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The born frees: The prospects for generational change in post-apartheid South Africa

Year: 2011
Working paper number: 292
Author: Mattes, Robert
Unit: DARU
ISBN: 978-1-77011-243-8
Political culture theory explains political instability and change as the result of incongruity between mass attitudes and values on one hand, and political institutions on the other (Almond and Verba 1963). Thus, the “third wave of democracy” that swept across the globe from 1975 to 2005 is seen, variously, as the result of the failure of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes to supply sufficient economic and political goods to satisfy their citizens, or more broadly the mismatch between the operating norms of the regime and its constituent institutions and those of the mass public. The key question that occupies public opinion researchers working in new democracies, however, is whether the value structures that questioned and de-legitimated the former authoritarian and totalitarian regimes are sufficient to legitimate and consolidate new liberal or even electoral democracies. Perhaps nowhere is this issue better illustrated than in southern Africa where the presence of colonial and settler regimes well into the latter half of the 20th century diverged sharply with even the most minimal human aspirations for dignity, freedom and self-determination. The most extreme manifestation of this was, of course, apartheid South Africa. Whereas most repressive regimes at least made claims that they were delivering some goods valued by their populations (rightist regimes claimed to deliver national self-determination, order, or development; leftist regime claimed to deliver equality and a form of democracy that was more advanced than their liberal, bourgeois competitors), South Africa's ruling National Party could claim, at best, that it was protecting traditional indigenous cultures from the polluting impact of modernity and preparing Africans for self-government in their own countries. But Verwoerdian appeals to cultural relativism and paternalist tutelage were constantly exposed by the harshness of everyday life, whether in the urban townships, the farms of “white” South Africa, or in the Bantustan homelands, and by the near totalitarian reach of the apartheid regime and its intrusion into the most intimate aspects the lives of coloured, Indian and black South Africans.
Publication file: WP292.pdf