Agency and Political Order: Negotiating Power Sharing and Reform in Kenya

Posted: 22 Mar 2013

Date Written: 2013


Because it focuses attention on choice, agency theory offers a useful approach to analyze the 2008 Kenyan negotiations that ended growing violence and resulted in an unprecedented power sharing government in the short term and a commitment to reforming clientelism in the longer term. It treats these negotiations as creating a “critical juncture” that succeeded in upsetting an institutional equilibrium and initiated a new path dependent process. Agency theory can overcome the dichotomy between structure (in Kenya, the long entrenched system of clientelism) and actor. It focuses on new actors who suddenly become highly influential agents. It approaches these negotiations by examining the variation in positions taken by different negotiators, including the mediators, among iterative, imaginative and judgmental agentic categories. It offers an explanation for why the negotiators deadlocked on power sharing, yet agreed to proceed on larger reforms. And it provides an account to explain the reversal of both principals that broke the impasse on power sharing. The analysis is based on interviews and examination of the public record of the negotiations.

Suggested Citation

Kasfir, Nelson, Agency and Political Order: Negotiating Power Sharing and Reform in Kenya (2013). ASA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Nelson Kasfir (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2549 (Phone)
603-646-2152 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics