Development and Modernity in Africa

ISBN 978-3-89645-633-5

Development and Modernity in Africa

An Intercultural Philosophical Perspective

Author: Joseph C.A. Agbakoba. Series edited by: Klaus Keuthmann, Rainer Voßen.

Series: VOKA Veröffentlichungen des Oswin-Köhler-Archivs Volume 3

405 pp.
Index of names and topics
Text language(s): English
€ 69.80

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Intercultural Philosophy, Africa and Development

Chapter 1
Modernity and Development

Chapter 2
Ideological Modernity and Development

Chapter 3
Agency, Circumstances and Ideological Compositionality

Chapter 4
Umunna — The Religious Philosophy Complex of the Igbo and its Evolution

Chapter 5
African Philosophy Complex, Imperialism and the Subversion of African Agential Integrity

Chapter 6
African Responses to the Development Crisis

Chapter 7
Justice and Development – Explorations of Complementation, Trans-Cultural and Positive Justice

Further Reading, Index


About this book:

“Development and Modernity in Africa by a leading African philosopher. Joseph C.A. Agbakoba provides an insightful cogitation of gems of philosophical lexicons indigenous to Africa. He brings forth the philosophical thought and resources ‘logos spermatikos’ of a rich continent, which is a rich point for dialogue with mainstream Western philosophy. This work will bring delight to one eager to go into comparative culture and philosophy. In this work, Prof. Agbakoba develops his intercultural approach, enlarging such concepts as reasonability, insensibility and compositionality and introducing new ones such as positive and negative justice and proactive solidarity, thus opening a door to a philosophical life-world many of us never see or think about, though it has many implications and has a huge impact on the life of Africans and the rest of humankind.”

Prof. em. Alfredo P. Co, PhD, President
The Philippine Academy of Philosophical Research
University of Santo Tomas, Manila


“An amazing tour d’horizon of the ethical foundations of development by one of Africa’s foremost philosophers. Drawing on Igbo philosophy to explore the realities of inevitably hybridized societies and cultures in Africa, Agbakoba sets out the foundations of an ‘Afro-constructivist’ social philosophy that breaks free from the victimological logics that have bedeviled politics in Africa and beyond. His forceful plea for replacing the identitarian concerns of historical anticolonialism with a developmental ethics based on pro-active solidarity, capacity building and positive freedom constitutes a timely intervention in academic debates in Africa and elsewhere that remain caught in ‘decolonial’ preoccupations with the past and fail to address the developmental challenges Africa faces in a multipolar world of globalized modernity.”

Prof. Dr. Frank Schulze-Engler
Dept. of New Anglophone Literatures and Cultures
Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Germany


“… a significant contribution to development discourse in Africa. From a thesis of a much-needed re-envisioning, re-articulation and reconstruction of African development thought in the light of philosophical information from diverse global sources, this book constructs a vision for African development that is rational, authentic, ecumenical and inspirational as well as a sophisticated design of the African State as a development actor.”

Enyinna Nwauche, LLD, Professor of Law
Nelson Mandela School of Law, University of Fort Hare

East London, South Africa


“I found Joseph Agbakoba’s latest work an important contribution to the debate about African development. Agbakoba does not spare the African traditional values and culture when he feels they contribute to the forces holding back African development. He highlights the dibias and ozo title system in traditional Igbo culture as negative and harmful in encouraging poor character and anti-rationalistic mind sets. Agbakoba notes the need to achieve a positive ideology to buttress development. He believes there can be a merging of traditional and modern values. He also recognizes that there were anti-social aspects of the traditional society. In this regard, Agbakoba removes the sentimental portrait of African participation in the slave trade, showing how Africans reinforced the trade ideologically and practically. This book provides much needed analysis of traditional African values and provides a way forward to African development.”

