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Reviewed by:
  • Globalization and Post-Apartheid South Africa
  • Edward R. McMahon
Zegaye, Abebe, Richard Harris, and Pat Lauderdale. 2005. Globalization and Post-Apartheid South Africa. Toronto: de Sitter. 183 pp. $39.95 (cloth).

Given the conditions surrounding the birth of the new South Africa, and the high hopes that have surrounded this transition, any analysis of how it is faring should be welcomed. In that vein, this collection of essays on the stated theme of the relationship between globalization and South Africa's post-1994 development includes useful individual contributions. Subjects addressed include postapartheid economic policy, demobilization, police behavioral change, the environment and rural poor, population dynamics, and homeland independence.

Useful insights can be gleaned from these chapters, though most of them should be characterized as being suggestive, rather than determinative. For example, Libenberg, Ferreira, and Roefs emphasize the need for further emphasis on helping integrate former combatants into society. Marks points out that despite meaningful change, the reasons and causes of abusive police behavior are deeply rooted. Naidoo, in a case study of domestic violence and economic insecurity, suggests that women in a bad situation have babies, avoid pregnancy if it doesn't bring material benefit, or try to be "modern" and limit the number of their children.

In one of the best chapters, Maxted queries whether and how communal and property resources can be managed in such a way to as to acknowledge their importance in the lives of the poor, while arguing that apartheid dysfunctional ties remain and that communal and traditional tenure systems deny certain groups (i.e., women and minorities) rights of democratic participation. She argues that greater incentives for out-migration need to be [End Page 125] explored, as do nonenvironmental activities, such as rural textile processing, in addition to environmentally related activities. Some prescriptions, according to this analysis, are land-tenure reform, public works programs, and rural financial services.

Overall, however, this book represents a modest contribution to the literature. Its weaknesses are largely structural. The first, introductory chapter was apparently drafted to introduce a collection of essays for a journal, rather than an edited volume. This book has pitfalls often associated with edited collections: its parts hang together loosely, at best, on the book's general conceptual premise. It does not succeed in presenting an integrated whole: its sum is not greater than its parts. Each essay addresses one aspect of South Africa's transition, but no coherent strand pulls the essays together. Individual chapters' relevance to the question of globalization and postapartheid South Africa varies greatly. For example, one chapter examines the fate of Kwa-Ndebele in the mid-1980s; this is an interesting subject, but very much an outlier from the mainstream of the book as a whole. In addition, many themes relevant to the general topic are left unaddressed. How could a book on this topic not even make reference to the challenge of AIDS, or of housing, or of South Africa's regional role?

The book was published in 2006, but most of the essays appear to have been written in 2002–2003. It therefore omits integrating any of the literature assessing South Africa a decade after the end of apartheid (i.e., in 2004). A key conclusion of one chapter, that the government's economic policy known as GEAR did not result in economic growth, is undercut by more recent data: between 1996 and 2004, GDP growth averaged 3.1 percent, rising to 4.5 percent in 2004, and 4.9 percent in 2005.

In short, readers are left with the impression that this book was not a high-priority project, and its contribution to our understanding of South Africa is accordingly limited.

Edward R. McMahon
University of Vermont


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pp. 125-126
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