oa Scientia Militaria : South African Journal of Military Studies - Paradigm shifts, South African defence policy and the South African National Defence Force : from here to where?

Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1022-8136
  • E-ISSN: 2224-0020



Elements of Kuhn's theory on scientific revolutions and its applicability to the political domain also promote explanations of military change. In this regard, changes in the South African defence realm during the past decade and the rise of the South African National Defence Force need not be viewed as inexplicable. These developments represent an opportunity to explain a prominent example of military change in Africa through an established theory. By making use of indicators drawn from the theory developed by Kuhn, an explanatory framework can be established to co-explain certain adjustments of the South African defence paradigm over the past 10 years. Of particular relevance is Kuhn's view of an initial dominant shift, which continues to evolve with the assistance of subsequent incremental shifts. The South African paradigm that guided the pre-1994 Total Strategy defence outlook was later opposed and ousted by one that was more explanatory and embracing of the democratic features permeating and envisaged for South African society. This democratic imperative drove the dominant shift in the South African defence paradigm during the middle 1990s as it dramatically and extensively began to adjust the policy environment regarding the role and utilisation of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). In explaining his theory, Kuhn avers that a range of smaller adjustments towards maturing the initial shift soon follows the earlier dramatic shift. Upon investigation of this secondary field of smaller changes, more incremental adjustments also become visible when analysing the South African case. In this regard, the Defence Review (1998), the Military Strategy (2001), the primary-secondary role debate emanating from the 1996 Defence White Paper, and the 2004 Defence Budget Vote represent prominent indicators of the ongoing maturation process. The theory of Kuhn on scientific revolutions furthermore holds that new paradigms also stand to be contested by rising challenges to its status. In the case of the South African defence realm and the SANDF in particular, advanced regional integration and the perceived decline of the role of the state, could once again challenge the post-1994 defence paradigm with its concomitant explanation and direction of South African thought on the preparation and deployment of the SANDF.

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