Rina Okonkwo, Professor of History
Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria


Under these links you will find publications by the author and further studies of intercultural and language philosophy:

Accompanying material:



Dieses Buch stellt neue Ideen zu den philosophischen Grundlagen von Entwicklung im Allgemeinen und Afrikas Entwicklungserfahrung im Besonderen vor. Dabei stützt es sich in weiten Teilen auf die Entwicklung des Weltbilds der Igbo-Gesellschaft in Nigeria. Unter Entwicklung wird hier die Erlangung positiver Freiheiten und der damit verbundenen Steigerung des Befähigungspotenzials verstanden, so wie ein selbstbestimmter Mensch und der Kreis von Gemeinschaften, zu denen er gehört, es vergegenwärtigen. Der Autor verortet die Grundlagen der Entwicklung und Entwicklungsethik konzeptuell-begrifflich in „Reasonabilismus“ (der das Prinzip der Folgerichtigkeit transzendentaler Vernunft mit ontologischer Benefizienz verbindet) und Intentionalität (der zum Erreichen der Entwicklungsziele erforderliche Fokus der Akteure) und führt im Weiteren aus, inwieweit diese Konzepte in Afrikas geschichtlichen Erfahrungen konkrete Formen angenommen haben (oder auch nicht). Diese Vorgehensweise trägt zur Erhellung solcher Konzepte und Kernfragen bei wie etwa identitäts- und entwicklungsrelevanter Belange, Produktion von Wissen, ideologische Kompositionalität; Aufnahmefähigkeit seitens der Akteure und kulturelle Schutzwälle, Verantwortlichkeit, proaktive Solidarität sowie negative, positive und transkulturelle Gerechtigkeit.

Dirk Frank in UniReport, 2.20, 22

What do philosophers really do for a living? How do they spend their days? Over what challenges of modern society do they pour their energies? Outside ancient Greece and perhaps renaissance Europe, how much does the world still need this breed of Homo sapiens? What is their role in a new world driven by industrial technology, material advancement and digital innovation? What use has a society struggling with basic developmental challenges for their services?

If you are struggling to find answers to these and similar questions, you might want to read this book by Intercultural philosophy expert, Joseph Agbakoba, a Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The book, 405 pages of solid intellectual analyses, has just recently been released by German publishers, Rüdiger Köppe, and is available online on

It explores, in the main, the world views, beliefs, value systems and thought processes (notably expressed in words or language) which define Igbo and countless other culture groups across Africa and the globe. It examines the impact of major historical forces like slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism on the groups’ personalities. Finally, it evaluates the reactions of each group to their experiences as well as the overall outcomes of these reactions on their developmental trajectory.

The author concludes that since man is imbued with a will to choose, our developmental paths and outcomes are more a product of group personality than events and circumstances of history, however forceful. In other words, every society is ultimately responsible for how it turns out – and must take either credit or blame for it.

Coming at a time when it is still fashionable to blame “external forces” (mainly from Europe, Middle East and North America) for the fortunes and woes of Africa,  Agbakoba’s perspective and conclusions feel like a long-overdue reality check.

To arrive at those conclusions, the reader is taken on a guided tour of diverse cultures of the world (from Africa to Europe and Asia) and across various periods in history (ancient, medieval, pre-colonial, colonial and even post-colonial) in search of clues for why we are the way we presently are. The experience, for me, was like a ride on a rollercoaster – sometimes frightening, at other times exhilarating, at all times compelling.

A candid note of warning though: This book is rated 21. It contains sections and language which may not be suitable for persons allergic to intellectual rigour. Reader discretion is advised.

For all those however who are not constrained by this warning, the book offers a rich harvest in thought, dialectics and perspectives to keep any diligent searcher for knowledge going for a long time. That would include not just scholars in the field of Philosophy but also Linguistics, Politics, Cultural Anthropology, History and indeed all of the Humanities. This is a timeless contribution not just to scholarship but to social engineering.

In this season of anomie when a routine Google search on the subject of “Nigeria” or “Africa” throws up mostly sad news of war, conflict, terrorism, banditry, corruption and poverty, there are still those working silently and diligently at their crafts with the purpose of moving their country, their continent and the world forward. With this book Professor J.C.A. Agbakoba has stood up, once more, to be counted.

Victor Anazonwu in Qwenu, July 23, 2019

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