The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1990

The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1990

The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1990

The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1990

Synopsis

Despite the considerable attention paid to South Africa in recent years, this work is unique in providing a comprehensive analysis of South Africa's politics through the 1980's. Robert Price argues that the apparent stability of South Africa's apartheid regime has masked a profound political transformation underway since 1975. The work examines how government policy, economic development, domestic opposition, and international actors have gradually but inexorably eroded the foundation of white political power. Price elucidates the dynamic relationship between these factors and their combined role in altering the political substructure underlying South Africa's official political system. He provides a novel framework for assessing the likely mode of political transition in the 1990's and draws lessons from the South African case for our understanding of political transformation worldwide.

Excerpt

I began to write this book in early 1986, when South Africa was in the throes of insurrectionary upheaval. Although I perceived that a political transformation of historical proportions was underway, one that would eventually produce an end to white minority rule, I comprehended only dimly the mode by which the ruling white oligarchy would agree to relinquish its monopoly of political power. My intent was to write about political transformation "in progress." I sought to explain how a political regime, which until only recently had appeared to be utterly self-confident and invincible, if not invulnerable, had been thrown on the defensive, losing its sense of purpose and initiative. And, I sought to show that a long-term process was underway through which the power balance between the white supremacist state and its opponents was gradually shifting toward the latter. I endeavored to lay before the reader the specific dynamics of that process; to elucidate and reveal the relationship between political, social, and economic forces that shape the nature of South African political change and drive it forward.

I completed the book manuscript in early 1990, when the pace of change, ongoing for approximately fifteen years, quickened appreciably. The ascendance of F. W. de Klerk to the South African presidency, and his early actions in office, suggested to virtually everyone that the process of change was moving toward the negotiating table. In light of these developments, this book represents the "background to negotiations." It provides an explanation of how and why South Africa's ruling political oligarchy decided to negotiate the country's political future with individuals and organizations that for over thirty years it had sought to silence or destroy. It also provides signposts to help illuminate what will probably be a lengthy and rough path to a negotiated settlement. For the ongoing process of political transformation shapes the negotiating positions of the South African protagonists, affects their relative power, and influences what they will and will not compromise. This examination of more than a decade of change in South Africa also foreshadows future developments should negotiations break down short of an agreement. Lacking a crystal ball, I am unable to predict precisely when the current movement toward negotiations will be matched by results, or what the exact terms of a political settlement will be.

The material set forth here was developed in the process of teaching a course on South African politics at the University of California at Berkeley. As such, I owe a debt to the students at Berkeley, especially to the undergraduates, who continually . . .

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