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

SOURCE: Social Dynamics
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2012
TITLE AUTHOR(S): V.Barolsky
KEYWORDS: GOVERNANCE, POST APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA, SOCIAL COHESION
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 8059

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Abstract

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?