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In his extended study, The Sources of Social Power, Michael Mann suggests a distinction between despotic and infrastuctural power. Despotic power refers to the repressive capacities of a state, while infrastructural power refers to its ability to penetrate society and actually implement its decisions. This article uses the example of relations between the military and politicians in Nigeria from 1985 to 1993 to argue that weak states experience a conflict between despotic and infrastructural power. Whereas leaders cultivate alliances with powerful social groups to realize their infrastructural power, the exercise of despotic power can undermine such patterns of collaboration. In Nigeria, the military relied on a number of despotic strategies to extend their control over the political class as part of a promised transition to democracy: a large number of politicians were banned, two government created political parties were imposed, and elections that yielded outcomes threatening to military interests were ann ulled. While the military was successful in repressing the politicians, they were unable to restructure them in ways that would further the institutional power of the state. This persistent reliance on despotic strategies led to a long-term decline in the integrity and infrastructural capacity of the state.
On July 20, 1998, the recently installed military leader of Nigeria, General Abdulsalami/Abubakar, announced the outlines of a new transition program towards civilian rule, the third such program that Nigerians have endured in a decade. While it is still too soon to assess the credibility of this latest plan to restore democracy, it may be useful to remember that the new program is but the latest chapter in an ongoing struggle for power between military and civilian elites. In this struggle, the military often appear to hold all the cards. But despite their seeming weakness, the politicians have remained key actors due to the failure of the soldiers to build strong networks in the society. One way to understand the competition is through Michael Mann's concepts of "despotic" and "infrastructural" power. Despotic power indicates the repressive capacities of the government, while infrastructural power refers to the quality of the state's penetration of the society and its ability to implement its decisions. Whe reas the military's despotic power is indisputable, it can only hope to secure effective infrastructural power by nurturing the support of vital social groups such as the politicians. Unfortunately for the military, the repressive strategies that underlie despotic power ultimately conflict with the cooperative strategies that facilitate infrastructural power.
This article explores this paradox using a case study of the policies of the Babangida regime toward the political class (1985--1993). During this period, the military undertook several significant initiatives designed to transform and extend its control over the political class: the banning of "old breed" politicians, the imposition of a government controlled two-party system, and the annulment of presidential elections. These episodes illustrate that while the military was able to retain its grip on power, it was ultimately frustrated in its efforts to transform the political class and gain control over the politicians' social networks. They also illustrate the strengths and limitations of a weak state in its efforts to assert its control over organized social groups (Migdal 1988).
Despotic and Infrastructural Power
The apparent contradiction between a state that is insulated from effective challenges to its authority, and yet unable to decisively control powerful social groups, can in part be resolved, by remembering Mann's distinction between despotic and infrastructural power (Mann 1993: 54--75). Despotic power "refers to the distributive power of state elites over civil society." It is primarily repressive and involves the autonomy of the state from social pressures. Military regimes such as those that have ruled Nigeria, frequently have a high degree of despotic power due to their use of coercion and freedom from constitutional restraints. In the sense that despotic power is oriented towards deflecting any challenge to the regime originating in the civil society, it can be thought of as "negative" power.
By contrast, infrastructural power is "the institutional capacity of a central state, despotic or not, to penetrate its territories and logistically implement decisions" (Mann 1993: 59). It refers to the ability of a state to get things done, to effectively exercise its authority and achieve its goals within the society. In the sense that it refers to actually realizing a goal or implementing a policy (rather than simply pre-empting challenges to its authority), infrastructural power can be thought of as a "positive" type of power. Whereas despotic power is power over society, infrastructural power is power through society.
Another way to understand the difference is in terms of Weber's discussion of distributive and collective power (Mann 1993: 2-3). Distributive power refers to the power of actor A to coerce actor B. It is largely zero-sum and roughly corresponds to despotic power. By contrast, collective power refers to cooperation between actors A and B to achieve a common goal. This could involve subduing a third actor (C) or realizing a shared interest such as economic growth, social stability, or national integration. Collective power is mutualistic and corresponds to infrastructural power.
The goal for most authoritarian states is to combine despotic and infrastructural power: to be insulated from challenges originating within the civil society, and at the same time to exercise widespread control over its citizens' activities. A number of theorists have lent credence to this goal by arguing that authoritarian states are inherently more powerful. Samuel Huntington's (1968) book Political Order in Changing Societies is the most famous statement of this position. The congruence between despotic and infrastructural power also seems to be an assumption of the theory of "developmental dictatorship," in which individual rights are suppressed for the pursuit of socio-economic modernization (Sklar 1983). The Nigerian military has regularly tried to portray itself in just such terms.
Mann's analysis, however, suggests reasons as to why despotic and infrastructural power might be in tension in a weak state. Mann stresses that the state always coexists with a number of parallel power networks, such as classes, local strong men, and religious leaders. While a strong state might be able to control or bypass such power centers, a weak state will need their cooperation to achieve its goals and maintain its legitimacy. In this situation, the types of insulation advocated by some theorists might actually undermine the infrastructural power and effectiveness of the state by precluding productive alliances between the state and social groups. Mann thus shows in his study of five European states in the eighteenth century that it was the least autonomous states (England and Prussia) that possessed the most infrastructural power. This is because they were better equipped to mobilize elite support and respond to new pressures emanating from the civil society. By contrast, the relatively more autonomou s states in France and Austria continually faced strong elite resistance and were generally inflexible in the face of social change (Mann 1993: 107-109). He notes, "As in most times and places, eighteenth century state autonomy indicated more [infrastructural] weakness than strength" (109).
The dilemma is that in a weak state the close cooperative arrangements that are necessary for infrastructural power pose a threat to the maintenance of despotic power. While Mann does not discuss this issue, it is clear that the compromise and restraint required by cooperative arrangements conflict with the autonomy which is integral to despotic power. First, any sort of cooperative arrangement will, by definition, impose reciprocal obligations on the state. These obligations serve to restrict the power over society that the despotic state seeks to exercise. Second, it will be impossible to maintain the support of social groups without granting them a certain amount of autonomy in order that they might operate in a normal fashion. Without such autonomy, social organizations lose their legitimacy and credibility with supporters. This can be illustrated by the decay of corporatist interest groups in harshly authoritarian systems (Wiarda 1994). The Nigerian case provides a concrete illustration of how despotism can undermine the societal support necessary to a state's infrastructural power.
Similar points have been advanced in a recent volume edited by Atul Kohli, Vivienne Shue, and Joel Migdal (1994). These authors propose a state-in-society approach arguing that the strength of regimes is a function of their ties to social groups. As a result, states that are too centralized and too insulated might ironically be weakened by their poor linkages to the society. In other words, it is possible to conceive of a situation in which increased despotic power comes at the expense of infrastructural power, in which growing repression is accompanied by a disengagement of society from the state (Chazan 1982; Azarya and Chazan 1986). Conversely, infrastructural power can likewise undermine despotic power. The problem, as Mann points out, is that infrastructural power is a two way street. The penetration of society by the state "enables civil society parties to control the state" (Mann 1993: 69). In short, as the state attempts to strengthen its capacity by building links to the society, it finds its autono my threatened.  Increasingly, the survival strategies of the regime and the imperatives of building a strong state come into conflict (Migdal 1988).
This was the dilemma faced by the Babangida regime in Nigeria. As a military regime, its ultimate authority rested on the despotic repression of the civil society. At the same time, the weakness of the Nigerian state (and the military's own lack of legitimacy) forced military leaders to solicit the support of powerful social groups, one of which was the political class. In order to cultivate the support of the politicians, the Babangida regime initiated a multi-year transition to democratic rule. At the same time, the military sought to restructure this critical social group in ways that would be more compatible with its own corporate interests. For the purposes of this article, three primary initiatives will be examined. First, the military sought to replace the old political class with a new political class that more closely reflected its wishes and interests. This took the form of banning "old breed" politicians and actively promoting the "new breed." Second, the military sought to control the political c lass by imposing political structures on them. The most significant of these were the two political parties mandated by the Babangida regime. Third, when the previous two strategies did not work, the military tried to repress the political class, as illustrated by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections. This last action represents an implicit admission of failure by the government, and a determination to preserve its despotic power even at the expense of infrastructural power.
The political class responded to these initiatives by stubbornly evading the restrictions placed upon them by the state. Time and time again the government found itself unable to cultivate a "new breed" of politicians. It also failed to impose new political structures on them. The politicians remained …