South Africa Pushed to the Limit

The Political Economy of Change

Hein Marais


Shows that although the legacy of apartheid weighs heavy, many of the choices made since 1994 have compounded those handicaps.
Since 1994, the democratic government in South Africa has worked hard at improving the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, and the country is more unequal than ever.  For millions, the colour of people’s skin still decides their destiny.

In his wide-ranging, incisive and provocative analysis, Hein Marais shows that although the legacies of apartheid and colonialism weigh heavy, many of the strategic choices made since the early 1990s have compounded those handicaps. Marais explains why those choices were made, where they went awry, and why South Africa’s vaunted formations of the left - old and new - have failed to prevent or alter them.

From the real reasons behind President Jacob Zuma’s rise and the purging of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, to a devastating critique of the country’s continuing AIDS crisis, its economic path and its approach to the rights and entitlements of citizens, South Africa Pushed to the Limit presents a riveting benchmark analysis of the incomplete journey beyond apartheid.

Author Bio

Hein Marais is a South African writer and journalist. He is the author of  To the Edge (2000) and Buckling: The impact of AIDS in South Africa (2005), as well as numerous other book chapters, essays and articles.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Making of a Polarized Society
  • 2. Saving the System
  • 3. Contours of the Transition
  • 4. Sticking to the Rules: The Evolution of Post-Apartheid Economic Policy
  • 5. All Dressed Up: The Economy in the 21st Century
  • 6. The World of Work
  • 7. Poverty and Inequality in the Post-Apartheid Years
  • 8. The Social Protection System
  • 9. AIDS & TB: 'Like Waiting for a Tidal Wave to Hit'
  • 10. False Starts: The Health and Education Systems
  • 11. A South African Developmental State?
  • 12. Last Man Standing: The Mbeki-Zuma Battle
  • 13. Power, Consent and the ANC
  • 14. Left Behind: Challenge and Protest
  • Acronyms
  • Bibliography
  • Index


'An extraordinary achievement. I know of very few authors who can discuss such complex issues while telling a story and engaging the reader.'
John Sender, Emeritus Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 

'A classic. I doubt whether anyone can match Marais' grasp of where South Africa is at today.'
Bill Freund, Professor of Economic History, University of KwaZulu-Natal 

'Essential reading for anyone trying to understand one of the great social experiments of our time.'
Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography and Chair of Development Studies at the University of California at Berkeley


Publication Date: 13 January 2011
576 pages

Not available in: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781848138599
Hardback: 9781848138605
eBook ePub: 9781780320830
eBook PDF: 9781780320823
eBook Kindle: 9781780327259

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.