Stuck in Middle Gear: South Africa's Post-Apartheid Foreign Relations

Stuck in Middle Gear: South Africa's Post-Apartheid Foreign Relations

Stuck in Middle Gear: South Africa's Post-Apartheid Foreign Relations

Stuck in Middle Gear: South Africa's Post-Apartheid Foreign Relations

Synopsis

South Africa's post-apartheid foreign policy has been a bundle of contradictions and ambiguities. The accession by leading fractions of the African National Congress to the ongoing discourse of neo-liberalism has led to the policy making elite playing to two distinct audiences: its Leftist-inclined constituency within the Government of National Unity and externally oriented domestic and international capital. This second audience is increasingly integrating the GNU elite into a group which more and more reflects the concerns, aspirations, and demands of a transnational class elite. This move mirrors South Africa's ongoing incorporation into the international political economy as a global middle-power, a bridgebuilder between the global hegemons and those reluctant to follow their lead.

Taylor's fundamental theoretical approach that underpins the study--namely a neo-gramscian interpretation of the global political economy and the importance of middle powers--sets it apart from other studies of contemporary South African foriegn policy making. He also provides a useful source for Africanists and South Africa specialists in particular. This is partly because of the accessible style of presentation. But it is also because he has chosen case studies of interaction with multilateral groupings and organizations. This approach marks the volume out as being different from the normal assessment of South African foreign policy--particularly the specific multilateral agencies that he has chosen to focus on.

Excerpt

The central focus of this book is accounting for the contradictions and ambiguities in post-apartheid South African policy. In doing so, such contradictions are traced to the nature and historical locating of the transition from apartheid and the historic compromise that this engendered. The accession by leading fractions of the African National Congress (ANC) to the ongoing discourse of neoliberalism has, it is suggested, led to the scenario whereby the policymaking elite must play to two separate audiences: its Leftist popular constituency and elements within the Government of National Unity (GNU) who are linked to organised labour and/or the Communist Party and externally oriented domestic and international capital. This second “audience” is increasingly integrating the GNU elite into a nascent historic bloc, which more and more reflects the concerns, aspirations and demands of a transnational class elite. Such a process mirrors the ongoing incorporation of the South African state into a globalising international political economy and the movement towards the formation of a transnational class elite who share and propagate the normative principles of what has become the hegemonic ideology in the current epoch viz. neoliberalism.

Only by appreciating the changed global environment in which the GNU elite finds itself (and importantly, has come to perceive itself) operating can an accurate account of why Pretoria’s international relations seem so paradoxical: acceding to the liberalisation narrative favoured by the disciplinary discourse and on the other hand performing a reformist multilateral posture which seeks to ameliorate the more deleterious aspects of globalisation and the concomitant loss of sovereignty which goes with the constraints of transnational capital mobility. By doing so, the fundamental structures that form the global order are addressed, taking such architecture not as a given but as something that needs to be rigorously examined and problematised. This study is reflective on the constraints and dilemmas that the new state elite faces in the light of both globalisation (in its various guises) and the contradictions that spring from the . . .

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