his contribution to the autochthonous transformation of the state in Africa - using endogenous knowledge production - as one of his major legacies for the social sciences in Africa. Being a political scientist with an unusually broad intellectual formation and horizon, the article highlights the developments and shifts, which shaped his worldview and writings. It pays attention to his production - over the last four decades - of a wide ranging body of works, which have been quite instructive not only for their analytic acuity, methodological rigour and theoretical sophistication, but also for being remarkable works of magisterial erudition, the products of an exceptionally great mind, written with a deftly profound authority and also constituting a significant attempt to adapt the intellectual legacies of Marxist scholarship towards understanding the political economy and social history of contemporary Africa from a broadly critical perspective.

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