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Miracle or misery?: understanding democratic participation in South Africa

Matisonn, Heidi (2010) Miracle or misery?: understanding democratic participation in South Africa. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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On 27 April 1994 the most hated flag in Africa was lowered, signifying the end of the Apartheid regime. As the world watched the transformation of South Africa taking place – without the bloodshed that the state‟s direst cynics had predicted – words like "miracle" and "inspirational" abounded. Since then, the world has continued to watch South Africa‟s transition to democracy and even those who were its greatest supporters have begun to ask questions about the quality and quantity of democratic reforms. The increasing centralisation and monopolisation of power by the African National Congress, declining rates of formal participation by citizens and considerable failures in service delivery are major factors contributing to the concerns about the long-term prospects for democracy in South Africa, especially given the record of democratic failure across the rest of the continent. While significant contributions have been made to the study of South African democracy – both theoretical and empirical – there are few, if any, that have sought to combine both these methodologies and hence the scholarship is not, in my view, paying the dividends it should. This research thus explores contemporary politics in South Africa, examining its assets and liabilities in order to provide a clearer picture of the state of democracy in the country. It does so by measuring practices in South Africa in terms of the role accorded to participation in three conceptions of democracy: liberal representative accounts, deliberative accounts and what I term the "categorical" account. In so doing the research will show that although concerns about democracy in South Africa are justified, if we shift our focus from the instrumental value of participation to its categorical one we may find a way to ensure that the miracle continues.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Heidi Matisonn
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Kelly, Paul

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