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Rethinking the South African Crisis

Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony

Gillian Hart

Publication Year: 2014

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has become an extreme yet unexceptional embodiment of forces at play in many other regions of the world: intensifying inequality alongside “wageless life,” proliferating forms of protest and populist politics that move in different directions, and official efforts at containment ranging from liberal interventions targeting specific populations to increasingly common police brutality.

Rethinking the South African Crisis revisits long-standing debates to shed new light on the transition from apartheid. Drawing on nearly twenty years of ethnographic research, Hart argues that local government has become the key site of contradictions. Local practices, conflicts, and struggles in the arenas of everyday life feed into and are shaped by simultaneous processes of de-nationalization and re-nationalization. Together they are key to understanding the erosion of African National Congress hegemony and the proliferation of populist politics.

This book provides an innovative analysis of the ongoing, unstable, and unresolved crisis in South Africa today. It also suggests how Antonio Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution, adapted and translated for present circumstances with the help of philosopher and liberation activist Frantz Fanon, can do useful analytical and political work in South Africa and beyond.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-xii

Writing this book has been painful and difficult. Looking back to the euphoria of 1994, it is emphatically not the book I would have wanted to write as the twentieth anniversary of liberation approaches. The Marikana massacre exploded on 16 August 2012, just as I was trying to bring the book to closure. Marikana and its...

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Note to the U.S. Edition: South Africa after Mandela?

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pp. xiii-xxii

Amid the planetary outpouring of grief following Nelson Mandela’s death on 5 December 2013, fierce debates erupted over his role and legacy in post-apartheid South Africa. Anticipating these debates, the eminent novelist Zakes Mda – son of A. P. Mda, one of the cofounders...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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1. Contours of Crisis in South Africa

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pp. 1-27

On Thursday, 16 August 2012, South African police and paramilitary units opened fire on striking mineworkers near the town of Marikana in the north-west platinum belt, killing 34 strikers and injuring another 78. Televised images ricocheted around the world, seeming to support the official story that mineworkers...

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2. From Bredell to Marikana: The Dialectics of Protest and Containment

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pp. 28-94

Starting with the Bredell land occupation and ending with the Marikana massacre, this chapter draws on ethnographic engagements, media reports, cartoons and other sources to convey as graphically as possible the turbulent forces that erupted over the (long) decade of the 2000s: proliferating expressions of popular...

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3. The Unruly Terrains of Local Government

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pp. 95-154

On Saturday, 30 October 2004, residents of Ladysmith/Emnambithi marched through the town to protest the handing over of water control from the local municipality to the Uthukela Water Company – a public corporation launched in late June 2004 in north-western...

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4. Revisiting the Transition: De-Nationalisation and Re-Nationalisation

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pp. 155-188

Let me start this chapter with a passage from my book Disabling Globalization. Writing in 2001, I was trying to reconcile the ANC’s hegemonic power and popular appeal with its embrace of neoliberal economic policies that, by the late 1990s, were hitting the working...

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5. The Unravelling of ANC Hegemony: Generations of Populist Politics

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pp. 189-218

Building on the discussion of de-nationalisation and renationalisation in Chapter 4, this chapter turns the spotlight on questions of hegemony. I will argue that articulations of the nation, liberation and the NDR are central to the ANC’s hegemonic project...

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6. Through the Lens of Passive Revolution: The South African Crisis Revisited

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pp. 219-242

In the preface I described how the Marikana massacre erupted on 16 August 2012 just as I was drawing this book to a close, and compelled me to consider a longer lineage of debate around the protracted crisis in South Africa that goes back to Saul and Gelb’s...

Select Bibliography

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pp. 243-254


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pp. 255-268

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780820347257
E-ISBN-10: 0820347256
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820347165

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation