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A better life for all, Social cohesion and the governance of life in post-apartheid South Africa

Vanessa Barolsky (2012)

Key facts

Journal/Publisher
Social Dynamics, A journal of African studies
Type of publication
Journal article
Elements of social cohesion
Participation
Cooperation
Geographical focus
South Africa
Main thematic areas
Political institutions & governance
Development cooperation

Summary

Against the background of rising levels of anxiety around the state of the social

fabric in South African society, this paper explores the disjuncture between the

post-apartheid state’s policy discourse on social cohesion and the local discourses of South African residents in 24 focus groups held in townships around

the country, which reveal significant levels of social fragmentation and intense

contestation regarding the new regime of rights. The paper argues that the state’s

policy discourse on social cohesion is part of an attempt to manage a complex

social environment in terms of a project of developmental nation-state building

that seeks to constitute the social domain as a normative realm of imagined

homogeneity in which citizenship is premised on constitutional values. I argue

that while the state’s concern with the ‘social’ relates to the critical question of

solidarity in modern democracies, this has led, in the South African context, to

the constitution of the social domain as a site of pathology, divorced from the

broader political and economic relations of power in which this ‘pathology’ is

embedded. At issue in this interaction between state and local discourses on the

question of solidarity are the terms of membership in the political community.

Who will and will not be part of the ‘new’ nation?

Publication_2012_Vanessa Barolsky

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