Post-Apartheid South Africa: trajectories of the transition

This research seeks to establish the impact of social and political change in South Africa after 1990 on the lives of individuals and movements that I first researched around 1990-92. How have people interpreted the changes in society and in their lives? What is the current state of social movements?
Around 1990, Marxism was commonly used as the preferred frame of reference to analyse South African society. Contending social forces were locked in an epic class struggle. Apartheid was characterised as racial capitalism. The goal of the struggle was not to deracialize capitalism, but to do away with both apartheid and capitalism. Political activists envisaged a colour-blind, egalitarian, participatory society. Participation rather than pluralism was seen as the defining characteristic of democracy.
However, some fifteen years after the introduction of South Africa's democratic constitution, South Africa remains a highly stratified society: racial stratification is no longer the guiding principle of its social and political institutions, but social stratification remains as stark as before. The buppy-class seems to have conveniently forgotten their previous egalitarian ideals. Political participation is on the decline.
How did the concept of change acquire a different meaning in post-apartheid South Africa: from the ideal of a democratic, non-racial, egalitarian society to a new goal of black empowerment, the fostering of a black middle class, consumerism and African nationalism.

Research project
2006 to 2017

Senior researchers



identity ; social networks ; social structure ; South Africa ; youth