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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter introduces the politics of Kenya by focusing on three identities and relationships that have animated its politics over the last 100 years: community, clientelism, and class. This stylized approach is not intended to downplay the importance of formal political and economic institutions. Instead, it is designed to emphasize the need to consider formal institutions in the context of their informal counterparts in order to understand continuity amidst change. Ethnic identities and clientelism have dominated much discussion of Kenyan politics and political economy. To this we add class relations—or what might more accurately be called the degree of elite cohesion—an issue that has often been overlooked, but which plays an important role in shaping the rules of the political game. The chapter analyzes these factors and uses them to explain the key developments in Kenyan politics from the colonial era to the present day.

Keywords: class, clientelism, community, ethnic identities, formal institutions, informal institutions, political economy

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