South Africa, Settler Colonialism and the Failures of Liberal Democracy

Thiven Reddy


A vital and original interrogation of the contradictions and tensions of liberal democracy in post-Apartheid South Africa.

In South Africa, two unmistakable features describe post-Apartheid politics. The first is the formal framework of liberal democracy, including regular elections, multiple political parties and a range of progressive social rights. The second is the politics of the ‘extraordinary’, which includes a political discourse that relies on threats and the use of violence, the crude re-racialization of numerous conflicts, and protests over various popular grievances.

In this highly original work, Thiven Reddy shows how conventional approaches to understanding democratization have failed to capture the complexities of South Africa’s post-Apartheid transition. Rather, as a product of imperial expansion, the South African state, capitalism and citizen identities have been uniquely shaped by a particular mode of domination, namely settler colonialism.

South Africa, Settler Colonialism and the Failures of Liberal Democracy is an important work that sheds light on the nature of modernity, democracy and the complex politics of contemporary South Africa.

Author Bio

Thiven Reddy is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town. His previous publications include Hegemony and Resistance: Contesting Identities in South Africa.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Modernity: civil society, political society and the vulnerable
  • 2. The limits of the conventional paradigm, modernity and South African democracy
  • 3. The Fanonian paradigm, settler colonialism and South African democracy
  • 4. The colonial state and settler-colonial modernism
  • 5. Nationalism, ANC and domination without hegemony
  • 6. Elites, masses and democratic change
  • 7. Crisis of the national modern: democracy, the state and ANC dominance
  • Conclusion


'Harnessing sophisticated scholarly literature on the subject, [Reddy] argues that South Africa’s past as a settler colony ruled for decades by authoritarian white supremacists has made its transition to liberal democracy particularly difficult.'
Foreign Affairs

‘Offers a radical, dissenting and original analysis of contemporary South Africa.’
Colin Bundy, Oxford University (Emeritus)

‘This is a book that South African political studies has been waiting for.’
Harry Garuba, University of Cape Town

‘An important attempt to provide us with a framework for understanding present-day South African politics.’ Anthony Bogues, Brown University


Publication Date: 15 December 2015
224 pages

Not available in: South Africa

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783602230
Hardback: 9781783602247
eBook ePub: 9781783602261
eBook PDF: 9781783602254
eBook Kindle: 9781783602278

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