n Journal of Public Administration - Globalisation and the political economy of development in a democratic South Africa : a critical realist view

Volume 49, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



From 1910 South Africa practised a social democracy that was racially exclusive in character. Within that setup, public enterprises dominated the national political economy landscape. As a result, liberation movements' struggles were informed by socialist rhetoric and after assuming power in the 1994 national elections, the democratic government adopted a development-oriented approach that was later entrenched in the democratic dispensation in terms of the of 1996. Despite the constitutional provision of suffrage and contrary to the expectations of many South Africans including the ruling party's constituency, the democratic government drifted from the socially-oriented Reconstruction and Development Programme to adopt "non-negotiable" macro-economic policies ranging from the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR), Accelerated Shared Growth for South Africa (AsgiSA), Development Growth Path and the National Development Plan (NDP). This paper argues that globalisation has to a large extent influenced the political economy of development in South Africa, which is inconsistent with popular aspirations and expectations. The paper uses critical realism to expose South Africa's politico-economic trajectories from apartheid to the present democratic era in order to highlight inherent macro-economic policy inconsistencies. Such inconsistencies are attributed to South Africa's aspirations to be a global actor of note with negligible regard for national publics. Attempts to appease the global private markets at the expense of the citizenry abound. The paper recommends that South Africa should confront and destroy its deleterious historical legacies in order to authentically position itself as a serious actor within the global landscape in international relations.

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