n Journal for Contemporary History - South Africa's transition to democracy : the balance of power and structural economic change

Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



This article attempts a longer-term explanation of South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. The concept of a change in the balance of power in South Africa in the 20th century is utilised for this purpose. South Africa's transition is defined as the ultimate consequence of a clash between the political constructs (or 'ideological terms' in the words of Gerrit Viljoen) of apartheid and prevailing economic realities. It is argued here that the political superstructure of apartheid was implemented to impose certain strictly political interventionist measures over and above the general structural economic concerns (or the 'realistic and pragmatic terms' as described by Gerrit Viljoen) of the South African economy. In order therefore to explain the democratic transition in South Africa, this article outlines the crucial nexus between the regressive economic structures and performance of the South African economy and the overbearing political superstructures of apartheid.

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