The potential of South Africa as a developmental state : a political economy critique

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 10
  • SDG 1
  • Abstract:

    At a time when most countries in the world adopted the principles of the Washington consensus with regard to government and the principles of New Public Management with regard to its governance, developments in South Africa from the early 1990s onward seemingly went the other way. Departing from an apartheid-system before 1994 the new democratic state of South Africa inherited a regime based on neoliberal principles with regard to socio-economic development with consequently a minimalist role of the state in terms of its intervention in the economic arena. Where everywhere in the world government was seen as the problem, the ANC government evidently had other views regarding its role in socio-economic development. The government enacted and promulgated various people-centred policies and strategic programmes, and the ANC adopted the principles of the developmental state with the belief that state economic intervention could enhance and strengthen the government or state capacity to deal with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and gross inequalities. The questions this article tries to answer are whether it is possible for a nation state to go counter to dominant international developments, which dilemmas it faces, which hurdles it has to overcome and whether it could have been effective and efficient in a globalised world in which the dominant powers were clearly opposed to such policies. The article further explores the potential as well as challenges embedded within an aspiring developmental state endorsing a policy philosophy in favour of state intervention within an international context in which the dominant policy theory is opposed to state intervention. The main question to be answered is what kind of difficulties a state government faces when it moves, with regard to its presumed role vis-à-vis society, against the (international) grain and whether it is possible in this era of globalisation to survive nonetheless.