There is a neglected subject in SA that at first blush may seem dull but that in fact could not be more important. It is the relationship between geographically uneven growth and political institutions. What happens when a few places in a country prosper and the rest decline? What are the consequences for a country’s political life?

In France, for instance, growth over the last generation has been largely confined to just three metropolitan zones — Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. The rest of the country has entered an indefinite state of stagnation...

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