Cultural Encyclopaedia

Show Menu Hide Menu

Big Men, Small Boys and Politics in Ghana

Summary of Book , 1995

Nugent attempts to piece together the players and events that shaped Ghanaian politics from 1982-1994. He argues that the legitimacy of personal accumulation eroded under the pressure of decaying social conditions and endemic corruption during the 1960s and 1970s since the “big men” failed to keep their end of the social contract- -- thus precipitating the rise of Rawlings and his coterie of young idealists and junior military officers, the "small boys" who were shunned and denigrated by the old elite and professional classes. He maintains that Rawlings was able to upright the economy, restore the legitimacy of accumulation, and rebuild the social contract through a mixture of moral preaching, intimidation, and liberalization. Rawlings was able to adapt his movement, continue the course of necessary reform, and hold on to power while outmanoeuvring challenges from urban elites, unions, students, and a badly fragmented opposition.