£26.99 | $49.95

13 January 2011
ISBN: 9781848138599
576 pages
234mm x 156mm

Africa, International Relations, Politics, History, Development

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South Africa Pushed to the Limit

The Political Economy of Change

Hein Marais

Since 1994, the democratic government in South Africa has worked hard at improving the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, and the country is more unequal than ever. For millions, the colour of people’s skin still decides their destiny. In his wide-ranging, incisive and provocative analysis, Hein Marais shows that although the legacies of apartheid and colonialism weigh heavy, many of the strategic choices made since the early 1990s have compounded those handicaps. Marais explains why those choices were made, where they went awry, and why South Africa’s vaunted formations of the left -- old and new -- have failed to prevent or alter them.

From the real reasons behind President Jacob Zuma’s rise and the purging of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, to a devastating critique of the country’s continuing AIDS crisis, its economic path and its approach to the rights and entitlements of citizens, South Africa Pushed to the Limit presents a riveting benchmark analysis of the incomplete journey beyond apartheid.


'An extraordinary achievement. This is, by a considerable margin, the best book yet on the political economy of South Africa. Marais combines an unrivalled knowledge of the literature with a prose style that is accessible, moving and witty. I know of very few authors who can discuss such complex issues while telling a story and engaging the reader.' - John Sender, Emeritus Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

'South Africa Pushed to the Limit will become a classic. I doubt whether anyone can match Marais' grasp of where South Africa is at today.' - Bill Freund, Professor of Economic History, University of KwaZulu-Natal; author of 'The Making of Contemporary Africa'.

'Combining powerful analysis with a wealth of documentation, 'South Africa Pushed to the Limit' provides by far the best overview of political, economic and social change in post-apartheid South Africa. Essential reading for anyone trying to understand one of the great social experiments of our time.' - Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography and Chair of Development Studies at the University of California at Berkeley; author of 'Disabling Globalization: Places of power in post-apartheid South Africa'


'If students can read only one book on South Africa's transition, this should be the book.' - Jaclyn Cock, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Witwatersrand

'Hein Marais is probably the most intelligent and articulate author who writes about South Africa in a Marxist paradigm. - David Welsh, Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town.

Table of Contents


1 The making of a polarized society
The mould is cast
The rise of the working classes
Illusions of strength
The rise of African nationalism
Afrikaner nationalism's triumph
Iron fist 'development'
The post-war growth path
The minerals-energy complex
The turn to armed struggle
Into the doldrums
Apartheid's harvest
Cracks in the system
Arrested development
On the ropes
The minerals-energy complex

2 Saving the system
New waves of resistance
The party's over
Recasting the Divide
Seizing opportunities
'Total strategy'
Panic attack: From 'resistance to revolution'
'Workerists' and 'populists'
'Everything is political'
Costs of insurrectionism
No compromise
Taking stock
At the crossroads
Leap into the unknown

3 Contours of the transition
Big stakes, high risks
Taking the plunge
Breaking the rules
Terms of the deal
Hidden hazards
Tectonic shifts
Change and continuity
Salvaging the economic system
Slipping and sliding
South Africa in the global economy
Trading trends
Trends in financial relations
Shifting the terms of incorporation
The triumph of orthodoxy

4 Sticking to the rules: The evolution of post-apartheid economic policy
Catching up
Back to school
Drawing pictures
Converted: ANC economic policy in the early 1990s
'No alternative'
The quiet death of the MERG report
Marching with history
Myth of the weak state
Rude awakenings
The GEAR plan
Putting the best foot forward
Report cards
Not hiring
Defending GEAR

5 All dressed up: The economy in the 21st century
Rewind: South Africa's economic makeover
Post-apartheid investment patterns
Nip and tuck: The conglomerates restructure
Melting into the air: The financialization of the economy
Recap: A familiar story
The meanings of neoliberalism
Variations on a theme
'Muddling along'?
Stuck in the middle
Back from repairs: Black economic empowerment in the 2000s
The functions of BEE
State of denial
Responding to the recession
Reviving SA's industrial drive
Breaking the mould
The ecological frailty of SA's development path
Burning down the house
Shifting the blame
Untenable growth
Is it really everybody's problem?
To the last drop
Mixing it up
Renewables in perspective
New approaches to growth

