Gordimer's The Conservationist is a critique of white liberalism in South Africa during the height of the apartheid era, the early 1970s. The novel's protagonist, a wealthy capitalist, takes on the identity of an environmentalist when he buys a farm as a weekend get-away and unexpectedly develops a strong attachment to the land. Gordimer uses the land as a metaphor for history and national identity, exploring her protagonist's racial anxieties as well as his impatience with his liberal social milieu. Gordimer maps through the ideas of conservationism a cosmopolitan ethic that anticipates the breakdown of the rigid social and spatial boundaries set up by apartheid. Cosmopolitanism as a theory has interrogated the idea of the local and the extent to which the local remains apart from the influences of internationalism. The local for Gordimer has several overlapping identities that intimate competing historical narratives through separate claims on the land. Cosmopolitanism is useful in examining Gordimer's historical premise as it foregrounds the point of intersection of differently located views of the world.