Segregation and Apartheid in Twentieth-Century South Africa

By William Beinart; Saul Dubow | Go to book overview

6

THE ELABORATION OF SEGREGATIONIST IDEOLOGY

Saul Dubow

Saul Dubow, a South African historian now teaching at the University of Sussex in Britain, has explicitly sought to reintroduce an analysis of segregationist ideology into the debate. His argument is not intended as direct restatement of older liberal views where apartheid was seen as the result of blind racial prejudice. But it does suggest that left analysts placed too much emphasis on the cheap labour system as the driving force of segregation and its ideologies. There were broader white fears, he suggests, relating particularly to black urbanization and proletarianization. Segregation in its early twentieth-century form was conceived by British officials influenced by evolutionist and social Darwinist thought, as well as by South Africans of liberal disposition who used the anthropological notion of cultural relativism as a means of steering a path between ‘assimilation’ and ‘oppression’. The ideology of segregation was primarily expressed as a means to defuse potential class conflict and maintain overall white hegemony. In this account, segregation is viewed as an umbrella ideology which was capable of serving a range of white interest groups, and even some black ones. Its flexibility explains its historical success as an ideology of social and political containment.

* * *


EARLY EXPONENTS OF SEGREGATION

Historians hold a multiplicity of views as regards the historical origins of segregation. Some writers, like Marian Lacey and Richard Parry, trace segregation back to the nineteenth-century Cape and the provisions of Cecil Rhodes’s 1894 Glen Grey Act. 1 It has been suggested too that the experience of British rule in

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