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  • The Pitfalls of Liberal Democracy and Late Nationalism in South Africa
  • E. Ike Udogu
Mueni wa Muiu. The Pitfalls of Liberal Democracy and Late Nationalism in South Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 239pp. $44.00, (cloth).

This book consists of an introduction, seven substantive chapters, a conclusion, a bibliography, and an index. It chronicles the "master-slave" or "superior-inferior" interactions and relationship between colonial powers and colonized Africans; also, it outlines the political odyssey leading to emancipation of the indigenous population in 1994.

A major issue raised in the publication is nationalism. The review of the literature on nationalism, quite unlike that of liberal democracy, is dense and comprehensive. Also, the characterization of what Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral wanted (African) nationalism to represent is aptly discussed, on pp. 6–9. Nevertheless, theoretical suppositions of Fanon and Anderson, for example, inform the author's philosophy and analysis in this volume.

Chapter 1, subtitled "The African Imagined Community, 1867–1848," describes colonizers' attitudes toward Africans. Apart from subjugating the Africans, colonizers described them in ways that suggested that they were inferior and the colonizer was superior (pp. 22–25). Chapter 2, about "An Afrikaner Imagined Community, 1867–1948," discusses the "intellectual development of Afrikaner nationalism and, in particular, the formulation of the Afrikaner's definition of imagined national community" (p. 48). Readers will learn that the history of a people, regardless of their ethnicity, plays a major role in the construction of an imagined community, in which nationalism—as a dogma—is promoted through language, education, socialization, control of power (or lack of it), and so on. The Afrikaner population was not, and it is not, an exception to this maxim.

Chapter 3, "The Impact of Apartheid on African and Afrikaner Nationalisms, 1948–1994," traces and tackles the period in which apartheid, as a national policy of governance, was introduced and maintained by the National Party, from 1948 to the elections of 1994, which brought to power the majority blacks under the banner of the African National Congress (ANC). However, one may ask: what is apartheid? Generally, a paradox arises from the character of the definition, contingent upon who is defining a group, and for what purpose. For example, Afrikaner political activists tend to define apartheid simplistically, as "separate development" for different races. Few would argue against this definition, except for its implications in the country's character and interpretation of the slogan. In truth, how could nonwhite populations in the republic develop when they lacked the tools—education, industries, arable lands—imperative for development? Accordingly, apartheid policy may be construed as inventionismwithin the [End Page 111]context of contructivist paradigm in the study of political ethnicity. This chapter brings these questions to the forefront and explains the degree to which the ANC and other groups fought to kill this policy and usher in a "postracial" society.

Chapter 4, " Home, as Depicted in Selected African and Afrikaner Novels and Short Stories," covers a somewhat different flank, from which literary writers challenged the "imagined community" as constructed by the dominant political group in the apartheid system. For example, if Blacks could not openly attack or revolt against the system, literary works could serve as a tactic for assailing the system or a form of escapism, as was the case in the melodies of the "negro spirituals" during the era of black slavery in the New World and elsewhere.

Chapter 5, "Changes in South Africa's Economy, 1976–1994," invokes a period of anxiety in the society. It brings to fore the antinomy between ideology and national or group or individual interests. It depicts how national interests nearly always trump ideology. It is a given, as already suggested, that apartheid was an ideology invented for self-preservation at a given moment in time. When apartheid—because of internal and external forces—lost that potency, the plutocratic oligarchs were compelled, for their group interests, to relegate it to the dustbin of history. Internally, Namibia's war of independence, which spilled over to Angola (p. 107), was bleeding the national treasury. Internally, too, the religious bulwark of Afrikaner society, the Dutch Reformed Church, came to appreciate the futility of...


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