6 The world of work
Not hiring
Explaining the 'jobs bloodbath'
Working poor
The myth of the magic portal
Holding the line
With friends like these
The state of the trade union movement
Shifts underfoot
Public works – or does it?
Money well spent?
The big picture
Double vision: The 'two economies'

7 Poverty and inequality in the post-apartheid years
Is poverty decreasing?
Measuring poverty
Less poor, more unequal
The social wage debate
Defining the social wage
Tracking improvements in the social wage
Explaining the unevenness
Slow harvest: Land reform
That hollow feeling: Food and hunger
A sickly society
The fetish of coping
Microfinance: Small change
Microfinance under the microscope
Crime, violence and justice
Woe to the women
Cycles of violence
Wedged apart

8 The social protection system
Social protection in South Africa
The main social grants
Protecting children
The money or your life
Origins of the system
Hit and miss: Means-testing and targeting
The impact of social protection on labour supply
Grants, poverty reduction and development
The universal income debate
'It's not the money, it's the idea'
The radical potential of a universal income
Dependency and shame
Lineages of a taboo
Social rights, the state and the market

9 AIDS & TB: 'Like waiting for a tidal wave to hit'
An overview
Double-blow: Tuberculosis and AIDS
Entanglements of risk
A political economy of AIDS in South Africa
A disease of poverty?
The uneven distribution of HIV in South Africa
History's template
Lives upended
Sexual networking
HIV, transactional sex and violence
Aiding and abetting: Government's AIDS response
Losing the plot
The impact of a hyper-epidemic
History lessons
Keeping perspective
Home is where the hurt is
Shifting burdens: Home- and community-based care
An unhealthy system
Learning to cope?
AIDS on the bottom-line
An unequal epidemic in a polarized society
Turning the tide
One step forward …
Fragmentation, introversion, erasure
The living versus the dead

10 False starts: The health and education systems
Rebuilding the health system
Money or your life
Health spending in context
The private health system
A national health insurance scheme
Sick system
Diagnosing the problems
Intensive care
World's apart: The new education system
The doors of learning open
The best education money can buy
All mixed up?
Engines of inequality
A bridge too far: The folly of outcomes-based education
Recasting higher education
Repair work

11 A South African developmental state?
In search of models
The Asian 'blueprints'
Civil society and developmental states
Developmental states in the 21st century
Closer to the ground: Subnational developmental 'states'
A South African developmental state?
Things we learn when the lights go out
Beneath the 'hood
Decorative development
Politics of local development

12 Last man standing: The Mbeki-Zuma battle
The arms deal
Faceoff: Zuma versus Mbeki
Take no prisoners (on the road to Polokwane)
Everybody hates Thabo
Outwitted in Harare
Uses of an ogre
Made-to-order: The Zuma challenge
The odd couple: The Alliance left and Zuma
Selling Zuma to the Left
Off the hook
Clean up
What was the Mbeki-Zuma duel really about?
Salvage operation
Post-modern president
Mooring points
That special 'something'

13 Power, consent and the ANC
Rewind: The road travelled
Hegemonic struggles
Power, state and society
Work in progress
Reform from above?
Prospects for hegemony
Building consent
Repair work
Facts on the ground
The many uses of nationalism
Circling the wagons
Avoiding accountability
Roots of denial
Paying the price
Damage control
Nationalism and the boundaries of belonging
Policing the borders
Pandora's box
Reinventing authority, rebuilding power

14 Left behind: Challenge and protest
The gravity field of national liberation
Give and take
COSATU and the SACP take a shortcut
Pegged back
A balancing act
Popular activism beyond the Alliance
Dazed and confused
Off-balance: the civics movement
Taking the gap
A taxonomy of the new social formations
'With us, or against us'
'Working the system': The Treatment Action Campaign
'Movement beyond movements'




About the Author:

Hein Marais is a South African writer and journalist, and the author of the acclaimed book 'South Africa: Limits to Change - The Political Economy of Transition' (Zed Books, 1998 & 2001), as well as 'To the Edge' (a study of AIDS policy in post-apartheid South Africa, published by the Centre for the Study of AIDS, 2000), 'Buckling: The impact of AIDS in South Africa' (Centre for the Study of AIDS, 2005), and numerous book chapters, essays and articles.