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Transition from Apartheid

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image of Journal of Asian and African Studies
For new content, see African and Asian Studies.

The end of apartheid in South Africa has often been considered a miracle as well as a beacon of hope for the rest of the continent. This article takes a more sober view. Despite the massive changes toward a democratic and open society, black South Africans have not won social and economic justice. The poor are still black and the rich predominantly white. This limited democracy, that is, judged simply in terms of voting in democratic elections, mirrors the thesis put forward in the transition studies literature. Drawing on ideas from Antonio Gramsci and Frantz Fanon, I argue that the South African case offers an addendum to transition studies highlighting how ideology and hegemony are critical to the processes of actively creating a legitimate polity. I argue that a limited transition was far from assured. It was neither determined by domestic capital nor from such forces as the IMF and World Bank but involved strategic homegrown choices including an ideological capitulation to neoliberal policies and a marginalization of more radical projects advanced by the South African left.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116.


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