PhD research: Merging at the Margins: State-Party and the Impossible Autonomy of the Political Field in the Democratic Republic of Congo

November 2023 to October 2027
party-state relations
political field
Research fields
Law and Political Science

This PhD addresses gaps in the current prevalent neo-patrimonial paradigm, which does not allow to seize the vertical relations of power and representation in African politics, by investigating party-state relations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) using Bourdieu’s field theory. In doing so, it aims to test the central hypothesis that the merger of the party in power with the state structurally results in the impossible autonomy of the political field vis-à-vis the field of power. The PhD assesses the conditions of ‘autonomization’ of this political field, by unravelling the structural constraints underpinning the perpetuation of the state-party model in the DRC, despite a multiparty system and three rounds of national elections and another scheduled for 2023. To do so, the PhD investigates the anchoring of the party in power in the society it stems from, the linkages it provides, and the resource redistribution system it relies on. This leads the PhD to consider the strong operational hypothesis that in certain circumstances elections could sustain undemocratic power practices instead of promoting democracy.