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The African National Congress' Economic and Social Policy Changes in South Africa (1994-2004): Another African Straightjacket Independence?

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

In this article I argue that Liberal democracy in South Africa accommodated and left unresolved the contradictions of South African capitalism and the ANC's multiracial nationalist discourse. More specifically, the delivery of equal political rights in the new democracy is premised on the acceptance of the unequal economic relations among different classes, gender and race. Second, the multi-racial and multi-ethnic middle class is threatened from above and below. Popular demands from below sometimes lead it to partially satisfy the people's economic and social demands. Pressure from economic interests and the business community limits the middle class' room for maneuver and forces it to make compromises at the expense of the people's interests, priorities and needs (especially economic ones). Apartheid's inequality can only be addressed by a radical program based on the majority's economic and social needs. Liberal democracy does not allow for radical changes because it privileges the market rather than peoples' needs. Consequently, the ANC cannot meet its overseers' (business, bilateral institutions, white minority) interests as well as transform the economy. These realities will continue to inform ANC's economic and social policies as it tries to transform South Africa for the foreseeable future.


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