Associational life and 'the Dark Side' of social capital in South Africa: a quantitative analysis of anti-immigrant behaviour
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Non-institutionalised anti-immigrant activity is a growing problem in many parts of the world, including Africa, and sometimes this activity can turn violent. Strengthening and reinvigorating associational life can seem like a panacea for this particular problem. Despite the theoretical expectations of the neo-Tocquevillian approach, however, the empirical evidence for a statistical relationship between associational involvement and tolerance is contested. In this article, the author looks at the relationship between participation in voluntary associations and engagement in a range of different xenophobic activities in South Africa. In the last twenty years, there have been a series of anti-immigrant incidents in that country. Nationally representative public opinion data from the 2017 round of the South African Social Attitudes Survey (N=3098) was used for this study. The author shows that the frequency of associational involvement has a positive effect on public participation in a range of anti-immigrant behaviours. These empirical results contribute to our understanding of the 'dark side' of social capital and challenge existing assumptions about the formation of societal tolerance in an African setting. The outcomes of this study provoke some serious questions about how we can build more tolerant societies and have significant implications for anti-xenophobia interventions.
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