African Studies Research Seminar: Joint event with North East Africa Forum - 'Ethiopia's 'Developmental State': Political Order and Distributive Crisis' (Book launch)

Conveners: Rachel Taylor and Abigail Branford

Speakers: Tom Lavers (University of Manchester) in conversation with Biruk Terrefe (University of Oxford)


Join online via teams


Ethiopia's 'Developmental State': Political Order and Distributive Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

by Tom Lavers


This book is concerned with the politics of state-led development and, specifically, how regimes maintain power during the extended periods required to bring about economic transformation. The book focuses on Ethiopia, the leading example of state-led development in Africa in recent decades. Drawing on extensive fieldwork over a decade, the book examines how the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, 1991–2019) sought to maintain political order through the structural transformation of the economy, and why the party collapsed amid mass protests and factional divisions, leading to the outbreak of civil war in 2020. Through detailed multi-sector and multi-scalar analysis, the book argues that the EPRDF sought to secure mass acquiescence through distribution of land and employment. However, rapid population growth and the limits of industrial policy in the contemporary global economy led to a distributive crisis that was a central factor in the regime’s collapse. As a key case of state-led development in Africa, the Ethiopian experience raises important questions about the prospects for structural transformation elsewhere on the continent.


Tom Lavers is a Reader in Politics and Development at the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute (GDI). He has been researching the politics and political economy of land, industrial policy, infrastructure, and social protection in Ethiopia since 2005. His publications include articles in Development and Change, Journal of Agrarian Change, and World Development, and the forthcoming book ‘Dams, Power and the Politics of Ethiopia’s Renaissance’ (2024) to be published by Oxford University Press.


Ethiopia’s ‘Developmental State’