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Peter Lewis

Former Fellow


    September 1, 2000 — May 1, 2001

    Professional affiliation

    Associate Professor and Director of the African Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies

    Wilson Center Projects

    "Growing Apart: Governance and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria"

    Full Biography

    Throughout my professional career, I have been interested in the relationship between economic and political development. This includes a focus on the dominant challenges facing ex-colonial and former socialist countries today:

    • state building and state capacity;
    • economic strategy and policy choice;
    • the political context for economic transformation; and
    • comparative processes of democratic development.

    In recent years, a set of basic queries have guided my work:

    • How can we understand the historical differences in economic performance among countries?
    • To what degree can developing countries improve their position in the global economy?
    • What types of political regimes are most effective in promoting economic transformation?
    • How can governments generate the capacity to foster economic change? What types of institutions are important to this process, and how do these institutions arise?
    • Are democratic forms of governance conducive to economic development?
    • How is democracy established and sustained? My regional focus on African development has been animated by these wider intellectual concerns. Africa embodies some of the most acute problems of development in the world today. Basic issues of state building, nation building, and economic development remain salient in much of the region. In the 1960s and the 1970s, the study of Africa offered major contributions to the social sciences. I still find much in the African experience that can provide important comparative insights, and I have an abiding interest in the region. My dissertation research yielded several publications on the evolution of Nigerian state enterprise, the development of privatization policy, and the political impediments to growth in that economy. I have also explored the application of rent-seeking theory and models of patrimonial rule in the Nigerian context. Since the early 1990s, a wave of democratic pressures has engulfed Africa, along with other regions of the world. I have studied Africa's democratic prospects in several forums: most particularly, from a comparative regional perspective, addressing the issue of civil society in Africa and the relation between democratization and economic reform, and from the perspective of Nigeria's continuing crisis of governability. The Nigerian crisis has a distinct economic dimension; reflecting this, a further theme in my research has been the politics of policy reform in this major African economy. The evolution of economic policy in Nigeria, the changing context of structural adjustment measures, and the political framework of economic management -- all are central to my work. I have researched and written several articles on state-business relations, financial sector reform, and the relationship between governance and economic decline. My current research, examining the political foundations of economic performance in African and Southeast Asian states with a particular focus on Indonesia and Nigeria, aims to provide new insights into the political bases of economic growth, the evolution of institutions, and the limitations and options of particular regimes.


      Comparative Politics; Comparative and International Political Economy; African Politics

    Major Publications

    • Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa, with Naomi Chazan and Robert Mortimer (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999)
    • Stabilizing Nigeria: Pressures, Incentives, and Support for Civil Society, with Barnett Rubin and Pearl Robinson (The Twentieth Century Fund/Century Foundation Report, 1998)
    • "Economic Reform and Political Transition in Africa: The Quest for a Politics of Development," in World Politics, October 1996