Transitions in South Africa: To What?


  • Peter Marcuse



Race, Inequality


South Africa is often compared with eastern Europe (as well as other African countries, and sometimes with Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Haiti, or countries elsewhere) as a country "in transition," moving in the direction in which all history moves, toward democracy and free private markets. But "transition" is not so simple or unidirectional anywhere:" the transition to "the new South Africa" is in fact a three-fold transition, from apartheid to "nonracialism," from repressive to democratic, and from one economic pattern to another. The first two of those transitions have moved South Africa from the very rear to the front of international progress: the general acceptance of ethnic and "racial" equality is today more firmly entrenched than apartheid was in past decades, and the sense of democratic accountability is, at least for the time being, strong; certainly political freedom, freedom of the press, etc., is unquestioned and local civic participation is highly prized, at least in concept. The new constitution now being widely debated is likely to be one of the most democratic in the world.