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Polanyi in South Africa

- Edward Webster

Edward Webster elaborates on the importance of Karl Polanyi’s work for South Africa.

The work of  Karl Polanyi was relatively unknown in South Africa until the arrival of democracy in 1994. The advent of political democracy was the culmination of nearly a century long national liberation struggle against white supremacy. The embrace by the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) of key neo-liberal economic and social policies came as a surprise as the ANC had won the elections on a package of classic social democratic redistributive policies. The impact of these neo-liberal policies was devastating on the long deprived communities and their high expectations of decent work and a better life for all. 

Increased  labour market flexibility, fiscal austerity  and unemployment led to  the emergence of a plethora of new social movements   – the Anti-Privatisation Forum , (APF), the Soweto Electricity Forum (SEF) ,  the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) . They mobilised around a wide variety of issues, including the commoditisation of essential services such as electricity, access to land, water and the need for treatment for those with HIV/AIDS.

Read the article here.