The Agonistic City?

State-society Strife in Johannesburg

Li Pernegger


An exploration of the realities and potential of the state's agonistic practices in response to service delivery strife from 1996 to the current day in Johannesburg.
An exploration of Johannesburg’s post-apartheid's city administration's governance of conflict from 1996 to the current day, in the case of service delivery protests and shifts in city policy. The author, Li Pernegger, focuses in-depth on the water wars in Orange Farm, insurgent informal traders in the inner city, and the billing battle fought by the middle class.

This book provides deep insights into facets of protests: from the local state's qualification of the conflicts; its portrayals of protestors; its agonistic and antagonistic responses to protestors' claims; to power dynamics and the forms of agreement reached.

Pernegger considers what the practical prospects of agonism might be for the local government to regard city strife in its practices of governance as a constructive – rather than destructive – force for change, and the realisation of democratic ideals for its ordinary citizens.

Author Bio

Dr Li Pernegger recently completed a postdoctoral fellow at the Witwatersrand School of Governance and a former official in city and national governments. She has over 25 years of project, programme and strategic management experience in complex built-environment and socio-economic initiatives. She is currently an advisor on urban development and local governance matters to the National Treasury of South Africa.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Strife and the State
  • 2. Agonism in Public Practice
  • 3. Johannesburg’s Conflict and Governance Timeline
  • 4. Water Wars of Orange Farm
  • 5. Informal Trading Struggle in the Inner City
  • 6. Billing Backlash by Middle-Class Suburbia
  • 7. Agonism’s Possibilities
  • Final Reflections


'This book combines an innovative approach to the investigation of state-society relations with a rich account of Johannesburg’s contested governance. Its depth and insight will be valued by scholars of Urban Studies, Politics, and Planning.'

Glyn Williams, University of Sheffield

Writing with both intellectual and practical conviction, Li Pernegger’s insights into the deeply political and at times violent struggles over services in post-apartheid Johannesburg is sensitive and nuanced, not least because of her command of how government works at the city scale.'

Susan Parnell, University of Bristol


Publication Date: 26 November 2020
240 pages

Product ISBNs: Hardback: 9781786999092
eBook ePub: 9781786999054
eBook Kindle: 9781786999078

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