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Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana

Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana
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The story of Ghana in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is, in microcosm, the story of all colonial and post-colonial Africa. The indigenous aspects of the pre-colonial economy–subsistence farming, rural-based living, and the slave and natural minerals trade–were destroyed by the forced integration of the country into the world economic order, giving way to what became Ghana’s main (and virtually only) crop, cocoa.

Cocoa’s domination of Ghana’s efforts at industrialization, and the vagaries of the price of cocoa on the world capitalist market, contributed much to the divisions and instabilities that have wracked the country in the post-colonial era.

Ghana’s adoption of a monocrop culture also caused a drastic change in the customs and lifestyles of rural Ghanaians; centuries-old political and social systems around which life in the Gold Coast had always revolved were completely destroyed by British rule. Kinship and tribal political orders, having dominated Ghanaian life for five centuries preceding the arrival of the British, were replaced by a pronounced stratification of Ghanaian society, in which elite groups clamored for more control over the country’s resources, creating socioeconomic, ethnic, and political unrest which has remained the basis of divisions within Ghana to this day.

Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana is the story of the Ghanaian odyssey and, through it, the odyssey of all of Black Africa. Using historic and socioeconomic data plus readable analysis, Gwendolyn Mikell traces the past and present political and social systems in Ghana, focusing especially on the relationships over the years between rural producers in Ghana and the state. Mikell traces the causes of rural exploitation and political collapse in Ghana as well as the new and more destructive rural/national relations created by the dependence on cocoa. Also discussed is the fragmentation of social structures, lineage, and community relations. Data are used extensively to give local background as well as to challenge earlier world systems and dependency theories. The text is written in a language accessible to the layperson, yet the depth of the analysis and the statistical support will make Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana of great use to the student and specialist of Africa as well.

GWENDOLYN MIKELL, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. She received her doctorate from Columbia University in 1975 and has held fellowships at the Ford Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Mikell has had papers published in African Studies Review and many other Africa-related publications; this is her first book.

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